What the Kids Were Watching

"Short Circuit": Warmongers and Brownface and Kittens, Oh My

January 29, 2020 Sarah A. Ruiz and Rafael A. Ruiz Season 1 Episode 6
What the Kids Were Watching
"Short Circuit": Warmongers and Brownface and Kittens, Oh My
Chapters
What the Kids Were Watching
"Short Circuit": Warmongers and Brownface and Kittens, Oh My
Jan 29, 2020 Season 1 Episode 6
Sarah A. Ruiz and Rafael A. Ruiz

The legacy of the supposedly family-friendly comedy "Short Circuit" is a frustrating one; and in this podcast episode, Sarah and Raf try to parse out what's salvageable from the 1986 film and what's not.

"Short Circuit" is the story of a robot/mobile nuclear weapon that gets struck by lightning and, Pinocchio-like, goes on a series of wacky adventures to become alive. Or, as Sarah sums it up: "This whole movie is like one big commercial for a surge protector." In addition to the robot Johnny Five -- clearly the inspiration for WALL-E, according to Raf -- the film features Ally Sheedy as Stephanie Speck, a.k.a. "a bubbly female version of Noah's Ark," and the exceptionally smug Steve Guttenberg as Newton Crosby. The podcast hosts discuss the dangers of letting kittens run across the stove, the importance of learning the word "warmonger" at an early age, and how -- as Sarah notes with disappointment -- "Even robots can sexually harass you. There really is no safe space."

But the hosts also address the elephant in the room: the Indian-American character Ben, played by Fisher Stevens in brownface. How do you talk about a racially insensitive film you loved as a kid? How do you publicly address your childhood ignorance? If you're Raf, you're honest and measured. If you're Sarah, you yell a lot. "I'm angry that I didn't know better...it's embarrassing that I thought this was funny, and I'm ashamed of it," she admits. Between the hosts' own experiences with negative Latinx representation in film and the racism their family members endured, they have a lot to say about this film's terrible legacy as they contemplate how to move forward.

Show Notes

The legacy of the supposedly family-friendly comedy "Short Circuit" is a frustrating one; and in this podcast episode, Sarah and Raf try to parse out what's salvageable from the 1986 film and what's not.

"Short Circuit" is the story of a robot/mobile nuclear weapon that gets struck by lightning and, Pinocchio-like, goes on a series of wacky adventures to become alive. Or, as Sarah sums it up: "This whole movie is like one big commercial for a surge protector." In addition to the robot Johnny Five -- clearly the inspiration for WALL-E, according to Raf -- the film features Ally Sheedy as Stephanie Speck, a.k.a. "a bubbly female version of Noah's Ark," and the exceptionally smug Steve Guttenberg as Newton Crosby. The podcast hosts discuss the dangers of letting kittens run across the stove, the importance of learning the word "warmonger" at an early age, and how -- as Sarah notes with disappointment -- "Even robots can sexually harass you. There really is no safe space."

But the hosts also address the elephant in the room: the Indian-American character Ben, played by Fisher Stevens in brownface. How do you talk about a racially insensitive film you loved as a kid? How do you publicly address your childhood ignorance? If you're Raf, you're honest and measured. If you're Sarah, you yell a lot. "I'm angry that I didn't know better...it's embarrassing that I thought this was funny, and I'm ashamed of it," she admits. Between the hosts' own experiences with negative Latinx representation in film and the racism their family members endured, they have a lot to say about this film's terrible legacy as they contemplate how to move forward.