Saturday, March 29, 2014

Have They Ever Watched Modern Family?

There's a controversy over a tweet from the Stephen Colbert people. It's based on a bit he did on his show. (I don't regularly watch it so I'm going by what's being reported.)

In his comic (and often ham-handed) way, he was making fun of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder creating a foundation to support Native American--the "Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundations." Colbert's response, according to the tweet: "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Apparently, some Asians (and others?) took offense.

This is the problem with satire. To mock something, you have to take on parts of it--mocking means imitating, after all.  And this is Colbert's entire act--pretending to be a conservative and saying outrageous things in that guise.  The whole point of this particular bit, of course, is that what he's saying--if meant seriously--is highly offensive.  But, just as obviously, we can tell from context it's not meant seriously.  So are some claiming, no matter what the context, you just can't ever say these words?

I've heard the tweet has been deleted, which isn't a great precedent. Also, many news stories note Colbert didn't himself send out the tweet. They even claim he's distanced himself from it (though they may just not get his sense of humor).  I don't see why this is relevant as it's directly based on a routine he performed on his show. (Are they going to delete the show, too?)

Colbert regularly satirizes people and groups and I'm sure his Asian audience is just like the rest of his audience--they laugh, especially if they agree with his politics.  I don't recall him ever making fun of Asians, though, as I said, I rarely watch, so maybe he has.  But if he ever did, they may think he missed the point.  Then again, that's probably how most of his targets feel.  But that's how things work, and no person or group out in public life, no matter how kind or noble they believe they are, should feel immune to mockery.

I've often felt people offended by jokes should first have to explain why the joke is supposed to be funny. They don't have to think it's funny, they just have to explain why anyone could think it is.  If they can't, maybe they just don't get it.

web page hit counter