Interestingly, most of the people who had responses e-mailed, facebooked or tweeted them directly to me as opposed to commenting on the site. I understand, too; the responses can generate such vitriol. So, I’m keeping opinions anonymous and continuing the experiment with Racist or Ironic, part 2.
Dude, Where’s My Car? – “And Then…”
When you break the scene down, you have a white man trying to convey a pretty simple message to an Asian (presumably Chinese) lady. The humor, here, lies in the fact that the Asian lady just can’t understand Ashton Kutcher’s desire to close off the order. Or can she? Maybe she’s just messing with him. It’s easy to say that the scene offensively relies on the funny accent to make it funny, but in my humble opinion, until Asian comedians stop using the funny accent to make white people laugh, we can’t really complain about the “And then” lady. Not to mention, director Danny Leiner went on to direct Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, a comedy that spoke to Asian Americans on a deeper level than skin color or accents. It spoke to me…but maybe it was the pot.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – “Knives meets Scott”
Maybe this isn’t fair, since this is a deleted scene. But I remember loving this scene in the book. In the movie, however, it stunts the kinetic pace of the film a tiny bit and was rightly excised. But racist? I actually got no responses for this scene, but I do know of a couple of people who found it supremely racist. I know of at least two people who find the idea of Michael Cera dating a Chinese girl racist, too. I feel like I’m making a jejune point by even saying this, but let’s not forget that the author of Scott Pilgrim is hapa, and drew a lot from his own experiences (The book uses far more Asian-Canadian references than the movie, even calling some people “fobby”). It’s tough to criticize someone for looking fondly on the differences between the experiences of their immigrant parents and their own American (or Canadian) lives. I vote for neither racist nor ironic.
Little Shop of Horrors – “Da Doo”
Yes, it’s the 60’s and we’re seeing three black girls named Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon walking the streets because they “went to school ’til 5th grade then they split.” This trio leads us into a flashback in which Seymour buys an alien plant from an old Chinese man named Chang (Da Doo!). And this plant, after having its first taste of blood, turns into a magical Negro voiced by Levi Stubbs.
I’m sorry, everyone. This is IRONIC. The names of the girls are based on girl groups from the 60’s, it’s set during the Civil Rights Movement, and it’s based on a tiny film directed by Roger Corman during a less than politically correct time. I actually find the movie quite politically correct in that the movie asks you to look back at the time and laugh. People have raised the interesting question of whether or not it’s the place of a white writer/director to make light of a sour era, and yes I understand how sensitive the subject is. But what is irony without a little bit of provocation?
The Goods – “Trailer”
What I find bothersome about this scene is that it’s ignorance in the guise of irony. After the ass-kicking, it’s called out that they just might have taken part in a hate crime. Now, I see where they’re going with this, but in the end, you still beat up an Asian guy for laughs. If you’re going to attempt to make a multi-faceted joke about race, you have to look at the legacy of racist humor and its effect on minority groups before you can callously say “Oh, you’re being too sensitive.” And if you’re going to make a joke ABOUT ignorance, be careful to not make ignorant jokes, yourself. Interestingly, the only people I know who dont’ find this joke racist are non-Asians.
The Adventures of Prescilla – “Filipino Ping Pong”
This chattering Tagalog harpy forced Bill Hunter into marriage during the war. When she speaks English, she speaks in a general “Asian whore” voice (“Me love you long time!”). When she speaks in Tagalog, she exaggerates her pronunciation to the point that it sounds like staccato jungle talk. I always get crap by calling this scene racist to my friends because, for some reason, gays love their Asian jokes, so I will say this: it’s not racist with a capital ‘R’, but it’s damn annoying when we’re trying to prove that our Filipino mothers were not prostitutes during the war.
Team America: World Police – “Ronery”
America! Fuck Yeah! Is this racist? Let’s look at this in context. The movie opens in Paris with a huge aerial shot that reveals Parisians to be nothing more than high fashion cheese eaters and mimes. The evil country is called Durka Durka Stan full of people throwing the word “jihad” around as if it were “dammit”. And at one point, the score has a wailing middle eastern voice (Trey Parker) to signify how foreign this land is. I call complete irony, and I find it funny as hell. The South Park guys may not be clear on their own actual politics (hell, they come across as downright nihilistic, at times), but you can never call their humor unsophisticated.
Bottle Rocket– “Kumar”
Remember when you loved Wes Anderson? Okay, maybe you never did, but I sure loved him. I used to say, “It’s nice to see one man’s vision…one man’s world.” And then you realize that this “one man’s world” is the world of a white hipster whose characters of color are nothing more than novelties – or collected brown baubles, devoid of actual character (and sometimes motivation). What’s the punchline for his characters of color? They’re characters of color. There you have it. It’s like the basic joke of “Vote for Pedro” from Napoleon Dynamite. So, I can still love Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. But by The Darjeeling Limited, I just had to shake my head and walk away. Not racist like Mr. Yunioshi, but still disappointing.
So, there. There’s Part 2 of Racist or Ironic. Comments and heated arguments are welcome.