It probably comes as no surprise to readers that I’m a huge fan, being the ugliest American publishing an expat blog. And Kenny Powers is the ultimate ugly American. See the first few minutes of the debut episode:
The character was mostly inspired by John Rocker, star relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves who gained notoriety for making homophobic, racist, and sexist statements reported in a Sports Illustrated exposé. Like Rocker, Kenny Powers was a promising young pitcher for the Atlanta Braves whose career was short-lived. Powers makes the same kinds of xenophobic statements to the press, and he’s a Southern redneck. True KP fans can visit the official John Rocker website to see exactly how much he influenced the Kenny Powers character.
But the Kenny Powers character draws from other icons aside from Rocker. There is a scene where Powers explodes into a rage after being confronted with steroids allegations, which was inspired by Dominican ballplayer, Sammy Sosa. Also, a key part of KP’s personality is arrogance and overconfidence ala Allen Iverson:
KP has an obsession with wealth and luxurious things. This must be taken from African-American athletes and rappers who earn tens of millions of dollars during their careers, and declare bankruptcy a couple years after retiring. KP is financially irresponsible, to say the least. There’s also a consistent misuse of the English language, as we see from rappers.
Finally, of utmost important to the Kenny Powers persona is the drug use. Marijuana, cocaine, pills, mushrooms, alcohol, everything. Everything all the time, even taking key bumps at the middle school where he works as a substitute teacher.
After falling in love with the show, I researched all about the production, the actors, the thinking behind the creation. Before selling the idea to producers Will Ferrell (comedic genius who plays Ashley Schaeffer) and Adam McKay (director of Anchorman), actors Danny McBride (portrays Powers) and Ben Best (plays Clegg) hatched up the idea of Kenny Powers based on what they saw as the current state of the American hero. What is the state of the American hero in their eyes? The redneck views and outspokenness of John Rocker mixed with the arrogance and bling of African-American rappers, on drugs.
Kenny Powers, AKA Kenny fuckin’ Powers!
KP from the first season:
Sure, I’ve been called a xenophobe, but the truth is I’m not. I honestly just feel that America’s the best country and all the other countries aren’t as good. That used to be called patriotism.
A lot of people say Kenny Powers is a woman hater. That’s not true, I love women. Every fuckin’ one of them, even the ugly as shit ones. But don’t ask me to trust ‘em. Not even nuns, because every pair of tits comes with a gaping hole of need that even Kenny Powers can’t fill … I never bought into the Native American mythology. You can smoke the peace pipe till your dick falls off, but I’m not dancing with any fucking wolves, no matter how high I get. Not that I get high, but if I did, my ass would still believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But the scene that immediately endeared Kenny Powers to ugly Americans everywhere with this, in the first season of the first episode:
One important character to understand in Stevie Janowski, who teaches band at the middle school where KP is the substitute gym teacher. Stevie’s a wimpy nerd who worships Kenny and wants to be him. He’s the 2nd most important character to the show. Without Stevie, there is no show. See the best of Stevie before moving on:
Another reason Eastbound and Down appeals to me is because it’s set in the South, chock full of Southern accents. I’m not a fan of the South or rednecks, but I am from Missouri, which was a slave state and borders states like Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Most Missourians have a neutral, Midwestern accent. American. But the rural areas have Southern accented Americans who are culturally very close to the South. If attempting to do a Canadian accent, an East Coast accent, or a British accent, I need a second to think about it. But not a Southern accent. I can belt it out on command, as if it were in my blood.
KP rocks a mullet. The mullet haircut became a big joke around 1999 and 2000. I never had one, but I had many friends who had mullets. Many, as late as high school graduation in 1997. It wasn’t a joke for a lot of Americans; they really thought it was cool.
So whenever I have a bad day my go-to therapy is Eastbound and Down reruns. After watching me crack up laughing, my Peruvian wife Milagros grew curious. So I downloaded all the seasons with Spanish subtitles so she could get educated. She’d laugh out loud at a lot of parts, and sometimes insist on immediately watching another episode. But sometimes she’d feel guilty for encouraging the ugly American in me, horrified at how funny I thought it was, and even more horrified when I do his dance moves (especially the ones at 0:43 – 0:47 of this sequence or the Mexican stadium entrance below). She started saying thinks like KP “es un loser.”
Season 2 in Mexico
But after finishing the first season, she still wanted to continue to the second. Then she really started to disapprove of KP, because of his anti-Latino racism. And that’s why KP deserves an article on Expat Chronicles, the blog for ugly Americans living among Latinos.
Here’s HBO’s promotional trailer for the second season of Eastbound and Down, set in Mexico:
So this article is not just a character profile of KP, it’s also a comprehensive record of all the anti-Mexican jokes in the 2nd season, coming from KP or his worshipper, Stevie Janowski.
(Introducing the 2nd season, where Kenny Powers moves to Mexico)
Kenny Powers: A man who ran and never looked back, a man who drank his ass all the way down to the butthole of America: fucking Mexico … I know that this savage land was made for me.
(Kenny angry at the neighbors’ kids playing soccer outside)
Kenny Powers: If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is fucking soccer, alright? And I hate when people do it around me … The language barrier, honestly, is just so fucking frustrating right now … I knew living in the barrio was going to be fucking annoying, but I didn’t know it was going to be so goddamn loud, and that’s honestly why I’m so frustrated.
(To his neighbor, whose wife is breastfeeding)
Kenny Powers: It looks like she’s cooking seared tittie for someone right now. I feel like this is some goddamn National Geographic shit (another family member appears) Who the fuck is that? How many people you got crammed up in there?
(after being invited to a family dinner)
Kenny Powers: I appreciate the offer, but I don’t wanna bond with new people down here , alright? I already got a family, I don’t need a fucked up version of the original.
Kenny Powers: Right now I just would like the company of somebody who seems normal. And even though you’re Mexican, you seem normal to me.
(Addressing the baseball team)
Kenny Powers: I’m in the darkest, third-world hole I’ve ever been in in my entire life, about a thousand, hundred million miles from where I should be. And the only way for me to get back there is for us to join forces. If we can make enough noise down here, then just maybe, everyone in America will hear us.
(In front of the team, after breaking a window with a ball)
Kenny Powers: If this were America, you’d have a radar gun. And right now, it would read 101. When’s the next game? See you dumb motherfuckers there.
(To the team owner)
Kenny Powers: How much does it actually cost to buy a Mexican baseball team, ten bucks and a burrito?
Coach: I know this locker room isn’t exactly what you were thinking about when you were a kid, dreaming about playing ball one day.
Kenny Powers: No, it’s pretty shitty.
The textbook scene from the second season of Eastbound and Down is Kenny Powers’s debut entrance as the relief pitcher for the local baseball team, Los Charros. His performance is set to Hulk Hogan’s anthem, Real American.
Vida: Why are you dressed as a mariachi?
Kenny Powers: You know I’m just doing some PR shit here for the baseball team. Figured I’d dress in the customary, you know, gowns and whatnot.
Vida: So um, you’re signing autographs?
Kenny Powers: Yeah, I’m supposed to be.
Vida: How come there’s no one in your line?
KP: That’s a good question. Honestly I’ve been trying to figure that out all goddamn morning. Sometimes I just feel like if you don’t have a goddamn soccer ball bouncing off your head, nobody even gives two damn shits about you in this country.
Vida: Soccer is really popular here.
KP: Well it’s not in America. In America people fucking hate soccer and, honestly, that’s the way it should be.
Vida: I don’t know, I kinda like soccer.
KP: You kinda like soccer?
KP: I’m gonna pretend like you didn’t just make my dick go soft.
Stevie: Kenny, there were some weird Mexican motherfuckers that came by yesterday.
KP: Who were they?
Stevie: Some fucking mongoloid and a fucking dwarf.
(in loudspeaker, driving around the city center to promote KP)
Stevie: Villagers and townspeople, come see Kenny Powers destroy the competition in Mexico. He’s a national gift, from the good people of America, to you. Cheer for him, bow to him, worship him! Kenny Powers, he’s the White Flame, and he’s burning this country to the fucking ground. The White Flame, Mr. Kenny fucking Powers.
(Kenny w/ Vida and her son Tony at the carnival)
Kenny Powers: You should also be thanking me for these tacos, ‘cause these seem like they’re the deal. Although I wonder if I’m gonna get Montezuma’s Revenge from this shit.
Vida: I think you’re gonna be fine.
KP: Do you think they wash their hands here?
Vida: Of course.
KP: Do you know what Montezuma’s Revenge is, Tony? I’ve heard it’s when a white man shits his pants in Mexico.
(Speaking to the team coach, in the team’s Hall of Fame exhibit)
Coach: Playing for this team’s not a joke, not to me, to the players, or to them.
KP: I don’t think it’s a goddamn joke. I never said it was a joke. If you got something you want to say, then just say it. You can save us a lot of time with this fuckin’ pointless history lesson in this goddamn creepy, unimpressive, fucking hall. I don’t like it in here, it’s gross. (Walking away) Thanks for nothing!
Vida: Wow, this neighborhood is unbelievable!
Kenny Powers: Right? It’s like we’re not even in Mexico.
(Car publicity announcements)
Stevie: Come see Kenny fuckin’ Powers tonight at Charros stadium. He’s the ‘Hombre Negro’, not the White Flame. He’s not scary like the negros in America, unless you’re the competition. Then he’ll strike you out, and shit all over your face. Come worship the big dick American at Charros stadium, and hopefully he’ll impregnate all the women here so we’ll have a new generation of Kenny Powerses.
Watch on YouTube.
This next clip is another grand entrance from KP, after he’s built a local following and the people go wild to see him.
Kenny Powers: Who wants beer? You’re Mexican, you all want fuckin’ beer. HAHA!
Later, there’s a 3rd grand entrance after KP quits the team. He’s drunk and out of uniform. He pulls a gun and executes by firing squad a soccer ball in front of the Mexican audience.
(after learning about his father’s second family)
Kenny Powers: Turns out I got a goddamn stepmom and a fuckin’ Navajo half-brother.
Stevie: I’m sorry that your brother is Navajo.
Kenny Powers: Me too.
Stevie: I know that would be very upsetting. If I found out I had a half black brother or a whole black brother, I would be very upset.
Watch on YouTube.
(Before leading a 4-wheeler tour)
Kenny Powers’ father: Alright strap in and put your helmets on, little ladies. I know these helmets make you look like a puss, but trust me. You do NOT want rely on these quacks down here in these hospitals to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Kenny Powers: The good thing about getting over depression is, well, you can start to see your enemies more clearly. Suddenly, everyone isn’t an obstacle, just some people are. And it might be someone that you find is in your bloodline. Distant and as brown as their skin may be, they still are part of you.
Stevie: Haven’t you guys ever heard of Montezuma’s Revenge? If you guys knew how to boil meat, or grill it, this shit wouldn’t be happening!
Kenny Powers: Stevie, our time here in Mexico has come to an end. We can’t hide in this wasteland forever, chasin’ exotic women. It’s time we get back to the business of livin’, face what awaits us back in America.
KP: Maybe you go down on her, dude. Don’t be selfish, don’t be sexist.
(Stevie makes funny face)
KP: You don’t like that?
(Stevie shakes his head)
KP: Why not?
Stevie: It smells.
KP: Oh, yeah, I bet it does. She’s always eatin’ that weird stew and roots and shit.
Stevie: What about ATM?
KP: I would stay away from ass-to-mouth. You don’t know what’s going to affect her immune system. They drink bacterias and biological things here. Yeah, just, for safety.
(Stevie, before asking Kenny permission to marry his Mexican girlfriend)
Stevie: I know that technically I should be asking Maria’s father this, but in many ways I feel like you are the father to all the Mexicans here.
Kenny Powers: And you do realize that if you had offspring, they will be mixed children. They could be made fun of on the playground.
Stevie: I was made fun of on the playground, and I turned out pretty cool.
(to his neighbor, Catuey)
Kenny Powers: These are the keys to the Denali. If you can find time I’d like you to fix it. I had Stevie on the motherfucker, but he got derailed. Now it’s time for a professional – time for a Mexican.
(Car publicity announcements)
Stevie: Mexicans! Oh, Mexicans! For once in your life, get off your couches and do something. This is your last chance to see Kenny Powers. He lost the love of his life. He went to Mexico for a change. He met his father. He got screwed over. But the thing about Kenny Powers is when he faces adversity, he moves past it. Because once Jesus leaves the building, he is out of Mexico for good!
(speaking to the baseball team)
Kenny Powers: I brought you guys up from less than fucking nothing and took you up to a championship level, only to abandon you there … I’m sorry for that … This is a classic Cinderella tale … You guys will eventually just go back to being the shittiest, Mexican baseball team in Mexico … We can do some fuckin’ great things tonight, you guys … Know that you’ll never, ever, EVER reach the heights you will reach tonight. But you can leave here knowing that you helped Kenny Powers’ dreams come true. For a bunch of Mexican baseball players, that ain’t too bad.
(speaking to the Texas scout, Roy McDaniel)
Roy: There is a difference between mowing down Mexicans down here South of the border than mowing down the big boys up in the Major Leagues.
Kenny Powers: They don’t speak the same language.
Roy: It’s a different level of player.
KP: It’s still very difficult. It’s very hotter down here.
(contemplating his time in Mexico and return to America)
Kenny Powers: Just like that, the journey is over. Depression is finished and you’re on your way back to the world of the living, smiling, regular people.
(After reuniting with his brother’s family in North Carolina)
Kenny Powers: I gotta get a move on. Yeah, I got a big old pot of titties waitin’ for me at the end of the rainbow. But before I can sip upon them, I need to go ahead and take a big old shit in a fuckin’ American toilet. Cool? Gimme some high fives, some American high fives, huh? Good to see your goddamn white faces, give it up!
Kenny Powers: You know there was a moment in time when I was in the pits and anus of Mexico.
Cutler: Where is that?
KP: It’s a town called Copales.
Kenny Powers: Never in a million years did I imagine myself being in Mexico. After all, who would? Most Mexicans spend the bulk of their day just trying to get out. So you can hardly blame foreigners like myself for not thinking about getting in. Oddly enough, the people here aren’t that different from the ones back home, when you get past the lack of interest in real sports and the need to have yellow rice at every fucking meal. Can’t help but notice how much they stick together too. I mean, when you see Mexicans in the States you think, “Oh there’s a group of Mexicans doing Mexican things together.” But here you see that it’s not just because they talk the same language and they’re all Catholic. Family means a lot to these people …
(Inviting April to lunch)
Kenny Powers: There’s this really cool Mexican place down the road. Has really awesome food but the décor is kinda shitty, kinda like Mexico itself.