Featured Video Play Icon

Malcolm in the Middle–bad neighbor

In this 2001 episode from the sitcom, Malcolm in the Middle, Lois Wilkerson witnesses her new neighbor, Tina, yelling at the gardener, Hector. Filled with rage, Tina is clearly displeased with Hector’s work and calls him deaf, stupid and useless. She goes on to say, “you people drive me nuts with your laziness,” until Lois breaks in and calls out Tina’s dehumanizing manner. Tina and Lois argue about Hector’s role–Tina calling him “the help” and Lois responding that he is a professional. Later in the episode, we learn that Tina and Hector are in a relationship, and Tina’s screaming was all an act to avoid suspicion from neighbors.

discussion

Why is Tina yelling at Hector? How does Hector respond? How does Lois respond?

How do Tina’s word reveal racial bias? Who is she referring to when she says “you people”?

What does it mean to call someone “the help”? Which types of jobs fall under this label? Which type of people are typically represented or assumed to do this kind of labor?

Given what we learn later in the episode about Tina and Hector’s relationship, how do you understand this scene? Is Tina using stereotypes of her own race and class identity? Does Tina’s intention (hiding her affair) justify her dehumanizing approach?