Friday, March 25, 2016

A Minute for Comedy & Asian Stereotypes

Thahn Tan has an article about fighting Asian stereotypes and that's all well and good. She believes that in order to dispel the idea of Asians being the Model Minority and other stereotypes we need to look at the data. I encourage you to read it.

One thing that comes up in Tan's article and that has been bothering me lately, is the mischaracterization of a joke. During the Oscars Chris Rock made a cheap and hack joke about Asian accountants using kids as the punchline. It sucked, the kids were cute and ruined the foolishness of the joke with their cuteness. Yeah, Rock screwed up and did the very thing he criticizes. The AAPI community was in flames. Then members of the community went too far as they also were aghast by a joke told by Sacha Baron Cohen.

Tan explains:

... actor Sacha Baron Cohen made a cringe-inducing reference to “very hardworking, little yellow people with tiny” private parts.

Thanks, Hollywood. As if we needed more reminders that the powers that be in pop culture remain largely interested in portraying Asians as super nerds and small people content with working hard and staying silent as the world laughs at us.

I can't stand the stereotypes that we deal with in Hollywood. It's something that eats at my friends who audition. It happens behind the scenes as well and it's infuriating.

Baron Cohen's joke:

(Apologies for the quality, it's not mine)

Here's the thing about that joke. It's called a bait and switch. You lead the audience to believe you're going down one obvious road and you flip it on its head. It's as old as time and it's one that Asians should appreciate. It calls out the audience's stereotypes, it puts the joke into their insular world and then hits them with the "Minions" punchline. Baron Cohen was mocking Hollywood. He was right there with us and a lot of people (Tan included) missed it. It's not the funniest thing Baron Cohen's every done, but it's also NOT offensive.

I've seen the AAPI community grow over the years. It's become more vocal, more leadership has come to the forefront. It's a fantastic thing to see develop. As we grow there will be growing pains. What Tan's article is saying is important, it's serious, but it's difficult to take us seriously when we're all too serious, all the time. It's too, Model Minority. And we're better than that.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message

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