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This Asian Slut has a Question, Yo!

August 19, 2007

I tell racist jokes. I also tell dirty jokes that are incredibly sexist. Sometimes I combine the two and tell jokes that are demeaning to both racial minorities and women. Yet, I don’t feel that this undermines my status as a full-fledged, card-carrying, feminazi bitch. I even own Birkenstocks! (I would mention here that I don’t shave my legs, but seeing as how there’s nothing there to shave it’s largely irrelevant.)

Do I find such jokes completely offensive and distasteful? Yes. Do I equate laughing at these jokes as a validation of the bigoted thinking behind it? Hell yes. I tell these jokes as a way of exposing how ridiculous such prejudices are – and how pervasive they are in our society. This depends entirely on the mindset of the person who is hearing the joke, however and has nothing to do at all with the telling. Not only is this completely out of my control, it is also incredibly difficult to predict.

Mary Beth Oliver (in a speech on Race in the Media, available for free download on iTunesU) talks about the incredibly popular TV show All in the Family. The intention of the show was laid out clearly in the disclaimer that ran before the pilot:

“The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter we hope to show, in a mature fashion, just how absurd they are.”

Featuring an incredibly bigoted protagonist (Archie Bunker) who spent the better part of most episodes slinging around racial slurs and stereotyping the other characters in the show, All in the Family was an instant hit. It later became one of two shows (the Cosby Show being the other) to rank #1 in the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive seasons. Needless to say, the show had widespread appeal. In recognition of the show’s efforts to exposing bigotry, the NAACP gave All in the Family its Image Award. A couple of researchers were more pessimistic about the reasons for the show’s success. So they did what researchers do and conducted a survey. Guess what? There were two distinct groups of people who enjoyed the show. The first group loved it because it “show[ed]…just how absurd” such prejudices are. The second loved it because they viewed Archie as some sort of hero – someone who wasn’t afraid to “tell it like it really is”.

This is the same problem that led to Dave Chapelle abandoning a $50 million contract. In a disjointed interview with Oprah (which can be viewed at the bottom of the page here) he said that the impetus for his abrupt decision to leave the show was how someone in the audience laughed. Chapelle felt that instead of laughing at the send up of the stereotype, the audience member was instead laughing at the stereotype. It was when he realised that his audience had grown too large for him to accurately predict and control their perceptions of his sketches that he walked away from 50 million big ones.

This just calls to mind other comedians (Chris Rock’s Niggers vs. Blacks routine, for example, or all of Russell Peters’ material) who have similar brands of humour. I honestly wonder if they care about how their jokes are received in the wider world, and if they do, how they feel about people like my immediate family who use the Niggers vs. Blacks routine to validate their prejudice against Black people. To me, the worst part about minorities telling jokes that denigrate their specific groups is that the bigoted can take this as further proof that they should remain the Other. To quote my mother (re: Chris Rock), “See, even they themselves [black people] say so. It must be true.” (Her words echoed in my head the last time I heard someone sniggering at a misogynistic joke I cracked on public transit. I was telling it to my sympathetic friends. Like Chapelle, I wondered what angle of the joke the other guy was laughing at. Did he see a bunch of girls laughing at the joke and take it as further proof that girls are bubble-headed shopaholics?)

So, I still make light of the fact that I’m wearing heels because I look good in them, despite the fact that I can walk only if the ground below is perfectly level (and even then, only for a distance of 3m). I still think it’s funny that I’m an Asian, love MMORPGs, am insanely concerned about my grades and consider instant noodles nutritionally complete (as a bonus, my fiancé is White, making me one of those Asians). Now though, I only mention it aloud where I know exactly who is listening.

While you ponder the problem of send-up vs. reinforcement, please enjoy my favourite Dave Chapelle sketch: Clayton Bigsby, the Black White Supremacist.

 

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5 comments

  1. This reminds me of how uncomfortable I felt when I was watching Transformers go about their shitty hispanic/black/arab stereotypes.

    The worst part of it was when I discussed it with some people and found that either nobody noticed it or they didn’t think it was that big a deal and should just chill.

    I’m linking a post by Angry Black Woman blogging about the racism in Transformers and subsequently having people telling her to chill the fuck out. Which raises the question – Why shouldn’t we battle stereotypes when we see them?

    http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2007/07/05/more-stereotypes-than-meet-the-eye/


  2. […] We’ll add the other “n” soon. Really. « This Asian Slut has a Question, Yo! Does your silence mean consent? August 19th, 2007 Building on Joie’s last post, the […]


  3. You might like this post:
    http://standup101.blogspot.com/2007/08/metabigotry-in-comedy.html


  4. For me as a white male, this issue is a tough one. I laugh a Dave Chapelle and the others. Most of the time I don’t think about why I’m laughing either. I think for most people it’s not as complex as hero or visionary. They’re just doing something new and unless someone brings it up. We don’t think about it as anything more than entertainment.


  5. Although Irin had a powerful gift, she had not honed it to sorcerer level. As he did so, he saw the men on the ground moving toward each other. His harsh words rode their storm, a garrote of meaning that made her gurgle. She even stood, with the vague intention of leaving the balcony. The one she wanted to lash at was herself. Be proud of what you just accomplished. Gala knelt at her side, a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Im here should you need me, he murmured, folding his legs underneath him. Nialdlye wore a simple green shift that barely reached her thighs. Clearing her throat, she stepped back and turned to face Nialdlye again. Its going to make you lightheaded. She startled badly when hands closed over her shoulders from behind. Shed never thought to see that again, not aimed at her. Tykirs cock slid deliciously through her hands, the oils from his skin coating her palms. he growled into her ear. She narrowed her eyes and looked back at his face. Now that he was here, she was unsure how to begin. It doesnt exist, just as a truematch shouldnt exist —a little bitterness there— for elvenborn women. He mirrored her hold on his neck, squeezing her nape. He watched, eyes hooded, as she climbed to her knees, then edged toward him.



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