‘Desperate Housewives’ offends Filipinos worldwide

Watch this video and you decide for yourself.

Is the line offensive to Filipinos? That silly joke has sparked a worldwide controversy – Filipinos all around the world are freaking out that Teri Hatcher made fun of Filipino medical schools. Here’s the email that is making the rounds (and landed in my inbox this afternoon):

Dear Kababayan and Allies:

I heard through the grapevine about a remark made on an episode of “Desperate Housewives” last night.

The scene entailed Teri Hatcher’s character (Susan) at a hospital, being told by her gynecologist that she might be hitting menopause. Susan replied, “Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some med school in the Philippines.

This type of derogatory remark is not only unnecessary and hurtful, but is also unfounded, considering the presence of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the health care industry. Filipinos are the second largest immigrant population in the United States, with many entering the U.S. and passing their U.S. licensing boards as doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. In fact, the Philippines produces more U.S. nurses than any other country in the world. So, to belittle the education, experience, or value of Filipino Americans in health care is disrespectful and plain and simply ignorant.

As Filipino Americans, we need to band together to ensure that this type of hateful message is not allowed to continue on our television and radio airwaves. Given the recent amounts of media attention that has been given to Michael Richards (against African Americans), Isaiah Washington (against gays), and Rosie O’Donnell (against Asian/Chinese Americans), it is ridiculous that this type of hateful speech made it through various screenwriters, the show’s producers, the show’s actors, and ABC itself. Yet, this isn’t the first time that negative remarks have been made about the Philippines or Filipinos in the past.

In recent years, we’ve heard one too many “dogeater” comments by “comedian” Joan Rivers on the red carpet or in her standup act, and I believe that it is about time that we stand up for ourselves, so that this type of hateful speech never happens again. Please join me in expressing your concern, disappointment, and/or disgust to the producers of ABC.com. You can sign the petition at http://www.petition online.com/ FilABC/ or you can reach them directly abc7@abc.com.

And please feel free to forward this widely to other Filipinos/Filipino Americans/Asian Americans/ and other allies.


Kevin Nadal, Filipino Performance Artist/ Activist

Offensive, yay or nay? I tend to feel kind of neutral toward jokes like that, but it may be because I’m not in the medical field. Who knows. But its also because I know for a fact that Filipinos hold the same type of prejudices for medical professionals from other countries they regard as “lower.”

I think there’s also a distinct difference between this and the racial slurs and faux pas mentioned in the email. The instances above were all perpetrated by celebrities as themselves; Teri Hatcher was given the line by writers/producers (I assume). Plus, the Desperate Housewives jibe was more denigrating than a true racial slur — a real racial slur would be to call a Filipino doctor a monkey or something like that (which would have been more similar to the examples given in the email).

But at the same time, I do take some mild offense — my father was licensed as a dentist in the Philippines and was part of the 70s brain drain here to the states, but had to go through school all over again because his Filipino training became null and void here in America. So it just goes to show that not only was the Desperate Housewives joke in poor taste, it was also quite ignorant. Just like real life, really.

2 thoughts on “‘Desperate Housewives’ offends Filipinos worldwide

  1. aurelio

    Just wondering why the producers of ABCTV were not able to see and edit that condescending punchline by Hatcher. The pain caused by this unwanted insult is very devastating. To repair and enhance the Filipino image in the international world, ABC has to portray the Philippines in a more dignified way in their future programs every now and then.

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