Mako Mermaids is an Australian tv show that has run for four seasons. Despite its popularity, the show falls victim to several racist caricatures that undermine the mass appeal of the show. The plot involves 3 mermaids who are able to transform into human form when on land. They lead double lives as both mermaids and normal teenagers. They discover a boy named Zac who is a merman, raised on land by adoptive parents, having no memory of his mermaid mother. Zac is biracial - half white Australian and half Asian. While Zac speaks with a normal Australian accent and does not exhibit any stereotypically Asian behaviors, a new character is introduced in the third season with many problematic features. A Chinese mermaid is introduced to the girls and uses her kung fu skills to fight off a water dragon. She meets a local shop owner who speaks with a stilted heavy Chinese accent. The shop owner quickly becomes a friend and mentor, another problematic plot point. The girls are high school students and befriending a strange middle-aged man rings warning bells for most parents. The Chinese mermaid Weilan begins spending time alone with the much older shop owner who frequently compliments her beauty. The relationship is bizarre and inappropriate on many levels. In addition the shop owner reinforces negative Asian stereotypes that render him sexless (although creepy) and socially inept. The man does not appear to have any friends or family and spends his days aggressively pushing cheaply made and often imitation Chinese souvenirs. The friendship seems to rely heavily on racist stereotypes that “bond” the unlikely pair and helps move the plot forward. While Zac’s mixed ethnicity is a non-sequitur, Weilan is completely defined by her ethnicity and has no interest in learning anything about her temporary home in Australia, only concerned with returning to China. The shop owner reinforces these stereotypes in that he continues to isolate himself with only reminders of home and has not adapted to social life in Australia despite many years living there. These shows are marketed towards preteens and teenagers who may have little exposure to diverse cultures and populations. These portrayals are both harmful and misleading to young viewers.
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