The concept of a mail-order bride, although rarely portrayed by the media, has been around for quite some time. NBC planned to create a comedy show called “Mail Order Family,” which would portray a Filipino woman being sent to the United States after being purchased by a widowed father who attempts to marry her. Thankfully, the show has been canceled, and for good reasons.
The first issue with “Mail Order Family” is that it was meant to be a comedy, but purchasing poor women and having them sent to the United States is not at all humorous. In addition to it not being funny, it is making the issues of human trafficking seem lighthearted. Due to obvious moral issues, the show received heavy online criticism before it aired, culminating in a petition to make sure the comedy never reached the air.
The petition claimed that “‘Mail Order Family’ is the most recent example of how the exploitation and violence women face is normalized in U.S. mainstream media.” In reality, poor economic status and limited resources for survival force women into trafficking or becoming mail order brides in the Philippines. If this show were to air, trivializing reality, the United States would begin to see this tragedy as something that is common and acceptable in our society.
The idea of telling the story of mail-order brides as a way of bringing to light the real issues of trafficking and helping these women would have been more acceptable. The inspiration for “Mail Order Family” came from New Zealander comedian Jackie Clarke. Clarke’s mother died when she was very young and, shortly after, her father purchased a mail order bride from a catalog.
Thus, the idea for “Mail Order Family” is loosely based on Clarke’s family. It follows a widowed single father who orders a mail-order bride from the Philippines to help raise his two preteen daughters.” With this information, the show could have been a real way for people in the U.S. to learn the terrors of human trafficking and what should be done to help these women and their families. Instead they decided that the show should just entertain viewers and make a joke out of such a serious problem.
Not only was this a bad decision, it was not the original agreement of the show when NBC bought the pitch. NBC “purchased the pitch with the understanding that it would tell the creator’s real-life experience of being raised by a strong Filipina stepmother after the loss of her own mother.” However, this is not what the final plan for the show was, which is another big reason why the cancellation of this show is beneficial.
In the end, it was fortunate that NBC listened to the protests and chose not to air “Mail Order Family.” The comedy would have only lead to strong emotions for people who have lived through human trafficking situations themselves or know someone who has suffered through one. Also, it would have normalized human trafficking, reinforcing the stereotypes of Filipina women who already exist in the U.S.
One unfortunate matter that came out of the cancellation of “Mail Order Family” is that the show was not changed into a documentary that actually portrayed the lives of these women. This kind of documentary would educate the public on the truths behind the issue of mail order brides so that we can find ways to help these people. More people would realize that these tragedies are not normal at all and need to be stopped.