Image from Aliens in America TV series

Conservative writers have been criticizing the new CW sitcom Aliens in America (Mondays at 8 p.m. EDT) as portraying Middle America as xenophobic and suggesting that people who oppose unrestricted immigration are stupid, intolerant, and generally evil. I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on in the show, fortunately.

Set in Wisconsin—one of America’s most politically liberal/progressive states—the show actually is a highly accurate portrayal of the stupidity and selfishness of many American high school students and their parents. There are some quite good jokes in this, and the program is occasionally amusing.

That is not to suggest that it is deep, insightful, or compelling, but that’s clearly not the producers’ intent. If they mean to show us how grossly prejudiced Middle Americans are, moreover, they have failed thoroughly.

In the pilot episode, the students are never actually shown being unkind to the Muslim immigrant high-schooler, although he does recount an amusing incident, asking why his classmates keep calling him a "Fudge-Pakistani." In addition, a scene in which a caucasian high-school girl has her new boyfriend, a black man, over for dinner with her family—after announcing to her mother that she wants to go on the Pill—is played fairly subtly, with the parents stifling any concerns they might wish to express. That’s realistic and is another way in which the show refrains from taking obvious potshots at Middle America.

The only incidents of meanness we actually see are directed against the nerdy high-school male protagonist of the show, who is a caucasian. What both boys have in common is that they really want to be good—and that, as any real American knows, brings certain social death in any American public high school.

Hence, although the producers may well be making some effort to characterize Middle America as intensely xenophobic, what we really see is that the United States can be a highly unfriendly environment for people who are polite, religious, hardworking, and humble.

That is as true of Hollywood as it is of anywhere else, and it is indeed a fertile field for satire.