A denigrating joke about alcohol abuse among Native Americans that was made on the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly” has inspired a backlash from groups like the Navajo Nation and the Native American Journalists Association.
According to the Cherokee Phoenix, both groups have condemned the stereotypical joke. The Navajo Nation and NAJA called the joke “deplorable” and “inexplicable,” respectively, and demanded a formal apology from the network.
The joke in question was made by actress Rondi Reed, who plays Mike’s mother, Peggy, on the show. Melissa McCarthy’s character, Molly, was under the impression that her mother-in-law (played by Reed) was relocating to Arizona, and offered to help her pack.
“How soon are you kids moving to Arizona? I could help you throw some stuff in boxes tonight,” Molly says.
The question prompted this response from Reed’s character: “What are you talking about, who the hell said I’m moving to Arizona? You ever been to Arizona? It’s just a furnace full of drunk Indians.”
Molly downplays the offensiveness of the joke, responding, “Really? That’s not what it says on their license plate.”
While the joke elicited a smattering of canned laughter when the episode aired on Feb. 25, Native American groups weren’t laughing.
Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation said, ““It’s offensive, it’s derogatory, it’s deplorable. Ignorance is one thing, but this must have passed through a lot of eyes before it appeared on a network show … An apology would be appropriate but it can’t fix the damage done."
He said, “Alcoholism is a real issue on our reservations and it’s not funny. You can see somebody who is drunk and tripping over themselves and it's easy to make fun of them. But the disease itself isn't funny, the coming home late at night, possibly beating on family members, the absence of family members, the fear it instills in a lot of children."
NAJA backed up the organization, and said in a statement, "This comment shows blatant disregard for the original inhabitants of this land and perpetuates antiquated stereotypes of Native Americans."
"I think a lot of times people make excuses for when they do those type of jokes or sarcasm," the organization’s President Rhonda LeValdo said. "To me, it's not funny making fun of a minority group. Are we supposed to be the entertainment for mainstream?"
Neither CBS nor Warner Bros., the company which produces the show, commented on the story.