Mail Order Racism: Hollywood’s Representation Problem

The lack of diversity in Hollywood isn’t a new phenomenon. #OscarsSoWhite, for example, was a top trending hashtag after the nominations were announced for the Oscars and further highlighted the issue of diversity in the media. Though many stood up and boycotted the awards show, the problem persists. Asian Americans became the butt of Chris Rock’s jokes during this year’s Academy Awards, causing outrage and backlash that undid the positive feedback from the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m writing about this when the Oscars was back in February. Unfortunately, we’ve come to a point where Hollywood has yet again proven its failure to attempt to combat the problem of racism and sexism in film and TV.

Earlier this week, NBC announced that they have ordered a “comedy” series called “Mail Order Family.” The premise of the show revolves around a widower who has bought a mail order bride from the Philippines. There are so many things that is wrong with this show, I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just say, this is no “Fresh Off the Boat.”

First of all, the show is making light of human and sex trafficking, an issue that continues to plague our society. Secondly, the idea of “mail order brides” is so deeply rooted in racist and sexist stereotypes of Filipinas as subservient and sex slaves, stereotypes that could easily be applied to so many other nationalities that continues to be marginalised. In the petition made by Gabriela USA, a Filipino organisation, they describe this industry of mail order bride in the Philippines as being rooted in the “historical U.S. colonial occupation of the Philippines, feudal-patriarchal view of Filipinas, and current neo-colonial economic policies that have impoverished the Filipino people.” Why do we continue to persist to let the idea of fetishization of Asian woman live and be normalised?

The writer of the show has defended her choice on Twitter, arguing that this is based on her experience and will create a character that is “complex.” And though I’m sure she will make an attempt to address these issues, I just can’t see this show working out. As a Filipina, I’m already extremely offended by what this show is attempting to showcase. Even if the programme does explore the controversies, there is no guarantee that its audience will take it as a condemnation of mail order brides. In fact, “Mail Order Family’s” portrayal may even encourage it. Certainly, the approach of the show to represent a type of family that involves one of its members being bought as a positive is a questionable part of the show already.

I asked to be represented in the media, but this isn’t the kind of representation I want.

This link below sums up what is wrong with this show and is a petition to cancel this supposed “comedy” from being made:


Update: The show has since been scrapped from development after the backlash. 


Edited by Sarah Holmes