'Minoriteam' debuts Sunday at midnight on Cartoon Network.
My friend Harvey used to say that he didn't mind being called fat and he didn't mind being called bald and he didn't mind being called a Jew and he didn't mind being from Skokie. But he didn't like being called a fat, bald Jew from Skokie because he didn't appreciate being stereotyped.
Back then - this was the mid-'80s - there was no one to help him. But now there is. In the cartoon world, anyway.
Minoriteam, debuting midnight Sunday, is the latest winner in Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, which includes the brilliant version of The Boondocks and the funny Davey and Goliath parody Moral Orel. This new show's premise: A group of mild-mannered men of various races and ethnic groups use their own stereotypes to destroy stereotypes.
Neil Horvitz becomes Jewcano, with all the powers of Judaism AND a volcano. Indian convenience store clerk Dave Raj turns into Nonstop, the man who can't be shot. Mexican Richard Escartin is El Jefe, whose leaf blower gives him superpowers. Landon K. Dutton, a black professor, morphs into Fasto, the fastest man in the world. Their leader is Dr. Wang, who can process information like no other man - because he's Asian!
Together, they patrol Corporate City, where they must fight a villain called White Shadow whose goal is to spread racism and oppress minorities and ethnic groups. His henchmen include Racist Frankenstein, Corporate Ladder and Standardized Test.
If it sounds silly, it is. But it's also funny and, at times, outrageous, relevant social commentary.
In the premiere, White Shadow (whose face is the pyramid and eye from the back of the dollar bill) tries to stop the growth of black-owned businesses in Corporate City by kidnapping a leading businessman. To rescue him, Minoriteam must go through not only a country club but the White Shadow's Pyramid of Ignorance, where they're forced to answer questions like: If a Mexican takes two hours to wash 500 dishes and a Chinaman takes three hours to wash 450 dishes, how long will they take working together to wash 1,000 dishes?
The answer: zero hours. Mexicans work for Chinese, not with them.
By embracing and then skewering the stereotypes, Minoriteam encourages viewers to laugh at these traits and not take them so seriously. And maybe, just maybe, if people didn't get so offended so easily, we wouldn't have nearly the racial and ethnic tension we have.
In the second episode, the Minoriteam members are kidnapped by illegal aliens (the outer-space kind) who make Jewcano chase after a nickel, tantalize El Jefe with a shiny new car (he's rescued by Dr. Wang, a stereotypically bad Asian driver) and force Fasto to deal with his mama.
Their absence leaves the White Shadow free to spread racism. But you know what? Shadow discovers it's not so much fun to be racist if no one's fighting him. That's a great lesson, particularly coming from a cartoon