I have a confession: I’m one of many Americans who love watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. The episode that dropped on Friday tried to go from cookies (“biscuits”) and bread to “Mexican Week,” and you might guess this would be triggering for liberal Americans who think they are the most Mexican-sensitive Americans.
Over at the website Decider.com — which tells you what’s streaming on your TV — critic Meghan O’Keefe was having a cow under the headline:
‘The Great British Baking Show’ “Mexican Week” is a Disaster on So Many Levels.”
Meghan claimed to be a longtime fan of the show, “but this particular week — with its offensive stereotypes, befuddled bakers, and layered tres leches cakes — threatened to undo all the good will the show has accumulated over the years.” Oh, the “sins” that were committed! Sins of hubris!
I’m more curious about how this episode could have happened in the first place. I don’t think the episode’s sins came from a place of malice, but rather pure old-fashioned hubris. The Great British Baking Show “Mexican Week” is what happens when a quaint show becomes a global hit and eventually forgets what made the show so great in the first place.
She tweeted “It is cringe and problematic and infuriating to watch? Yes.”
The show was horrifying because “the Brits are woefully ignorant about Mexican culture.” But she also hailed this show as “educational.” So maybe it could start a craze about Mexican food in Britain.
The Great British Baking Show “Mexican Week” started with a cold open with hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas wearing poncho blankets and sombrero-esque hats (that were not technically sombreros). The made a cringe-worthy joke about how they shouldn’t make Mexican jokes that was in itself sort of offensive to Spanish speakers everywhere.
The hosts often dress stupidly for about 30 seconds in openers for laughs. They’re cringe-worthy on purpose. Make sure Meghan never watches The Three Caballeros cartoon in their sombreros and “snappy serapes.” She’ll faint in outrage.
What was perhaps even more appalling was how the bakers themselves collectively comported themselves. Poor sweet Carole pronounced pico de gallo as “pico de gallio” and tried to peel the outside of an avocado with a paring knife. Tacos were treated as bewildering alien food. By and large, the bakers had zero knowledge of pan dulces and many of them flailed accordingly.
Because The Great British Baking Show is supposed to be a show where talented amateur bakers show off their skills, this level of absolute ignorance was horrifying to watch.
Fans of the show can agree that when you have a taco challenge on a baking show, it feels more like a cooking show. They can also agree that a “technical challenge” is no place for tacos. But liberals think the mostly white baking show really shouldn’t try new things!
The Brits are great at many things: tea time, Shakespearean acting, colonization, making scones… But the Brits also have their blind spots and Mexican cuisine is definitely one of them.
If The Great British Baking Show can learn anything from the “Mexican Week” debacle, it should be that it needs to go back to its roots and embrace the sweet English countryside bakes that made the show so great. Oh, and to stay away from racial stereotypes as jokes.
But Meghan can make “colonization” jokes about the British. That’s not “racial.”