Pinay’Merican: Re: SNL’s skit, “Asian American Doll”

Pinay’Merican is a series of personal entries about exploring identity, as a Filipino-American, an aspiring writer, and a millennial. This is also kinda sorta for my final project in Asian American Media this semester.

Over the weekend, Saturday Night Live did a skit on the political correctness of children’s toys. The skit was called, “The Asian-American Doll“.

Now, I consider myself a person with a sense of humor. I can understand different varieties of humor, from fart jokes to political satire to deadpan sarcasm. What SNL was trying to pull with this skit, I get it. They’re poking fun at how major corporations try to be culturally and racially sensitive when it comes to advertising their products “made from a place of fear”. But I also think that SNL has been slacking in its humor (I only watch it when my favorite actor or performer is featured, enduring the skits that are unfunny). This skit is particularly a product of that slack.

The fake commercial advertises a doll of Asian descent that has no name or catchphrases, and the accessories are limited to a puppy and a chef’s hat. The dream house for the Asian-American Doll is completely empty of furnishings, leaving it up to the consumer to decide what the doll can have. This removes the company from any liability for the decisions made by the consumer, as stated by the voiceover.

What bothers me about the SNL skit is that the joke still comes at the expense of Asian Americans. The fact that the doll is female and “has no name” or “has nothing to say” perpetuates the stereotype of the Asian woman having no autonomy–a nameless figure who remains silent. The lack of accessories and wardrobe, compared to the doll’s fair-skinned and blonde counterpart, makes the assumption that Asian Americans do not have the same interests in furniture and clothing selections as other Americans. Do we prefer to be nudists? How do we go to the bathroom? I’m pretty sure we would like to have an “Oriental rug” in our living rooms, if we want nice furnishings. Not to mention, the Asian-American Doll has a close resemblance to East Asians, as if those in the southern parts of Asia don’t count. (If there was a Filipino American Doll, would people mistake it for being Latina or some other Southeast Asian ethnicity?)

Maybe I am being “sensitive” towards the skit. Maybe my claim of having a “sense of humor” is invalid because of this post. But my complaint stems from the frustration over the writing of SNL. Besides the Weekend Update, the skits have failed to amuse me with their jokes. It seems like the show is running out of ideas in generating humor and therefore turn to using people’s dispositions as the punchline. I have not watched the other skits that involve a certain North Korean dictator, but again, I don’t watch SNL very much like before.

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