I never thought that after experiencing Nickelodeon’s new martial arts/comedy Supah Ninjas that it would turn out to be the most offensive thing to Asian culture since the race-bending controversy of the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender film. For those of you who may have forgotten, M. Night’s version of Nick’s animated hit essentially swapped (i.e. bended) the races of its main characters from Asian to Caucasian, at least for the heroes. It’s one of those shows that’s just one stereotype after another. The main character here, Mike Fukanaga (Ryan Potter) may technically be Asian-American, he’s the whitest-looking Asian kid they could probably find. But don’t worry, because he’s amazing at martial arts and just so happens to come from a lineage of ninja masters.
Then there’s the black guy and best friend Own (Carlos Knight) who talks a lot of jive and only exists to be the comic relief of the show and sounds like he’s quoting PG versions of every Chris Tucker movie he can think of, making the series play off like a bad preteen Rush Hour wannabe. He actually pressures Mike into saying – no joke – “”Ain’t no party like the Fukanaga party like the Fukanaga party cuz the Fukanaga party don’t stop.” – “Dere it is! How’d that feel, dog?”
I really felt bad when I saw George “Sulu” Takei playing Mike’s grandfather on the show, laughably named ‘Hologramps’ by Owen; but he’s just here for the paycheck. There’s also a lily-white love interest – a smart ‘n sassy cheerleader no less! – to help motivate his ninja ways. Combine all of this with bad, Power Ranger style fighting, and even having Christopher “Kid” Reid of Kid n’ Play fame playing a pimp-lite villain called “The Rhymer” and you’ve got a recipe for one melting pot disaster.
In short, Nickelodeon‘s Supah Ninjas really is a racially insensitive disaster, at least from the first episode that I subjected myself to that’s currently streaming online. So far it doesn’t seem like there’s any plans for an extended series, almost as if Nick knows just how wrong this show and its characters are, but that could change before its expected air date in April. If they’re smart, they’ll pass on this big prepubescent modern-day minstrel show. After last year’s Airbender fiasco and now this, I’m starting to wonder if Nick is either doing this on purpose, or their understanding of ‘Asian’ culture is limited to the last time they ordered Chinese take-out. Seriously.