The immigration debate is about to get a lot funnier. Starting in January, Fox’s latest animated series ‘Bordertown’ is going to inject high doses of satire, ridicule and irreverence into an issue that’s not typically associated with laughs.
The show will satirize life at the fictitious border town of "Mexifornia" through the story of two unlikely neighbors: an undocumented Mexican immigrant and a U.S. border patrol agent.
Although the adult sitcom is marketed as the brainchild of Family Guy producers Mark Hentemann and Seth Macfarlane, the writers' room is packed with Latinos who will bring their own sensibilities and humor to the delicate subject matter.
The new series comes at a time when immigration and border security are hot topics in the 2016 presidential race, and many Latinos feel under attack. But according to Bordertown consulting producer Gustavo Arellano, the show will go beyond the most sensitive issues and poke fun at all aspects of life in the American Southwest, from mega-churches, high school football and UFO sightings to the Santa Ana Winds.
There will be plenty of Family Guy-style humor: tacos that induce fiery farts, spring breakers vomiting on sombreros, and a cannon that is used to shoot undocumented immigrants back to Mexico. But Bordertown promises to go deeper than cheap laughs.
“Humor is always the best way to tackle complex, serious issues,” Arellano, a Mexican American, told Fusion. “People want to laugh to make sense of the absurdity that is the border, especially if someone is ridiculing the haters and hailing los buenos.”
Arellano believes the combination of comedy and animation is even more powerful. “We can do whatever the hell we want, up to and including Pope Francis throwing a chancla to get folks into check,” said Arellano, who also authors OC Weekly’s popular column Ask a Mexican!
The launch of the show was delayed for almost a year, but Arellano says that was a blessing in disguise. “We’re now going to come out in the middle of the presidential primaries, where Mexicans will be savaged like no other—and our show will be there to ridicule [the politicians'] every proposal.”
“That’s why Bordertown is important, and not just for the subject matter,” Arellano says. “Because you have actual raza— five of us in the writers' room and un chingo [lots of us] are voicing characters.
“Latinos are extremely misrepresented in Hollywood,” says popular Latino cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who co-wrote two Bordertown episodes. “Shows like this will lead to more shows written by Chicano/Latino writers. That’s how it works. In fact, three of the writers have already sold new shows to the networks, and we haven’t even aired.”
For Alcaraz, Bordertown will be more like a Mexican “All in The Family” than anything else. But the political context will give it a sharper edge. “I’m excited to have this platform to skewer xenophobia in the U.S. I hope we can get a second season so we can write a presidential campaign episode. I’d love to see Tump or a Trumpish character come to Mexifornia and get kidnapped by our El Chapo character.”
The writers promise the show will be harder hitting than other border dramas.
You can make audiences swallow some pretty hard truths through satire, comedy and cartoons,” says Alcaraz. “People aren’t expecting anything threatening or difficult when they are laughing, or when they see a cartoon character. So that’s when we strike.”
Bordertown premieres Jan. 3 on Fox.