As a woman of color, I have rarely been as uncomfortable with a television show, as I was with Future Man. The first episode was fine. Not great, not awful. Sadly, it never lived up to the hilarious early scene of the hero going to a game shop and arguing about which video game characters they masturbate to. That scene was golden, and it was the only reason I kept watching. But I’m not a fan of the kind of comedy that culminates in someone spurting semen on another person’s leg, so I was mostly underwhelmed. In the second episode, they time travel to “infiltrate” a black fraternity in the sixties. It’s awkward at best and straight up infuriating at worst. I had so much to say, but I don’t have the time to say it all. So here’s a listicle!
All the ways Future Man episode 2, “Herpes: Fully Loaded,” is “hilarious.”
1. One of the future heroes yells, in the middle of a black frat party, “I will annihilate your whole mutant race!” But see, it’s funny, because this white guy doesn’t see skin color, because race isn’t an issue where he’s from. HI-FUCKING-LARIOUS!
2. White Protag #906,387 is shocked–SHOCKED I TELLS YOU–to discover that in 1969, racism existed at Cal-Tech. Isn’t that cute? A white person is willfully ignorant of the history and abuse of black people. Har.
3. Two characters demand that the hero (in a space suit, pretending to be a black man) do Bill Cosby’s routine where he jokes about putting Spanish Fly in a woman’s drink. I’d repeat that, but I don’t want to type those words again. Now, this bit could have been really funny if they’d taken it to a ridiculous extreme (Daniel Tosh-style) but instead White Protag #906,387 fumbles through a dumb, awkward joke about Jell-o, which leads a character to say that the joke was so bad, he doesn’t like Bill Cosby anymore, and the white protag #906,387 says, “Yeah, well, get used to that.” The scene left me thinking less about the episode and more about how one of the most influential and powerful black men of my generation undermined everything great he accomplished by being a serial rapist. Woo, stop show, I’mma piss myself from all this laughter.
4. The only black woman with lines in the episode is a vapid girl whom everyone believes to have herpes. Also, she’s wearing an outfit that barely covers her ass, and is easily swayed from the guy she’s interested in to another guy, on the basis of a dance-off. After which she says, “If you fuck half as good as you dance, I’m gonna be one happy girl.” You know what is truly funny? White writers who play on every awful stereotype of minorities, but particularly on stereotypes of black women, who are already treated with cultural disdain, and regarded as being little more than mamies, welfare queens, or whores. Tee. Hee.
5. Instead of doing an homage to Back to the Future, the show chose to do a straight up rip-off. There was no gentle ribbing of the original premise or even a deconstruction of it. Like say, by having a black character jump in and sabotage the dance off by doing some awesome dance that he invented and stealing the girl from both of the guys. Instead White Protag #906,387 does a series of “black” dances, like The Running Man before stealing the black woman from the black man, by showing everyone the Moonwalk for the first time. Leading to another man calling “Tito,” to tell him about it. Hahahahah! Appropriation is never not funny!
I don’t think the writers really meant for the episode to be as offensive as it was. I also think they made some interesting points about racism that I actually appreciated. Particularly the black character, Tyler, who pointed out that the white characters had the freedom to just go wherever they wanted without fear of the police being called. Further, the part that got a genuine laugh out of me, was when Tyler announced his belief that racism was definitely going to get better, prompting White Protag #906,387 to make a pained face and a noise that suggested, “Mm, not so much.”
Then I thought about it for a second, and my laughter turned into a wave of sadness.
Taken by themselves, each of the issues on my list would get an eye-roll from me, and nothing more, because this show is clearly aimed at white, bro-dudes, and I’m not in that demographic. So, I tried to take the show with huge grains of salt, but I nearly choked to death on them.
It was all summed up perfectly by my husband. When the episode ended, he turned to me with a glazed look on his face, aimed the remote at the television and loudly declared, “Annnnnnd DONE.”
Well said, Hubs. Well. Said.