A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the NPR and NY Times reviews that raved about a new sitcom called Aliens in America, in which a Muslim Pakistani exchange student comes to an “All American” home and community. I hadn’t yet seen the show, so I blogged, instead, about the fact that the reviewers seemed delighted about the fact that the show poked fun at the enemy: and the enemy was us. I found that incredibly disheartening. Now, having seen the show, I’m even more disheartened.
Every American character is portrayed with a viciousness that is surprising. The parents are paranoid ignoramuses; the teenager daughter is a self-obsessed mean girl; the American teenage boy is an incompetent, lying slacker; the black principal is a sleazy womanizer; the golden blond lead cheerleader is a direct descendant of Rommel, with a temperament to match; the cafeteria lady is rudely ignorant of Muslim dietary habits; the cops are jackbooted thugs who steal hard drives without warrants; teachers are stupid and disinterested; and on and on. The only spot of intelligent virtue in the whole show is the Muslim exchange student. He’s polite, he’s honest, he respects women, rather than treating them like objects, he’s an academic star, etc, etc. It was creepy — dhimmitude made TV flesh.
Aside from the loathsome characters — and they are loathsome — the episode I saw was also a show case for Progressive paranoia about the evil government. It’s been 12 hours, and the details are fading from my mind, but let me see if I can reconstruct it.
Mom has become paranoid that teenage boy is into drugs, so she begins spying on him. The one activity he does that she thinks is virtuous is the “Rocket Club,” which she believes is an academic group that makes model rockets. In fact, the Rocket Club is a sham, with teenage boy and his nerdy friends gathering to watch vaguely dirty movies and ogle women’s breasts. She insists teenage boy take Muslim exchange student with him. Muslim exchange student professes boredom, and chastises the other boys for disrespecting women. He then expresses doubt about his ability to lie regarding the club’s real purpose.
When they return home, Muslim exchange student, lying for the first time in his life, goes overboard and describes a glorious club dedicated to rocket knowledge, right down to its space uniforms. Teenage boy discovers that he now has to make those fantasies a reality. He and his friends try to make costumes and create permission slips. Meanwhile, Muslim exchange student goes to the store to build a real rocket — with a shopping list that mimics the list for a bomb. He is arrested.
The arresting cop wants to see Muslim exchange student’s computer. The latter is perfect agreeable, knowing he is innocent. However, teenage boy has been using that computer to look at girlie sites, so he doesn’t want the cops to see it. Searching through his memory, he resurrects the the vaguely taught notion of civil rights, and gives a stirring speech about the fact that, even though Muslim exchange student is a guest in the country, he has civil rights and cannot be searched and should not be made a suspect. Parents cheer him on. Cops decide not to search.
Meanwhile, however, word gets round and Muslim exchange student is viewed with suspicion by students and teachers. Substitute teacher looks at him and says, “I have a wife and family. Please don’t hurt me.” Teenage daughter is refused admission on the cheer leading team because she’s soft on terrorism. Muslim exchange student says to teenager that he’s okay giving up his civil rights, because this freedom stuff is really difficult and he doesn’t want to deal with it. Teenager boy confesses to what he did with Muslim exchange student’s computer. Muslim exchange student dutifully calls cops. Cops arrive and take that computer and then, without a warrant, rip the family computer out of the wall, as wife weeps about “family photographs.”
Everybody then decides to create a real rocket club, with real rockets. Even the principal tears himself away from the unseen woman waiting in his car to see the rocket launching. The rocket ascends, then goes sideways, and appears to kill the cheerleader who is Rommel’s granddaughter. With the exception of the Muslim exchange student, everyone at the launch — teenagers, parents, and principal — runs away. Show ends.
I did not find the show funny but, then again, I’ve never been a fan of mean-spirited humor — that is, unless I’ve really disliked the person or group on the receiving end of the joke (e.g., Hitler). As it is, I happen to like Americans as a whole, and found unpleasant, and unfunny, this wholesale attack on them, especially when the sole virtuous role was assigned to someone representative of a group that does not, through its spokespeople show Americans much good will. (And here comes the usual disclaimer, and I do mean it, that there are millions of good, law-abiding, pro-American Muslims in our country, and even around the world. Nevertheless, many of their religion have distinguished themselves lately by the fervor with which they state their desire to destroy us. The New York Times has a good rundown on some of these homegrown terrorists and their computers.)
I opened this post with my opinion of the show. Having read my pretty accurate summary, I’d like to know what you think.