SPOILER ALERT FOR SEASON 1
As I said in a post a while ago, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has some problems. While I personally love Kimmy Schmidt, her upbeat attitude, and the small yet important ways she finds to deal with problems, the show’s treatment of non-whites was atrocious, ranging from casting Jane Krakowski as a Lakota woman to stereotyping Hispanics as cleaning ladies or mariachi members. Having finished the series and seen how it treated the queer community, effeminate men, immigrants, and professional women, I can solidly declare that I am NOT a fan. However, I think there are some things that Netflix and showrunners Tina Fey and Robert Carlock can do to make it a better, funnier, and less grossly offensive show. So allow me present 12 Things Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Needs to Fix in Season 2.
- Recast Jacqueline Voorhees as an actual Lakota woman. At the end of the first season, Jacqueline reconnects with her Lakota roots culminating in her taking out her blue prescription contacts and driving off in a police car. In Season 2, she could come back looking significantly different, though still with blonde hair and bleached skin, because she has been on a spiritual journey, got into a car wreck, spent too long in the sun, went too long without her surgical upkeep, etc, etc and so reverted back to her normal self. There. Whitewashing and cultural appropriation rectified.
- In fact, why not just start casting people as their actual ethnicity? There’s not much to be done about Dong being Vietnamese and being played by a Korean actor (unless you got rid of him too), but in the future, that’s something that could change. How hard is it to say in a casting call, “For Vietnamese actors only”?
- Improve the characters of actors of color. As I said in my earlier post, the way Kimmy Schmidt treats actors of color is appalling. Immigrants do not have to have heavy accents with broken English (many of them have been speaking English since they were children) or funny names so you can make penis jokes or have stereotypical jobs like working at a Chinese restaurant or as a cleaning lady. You know how in the last two episodes, Donna Marie (another horrible name) admitted to knowing English for years but refused to out herself because it would ruin her brand? That was great. It was unexpected, it was smart, it was funny, and it broke the mold of what we think Mexicans can do. Do that. Do that again and again and again.
- If you’re going to do a stereotype, commit to it. There are truths within stereotypes, but usually not the ones we think of. If you’re going to make Dong an illegal immigrant, devote some time to that. Devote time to him counting down the days until his visa expires and negotiating tricky deals to get paid in cash and having Vietnamese friends who succeed so he steals their fucking lucky gold Jesus statue and pawns it so he can finally try Ethiopian food. Take the stereotype and move on from it. Don’t let that be everything the person is. Do what you did with Donna Marie.
- Focus on your interesting characters and leave the Voorhees to their own shit. I know Tina Fey’s wheelhouse is making fun of rich, weird white people, but it’s getting old. I don’t care about refrigerators full of water or pointless cosmetic surgery or idiotic Socratic names or teens doing drugs. We’ve all seen 90210 and The OC. Give me more of a Hispanic salsa mogul living in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. Give me Vietnamese boys who came to America to do something and fall in love with a cult survivor and have to deal with that shit. Give me a gay, middle-aged black man trying to find who he is. Give me something
- Speaking of gay, middle-aged black men… have Titus start to succeed as an actor – that, or quit trying to be one. He’s been trying to be an actor his entire life and has nothing, not even bit, walk-on parts and small theater performances. It’s embarrassing and undercuts the repeated assertions that he’s a good actor. And, if you don’t want that, have him be an acting coach – and an especially good one. He can deal with having a young, black, gay mentee that is infinitely better than him but who owes it all to him. There’s character development right there. There’s conflict.
- Make amends to Brandon, the gay white boy being forced to marry Cyndee. That shit there was horrible. Gay men are not toys or trophies that you can make do whatever you want. Let him suffer a month or even a year with Cyndee, getting increasingly more and more uncomfortable until he eventually runs away to New York to Titus. Let Titus mentor him. Let there be a big moment where he is honest and open with Cyndee and divorces her. Let him matter as a person.
- Take sexual and psychological abuse seriously. The audience knows that the Mole Women had to do something sort of sexual things because Kimmy has a throwaway comment about it, and we know that the captivity had a strong effect on her, but these issues are never really dealt with. Repeatedly, Kimmy vows to do something about them but doesn’t and all her issues seem like a joke. This is horribly offensive to survivors of sexual and psychological abuse and compounds the problems they already face with being taken seriously and having their abusers come to justice.
- Give Kimmy something to do. There was a minor effort at the end of the season to move Kimmy in some direction, specifically towards her GED. That’s a noble effort, but we really didn’t see much of her progress or struggle, and it really didn’t seem that important. It also looks increasingly less likely that she’s going to succeed, even if she did magically gain interest-computing powers. But that’s one episode, not an arc. Give us an arc. I mean, she’s really good at helping people and is actually pretty passionate about getting women out of dangerous, abusive situations. Why not have her volunteer at a women’s shelter and then get her degree in social work? Sounds like an interesting premise to me.
- Give Xanthippe something to do. Despite the fact that she mostly acted like a petulant, spoiled brat, Xanthippe was an interesting character. She wanted attention and to be a “bad girl” but would never commit. Secretly, she liked things like The Babysitter’s Club and bird-watching, and she had impeccable hairstyling ability. It’d be cool if she went somewhere with that, even if she and Kimmy remained antagonists (But maybe more intelligently so? It was all pretty juvenile.).
- Have people succeed in something. Titus is still not an actor. He still can’t get better roles. Cyndee still hasn’t faced reality. Dong is still running from immigration. The two inept California prosecutors still don’t know what the hell they’re doing. No, everyone doesn’t have to succeed all the time, but when you do something, you generally get better at it – or end of up quitting and finding something you are good at. Watching people fail over and over and over again gets really difficult and even painful. It also shows no character growth and makes the show stagnate. There needs to be a steady progression in some direction for a show to maintain its quality.
- Let people other than Kimmy be able to solve problems. At the end of almost every episode, Kimmy has an epiphany and learns how to fix some minor problem – but no one else really does. In the episode with the spin class, it’s Kimmy who realizes they’re in a cult and gets the other women out. It’s Kimmy who gets Jacqueline to see that she can survive without her husband. It’s Kimmy who decides to go back to the bunker to look for evidence against the Reverend. It’s always Kimmy and everyone else is just a stupid, incompetent moron (One notable exception is that it’s Gretchen who sees the flaw in the Reverend’s video, not Kimmy, but it’s Kimmy who finds the video and uncracks the code to the safe.). That’s not only unbelievable but it’s I don’t want to have to wait for Kimmy to save the day every single time.
- Bonus: hire me as a writer. Just do it. I’ll work from home and probably charge you significantly less than any of the other cronies you know and I’ll do a lot better than they can. I understand the basics of conflict, character development, and series progression. And my penis jokes are actually funny (some even say their pretty balls to the wall). What have you got to lose? You can’t really get worse.