Samantha Bee in Puerto Rico: Liberal Condescension and Vibrator Jokes

March 31st, 2018 11:45 PM

This week, it was Samantha Bee's turn to show that the commodification of Puerto Rican grief and tragedy for liberal political gain continues apace. 

A collective groan could be heard throughout MRC Latino when it became apparent that we were going to have to countenance what was likely to be some pretty hot garbage...and unfortunately, we were right. A Full Frontal Puerto Rico road trip was sure to yield equal parts liberal white-knighting, Trump-bashing, and the soft showcasing of separatism, sprinkled with general unfunniness.

Although it was hard to pick just one segment among that parade of horribles, here's Bee using the mayor of San Sebastian (fun fact: also the birthplace of convicted FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera) and a local power crew as props for the purpose of setting up a vibrator joke:

SAMANTHA BEE: Obviously COBRA is not gonna rescue the Puerto Rican people. So who is? In order to find out, I went to San Sebastian and I talked to Mayor Javier Jimenez. 

JAVIER JIMENEZ, MAYOR, SAN SEBASTIAN, PUERTO RICO: And it's very difficult to restore the power grid. But here, we took the initiative as a town in order to create a community brigade to help us rebuild the grid. 

BEE: So in some ways the solution to Puerto Rico's power issue is Puerto Ricans? 


BEE: Exactly. While, power companies do work on the island, it's groups like this rag tag team of 75 rogue volunteers who do a lot of the heavy lifting. 

BEE: How did you come vigilante electricians? Were you already doing this work before the hurricane? 

CREWMEMBER #1: No, I wasn't an electrician. I was a rescue worker and they trained us.

CREWMEMBER #2: So that we could start what is now the Pepino Power Authority. It's a supplement for the people who really needed electricity. 

BEE: What is a pipino?

CREWMEMBER #2: The exact word in Spanish is...cucumbers. 

BEE: I am going to call you the electric cucumbers because I think the logo will be very cute.

CREWMEMBER #2: Uh, no.

BEE: These Electric Cucumbers and their do-gooding were making their town happier than the other definition of "electric cucumber".


These stories of resiliency and perseverance in the aftermath of a catastrophic storm are reduced to setups for a punchline. To make matters worse, it was evident that Bee's Puerto Rican interlocutors didn't always understand the double entendres or comedic (?) phrasing. Not only were they props, but they were unwitting props. 

To be sure, there are legitimate, serious questions to be asked about recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. But Bee wasn't interested in asking those, or in exploring the underlying conditions that left Puerto Rico so vulnerable prior to two major hurricanes.

Per Bee's representations, Puerto Rico has basically been abandoned to the mercy of local progressive non-profit organizations. The segment about Pepino Power, for example, is telling in that there is no proportional recognition of the work of thousands of electrical power company crew members that came over from the U.S. mainland, or of the massive and totally unappreciated role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the island's recovery process.

What's worse, even the Columbusing here is derivative, as proven by the fact that the gang goes to the same hipster dive bar showcased by Jorge Ramos months earlier.

Ultimately, the show is an hourlong setup of a t-shirt partnership with proceeds going to the nonprofit run by Lin-Manuel Miranda's dad. Inasmuch as there is an intent to help Puerto Rico, there may be a bit of virtue to back up all the signaling.

Final observation: Bee was smart to not profile radical separatist Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz, but her fingerprints along with those of her allies are clearly all over the show - to the point that she deserves executive producer credit.