Exchange Student

Would Wilmer Valderrama’s ‘That ’70s Show’ Character Be Considered Inappropriate Today?

The character Wilmer Valderrama played on ‘That ’70s Show’ has not aged well and would be considered inappropriate today.

Plenty of TV shows have become successful not only despite being inappropriate but due in part because of their inappropriateness. Shows like ‘Family Guy’ and ‘South Park’ come to mind when viewers consider shows that enjoy making jokes at the expense of practically everyone.

That said, some TV shows fit into that niche, and it’s understandable given their intended audience. On the flip side are sitcoms like ‘That ’70s Show,’ shows that claim to be suitable for teen audiences — the official rating is TV-14, per IMDb — that really cross the line in a number of ways.

Of course, Wilmer Valderrama began acting on ‘That ’70s Show’ when he was a senior in high school, so he wasn’t quite a grownup yet. And the show, which was only his second TV gig ever, earned him practically global fame. But eight years later, the show ended, and now Fez is history.

Some fans think it’s a good thing Fez isn’t on prime time TV anymore — because the character definitely didn’t age well.

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Part of the problem is the portrayal of Fez as some nearly nameless (his name is a play on an acronym for ‘foreign exchange student’) exchange student whose background is never fully explained, says Vox. He’s meant to depict an immigrant, but a handful of traits make him the butt of jokes rather than a true-to-life character.

Wilmer Valderrama as Fez on 'That '70s Show'
via Pinterest

For example, he has a lisp (which is never explained) that’s meant to make him sound silly and obtuse. Of course, Ashton Kutcher’s character, Kelso, is also pretty dense, though Ashton isn’t in real life.

But there’s also the fact that Fez is just really a creepy guy, spying on the girls through their closets and flirting with just about anything that walks. There are a few issues with Fez that would probably make today’s producers and screenwriters cringe, and even some former fans aren’t really impressed.

As Vox explains, the immigrant aspect is one of the biggest problems with Wilmer’s character on ‘That ’70s Show.’ Like other shows of its time, the sitcom considered Fez an outsider, made him silly and socially awkward, and made him really focused on girls and basically nothing else (except candy).

It was a simple case of mining “material from stereotypes,” says Vox, which was a problem in itself.

But as far as the spying and general creepiness? That wouldn’t fly today, either — unless it was an example of what not to do, such as in the hit Netflix show ‘You.’

And that’s really what dissing the character of Fez is all about; social responsibility today says that writers and producers shouldn’t create characters that violate others’ rights or marginalize minority groups. And Fez does both of those things, though portraying the character clearly didn’t hurt Valderrama’s career — or net worth — in the least.

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