Heard on FX’s Wilfred: “Not Asian-American…Real Asian!”

by Latoya Peterson

So last Thursday night, I was peacefully watching Wilfred. My dog, the reason I thought the promos were hysterical, was napping at my feet. Wilfred is an FX remake of an Australian comedy, about a suicidal man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) who prepares to kill himself in the first episode. After a failed attempt, Ryan finds himself helping out his next door neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) by watching her dog Wilfred (Jason Gann). The set-up is fairly simple – it’s kind of like I Love You, Man, only one of them is in a dog suit.

I was just in the middle of wondering how a show with a dark, funny premise could end up as just another dudebro comedy when a line floated to my ears. Kristen (Dorian Brown), Ryan’s sister, a doctor, and the show’s resident shrew (because there’s always one in these kinds of comedies) is busy screaming at him about getting his life together. She launches in on another explanation of why her life sucks, but this time, she says:

You had a rough morning? Try prying twin boys out of a tight little Asian gal. She wasn’t Asian American, Ryan, she was REAL ASIAN!

As if Thick Dumpling Skin needed another thing to write about.

Whenever I get around to writing about Archer, I’ll talk about the difference between writing a joke that involves race and writing a racist joke. But, in essence, this is the Kate Rigg rule:

When someone tells a joke about Asian people and there’s no actual joke – the joke is the Asian people. The joke is [racist-comic voice] the funny way they talkie-talkie! “They don’t use proper diction! Only verb and noun! Verb and noun!” I just heard a comic that I respect doing that fucking joke the other night. An Asian comic. And I was like, “Dude! Write a punch line or you’re just being racist!”

I apply this rule all over the place, as did Carmen back when she wrote about how to respond to a racist joke. The joke only works with the implicit acceptance of a certain stereotype. If the stereotype isn’t there to play on, the joke falls apart. (Hence Carmen’s advice to play dumb, and try to get the joke teller to explain exactly why that joke is funny.)

When will comedy writers, producers, and directors learn that throwaway racist jokes just aren’t funny?

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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  • Admiral Ackbar

    Hi.  I’ve watched both episodes of Wilfred.  I think the character who uttered the “real Asian” statement is made out to be a bit shrill, neurotic, and prone to saying really dumb, offensive things.  She pushes around our slacker anti-hero and tries to goad him into bourgeois respectability. 

    The quip in question, though kinda stupid out of context, makes much more sense in the context of the character.  Her intolerance is held up for ridicule.  So I would probably let them take a pass on this particular line.

  • Adaniels

    The racism comes from the fact that there is no distinction between Asian Americans and Asians from Asiatic countries. They are clumped together and treated as if they are the same, when in fact, Asian Americans are Americans. They should not be seen as different from any other American citizen. That is the problem.

  • guest

    I’m not playing dumb here, I guess I really am dumb in this case, cause I just don’t get it. And you know what, perhaps that’s a good thing.  

    • guest

      to be clear…meaning, I don’t get what’s funny at all about: She wasn’t Asian American, Ryan, she was REAL ASIAN!

      Just to tell you, its been on my mind all day and I still don’t get it.   

  • http://twitter.com/NunubuttTWIT onetimeuse

    Did you guys laugh at Russell Peter’s jokes? I hope not…

  • Ike

    At this point, I’m just surprised that they know Asian-Americans exist.

  • Anonymous

    i’m always glad when i find out i’m not alone. i never saw the promo, but i was bored so i gave it a chance and was actually liking it and then this ridiculous line. smdh

    off topic:

    probably not the right place but if you any of you have the time, it would be cool if a few new shows got a look and a critical review such as Combat Hospital (even with only one ep that i’ve seen it’s more diverse than most things on tv) and Falling Skies (one dead poc already but worse, it’s bland and soulless). another one would be Switched At Birth

  • Ladyguerita

     When they learn to be funny?