5 'Huh?' Moments In Otherwise Beloved Shows

It's not surprising when TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, Last Man Standing, or Kevin James' Fart Factory feature a cringeworthy joke or plot. These aren't the programs we generally expect to deliver cutting-edge moral clarity in between bursts of three-camera laugh-tracked goofery. But some shows do make it a point to be progressive ... which makes their missteps far more glaring and weird. Think about how ...

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5
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Reacted To Criticism Over Racism With More Racism

When Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt makes a dicey joke, it's usually the naive Kimmy struggling to understand how the world has changed in the 15 years she was held captive. But there's an incredibly odd subplot in the first season wherein Jane Krakowski's character, Jacqueline White, is revealed to be hiding her ethnic background as a Lakota. In flashbacks, which feature Krakowski wearing bronzer to darken her skin, we learn she had her hair dyed blonde and put in blue contacts to become the character we know.

Which is not cool, but would normally still be in the cutting hashtag level of cultural pushback. Plenty of room left to expand. NBCUniversal TelevisionWhich is not cool, but would normally still be in the "cutting hashtag" level of cultural pushback. Plenty of room left to expand.

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Some viewers didn't appreciate this, and they didn't swallow co-creator Robert Carlock's rationale that "We have a couple of writers on staff with Native American heritage ... So we felt like we had a little room to go in that direction." Still, the show had built up enough goodwill that most chalked it up as a poorly thought-out wacky B-plot, and were willing to move on. Then the writer's room chose to respond to the criticism about racism and cultural appropriation with more racism and cultural appropriation.

The second season features an episode in which Kimmy's best friend Titus (a black man), writes a play where he dresses up as a geisha, pissing off the activist group Respectable Asian Portrayals in Entertainment. (Or R.A.P.E., because why not at this point?) But after seeing the show, the Asian critics come to love it. So the show's meta-commentary on the controversy was essentially: "Don't you see? These fictional people who we've made up actually LOVE having their culture appropriated." Perfect solution!

Uhh, anything you don't like about this is ironic.NBCUniversal Television"Uhh, anything you don't like about this is ironic."

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4
Black-ish Thought Chris Brown Was A Great Idea For A Guest Star

ABC's Black-ish, which is loosely based on creator Kenya Barris' marriage to a doctor and their lives with their six children, hasn't been afraid to dive head-on into controversial topics, including episodes about police brutality, Colin Kaepernick's protests, and one that was pulled for being too anti-Trump. Annnnnndddd they also welcomed Chris Brown as a guest star. In 2017.

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In the Season 3 episode "Richard Youngsta," the triple-threat singer, dancer, and perpetual domestic abuser plays a famous rapper whom lead character Dre uses in an ad campaign. Dre's co-workers push the ad to be more stereotypical, including a shot where Brown pours Uvo on an annoying black woman and turns her into a smiling white woman. This causes a debate about the role of race in advertising, and the added burdens people of color have when it comes to creating art.

It's a unique and poignant discussion for a highly visible network TV comedy, but it got largely overshadowed by the decision to cast Brown as a "troubled" fictional rapper. Barris claimed that he was unaware of some of Brown's more recent domestic abuse issues (including a restraining order being placed against him only months before), and regretted that the controversy swallowed the point of the episode.

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Barris has since abandoned ABC for Netflix, in part because of the network's refusal to air the aforementioned anti-Trump episode. Which means Disney executives didn't want to go too hard on Donald Trump, but had no issues cutting a paycheck to one of the country's most famous abusers. Who also dressed up as an Arab terrorist for Halloween, for good measure:

Brown is the one ... actually, it doesn't really matter which one he is.Chris Brown/InstagramBrown is the one ... actually, it doesn't really matter which one he is.

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3
Captain Planet Teaches Kids Population Control

Captain Planet And The Planeteers was a perfect cartoon distillation of '90s eco-consciousness, exposing kids to a broad "Save the planet!" message back in the golden era of big companies methodically passing the blame for wrecking the planet onto individuals. But while the titular green-flattop-mullet-having hero's anti-pollution messages tended not to bother kids whose parents weren't Exxon board members, one episode's message veered into dystopian insanity.

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In "Population Bomb," Cap saves people from a crumbling city, which leads the Planeteers to decide that overpopulation, and not any sort of malevolent corporate middle-fingering, is what's causing society to collapse. At one point, Planeteer Gi even says, "governments recommend having two kids, tops, to solve this issue." Wheeler gets upset about the idea of someone limiting how many kids he can have, but changes his tune after he visits ... a city of advanced mice that has descended into an over-forested polluted fascist dictatorship, which uses a tsunami-creating superweapon on its own people, who are revolting over taxes.

We swear that no part of that was made up.Turner Program ServicesWe swear that no part of that was made up.

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When the other Planeteers show up to save the day, the scientist who explained what happened to the mice is offered a way out. He doesn't take it, because he and his people are getting what they deserved.

Cartoons went to sort of a weird place before parents started paying attention.Turner Program ServicesCartoons went to sort of a weird place before parents started paying attention.

Putting aside how world population rates have been generally declining, doomsday scenarios about Africa's population boom have proved misguided, and that resource mismanagement is the far more glaring problem than "having too many people," it's extremely messed up for a blue cartoon who looks like if Billy Ray Cyrus went to Carnival to warn children not to have too many kids when they grow up, or they'll wreck the world and deserve it. If the planet goes to shit, don't blame corporations; blame '90s kids who grew up and had sex a couple of times.

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2
RuPaul's Questionable "She-Male" Challenge

The phrase "reality TV" is often used as a derisive synonym for "schlocky garbage" or "the dumbing down of culture," but RuPaul's Drag Race has been one of the most visible tentpoles of LGBTQ representation on television since its launch in 2009. But even this unapologetically ridiculous camp-fest caused a stir in the trans community with the questionably titled game "Female or She-Male."

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In the challenge, RuPaul showed the drag contestants photos of people's bodyparts (lips, cleavage, etc.), and they had to guess if they were cis women or drag queens. But the use of "she-male" -- a dated term for a trans woman who doesn't "pass" as a woman -- upset viewers, including former contestant Monica Beverly Hillz, a trans woman. She was disappointed that RuPaul would thoughtlessly include the term as part of a wacky game, saying it compromised how hard she and other trans people had fought for respect. RuPaul disagreed on his radio show, arguing that the art of drag was supposed to be "offensive," and that people blew the situation out of proportion.

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However, after the blowback, producers cut RuPaul's catchphrase "Ooh girl, you've got she-mail!" from future episodes. Which made history as the only time a reality show actually chose avoiding continuing something stupidly tasteless.

1
Star Trek: The Next Generation's Gender-Role-Swap Episode Was A Sexist Mess That Everyone Involved Hated

From airing the first interracial kiss in TV history, to being praised by Martin Luther King Jr. himself, to Discovery flaunting the diversity of its cast and writing team, the Star Trek franchise has always used its futuristic setting to push progressive ideas. Obviously, when you air hundreds of episodes with sweeping philosophical lessons over the course of five decades, it's inevitable that some of them won't age perfectly. "Angel One" from Star Trek: The Next Generation's first season wasn't one of those. Everyone in the cast knew it was tribble shit while they were making it.

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"Angel One" has the crew visiting a planet where "gender roles have been reversed." Women are the soldiers, hunters, and leaders, while the men wear perfume and makeup, dress in skimpy clothing, and are told how great it is not having to work or worry about anything but home life. But in the end, dick finds a way. When the submissive men are at risk of being killed, the female leader who kissed Commander Riker changes her mind because of his masculine wisdom.

The women apparently also have to worry about the All-Valley Karate TournamentCBS Television DistributionThe women apparently also have to worry about the All-Valley Karate Tournament

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The episode is as bad as it sounds, and anyone in production who wasn't high off the glue fumes from alien prosthetics knew it. Patrick Stewart tried to get the script changed, as did Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis. Producer Maurice Hurley called it "one of the ones you'd as soon erase." It turned out to be the only Star Trek episode Patrick Barry would write. It was also weirdly somehow conceived as an allegory about South African apartheid. Because The Next Generation was definitely batting 1.000 when it came to African politics.

For more, check out Women On The Red Carpet Get Sh!tty Questions - Today's Topic:

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