Sombreros, serapes and maracas, horrible pronunciations, jokes about Mexican stand-offs, and really strange-looking tacos — did the “Mexican Week” episode of “The Great British Baking Show” leave any stereotypical stone unturned? After a similar debacle with Season 11’s “Japanese Week,” the internationally beloved competition series — which streams on Netflix in the U.S. — apparently decided not to learn from its mistakes, and dove headlong into Mexican food. And since the competition is largely to determine who can create the best baked goods, many observers wondered, why were they attempting tacos, anyway?
Even before the episode dropped on Oct. 7, the promos featuring sombrero-wearing hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas came under fire from social media commenters — largely from the U.S., where finding a good taco is not as difficult as in the U.K. — who were quick to weigh in on the show’s utter failure to try to understand more than the most obvious characteristics of Mexican food and culture. Even the English-language plural of the word cactus eluded one of the contestants — not to mention the woman whose absolutely wretched try at guacamole sounded more like “glakeemolo.”
Pronunciation snafus, aside, many viewers found the episode frankly offensive and racist. “Nobody gave a fuck about Mexican culture, putting that show together. The poncho and the sombrero, talking about a Mexican standoff — it was a racist show,” said Bill Esparza, author of the book “L.A. Mexicano.”
“The real problem here is the lack of respect for the people. They have no business doing cultural weeks of any kind,” Esparza continued.
After the Japanese Week outcry, “the fact they would get some criticism and do it again — it seems like they’re ok about it,” said Esparza.
“It’s not hard to learn to pronounce words correctly, even for a living muppet of a host,” wrote José Ralat, the Taco Editor of Texas Monthly magazine.
“Tacos, new one on me,” says one contestant, as they are given the assignment for the technical challenge of making tortillas from canned “yellow field corn” and adding steak, spicy refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo to make some sort of gloppy pile of taco topped with rare meat. The difference between tacos and “torteellas” perplexes one chef while the other predictably worries, “I just hope my chili is not too hot!”
“The food was beyond absurd, because the people who were directing them to make it didn’t know what they were doing,” said Esparza, “The episode goes beyond the awful food. It almost seems like it’s offensive on purpose.”
Austin, Texas-based journalist Kate Sánchez tried to put the furor into perspective, noting “Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely racist but also DACA was deemed illegal and my community is being actively harmed by forces not on my TV so glocklymolo and ominous maraca shaking is at least the stuff I can laugh at.” However, she did admit that peeling an avocado like a potato constituted “an act of physical violence against my people.”
“Absolutely haunted by this week’s #GBBO, I will never get the image of Carole peeling an avocado like a potato out of my head,” agreed Twitter user @IWillLeaveNow.
“Bracing ourselves for a whole lot of cringe,” wrote German-based historian and teacher Daniel Salina Córdova, who also shared a bingo card featuring all the stereotypically Mexican tropes used on the show.
“Mexican week on the #GBBO is so cringingly racially and culturally insensitive I have to ask how it was approved,” wrote @kcrusher on Twitter.
Did the show decide it might be better to apologize for stereotypes that have created harmful images of Mexican people for years? No, it did not, it made a silly taco joke. Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.