News of prejudice against Filipinos abroad is as common as news of OFWs being brought home in coffins, but no time did news of a racial slur grow to become almost a national issue than in the premier of the fourth season of the hit US TV series “Desperate Housewives,” of all programs.
In the said episode, Susan Mayer, the character played by Teri Hatcher, asks during a medical consultation to check “those diplomas because I want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.”
“On the face, we can look at it as a racial slur,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said. “We are looked down upon too much, considering the number of our medical professionals in the US,” he added.
As a result of the furor stirred by the fourth season’s foremost episode, makers of the hit US show, ABC, issued a statement apologizing “for any offence caused by the brief reference in the season premier.”
“There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines,” it said.
Angry protests and hateful comments toward Teri Hatcher and the show in general have understandably swamped the blogosphere since the premier, especially from Filipino bloggers suggesting anything from banning the show to killing Hatcher. A few, meanwhile, noted that given the Philippines’ reputation abroad, what with multi-million scandals and rigged medical exams and all, the issue is no more than an exaggerated reaction to a sad fact.
Granted, a racial slur is still a racial slur. Of course it’s far easier and more politically correct to take offense on Hatcher’s line, but dismissing the line outright as a sucky truth doesn’t make it right either. There is a flimsy line between being funny and cynical and being extraordinarily crude and insensitive, especially when Filipino workers being paid ridiculously low wages fill up the dearth of medical professionals tasked to wash up your grandparents’ asses.
For a popular series as “Desperate Housewives,” where each episode is watched by millions, to insert such a derogatory remark is in equal parts achingly funny, if a bit unsurprising, and at the same time unfair to the vast number of Filipinos practicing medicine in the US, much in the same way that it is unfair to refer to all Arabs as terrorists or Americans as trigger-happy nuts.
In sum, although self-respect is overrated, especially for the Philippines which has always been beleaguered by scandals of all sorts, the apology issued by ABC is definitely a warranted call.
Related: ‘Desperate Housewives’ apology over racial slur