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Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Pop Matters Monday

Sacha Baron Cohen, best known his role as Borat, showed up at the Academy Awards. Cohen came dressed up as a dictator (in preparation for his upcoming film) and was being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest. He was holding an earn filled with supposed ashes and as he was talking, he spilled the ashes onto Ryan Seacrest.  Cohen was then escorted off the premises by security. 

Comments on Youtube and Reddit mostly thought it was a funny prank. Reactions ranged from, it was a good way to get publicity for the film to jokes about Seacrest’s sexual orientation. This reminded me of connotative and denotative definitions. The denotative definition is that Cohen spills some ash on Ryan Seacrest. The connotative definition is that Cohen was looking for some free publicity, and made a bang on red carpet.


Week Six: Crimes of Fashion

Alison Lurie, The Language of Clothes

In this excerpt from The Language of Clothes, Alison Lurie’s main point is that people communicate first and foremost through their clothing. Moments before I’m speaking to you through an oral language, we are both “speaking” through what clothes we are wearing. Lurie goes through examples such as the uniform, Cinderella’s dress, what nerds dress like and lying through the clothing language. Lurie gathers her information through experience and assumptions of different social situations. She talks about how wearers of dirty or torn clothes are just begging to be condescended, scorned, or secretly laughed at. This is something that is considered a societal norm amongst upper class people. Lurie makes fantastic points on things that I had previously thought about but never really followed through on. She writes about how easy it is to lie about social standing in her dressing for success segment, going on to say that it is hard to prove or disprove somebody’s success based on certain types of clothing. She also write about how meticulously certain people look at clothes. Studying how old the clothing is or it’s too big or too small. She reminds me that clothing is definitely as easy as spoken language to judge the ‘spelling’ or ‘grammar’. 

Major Post #1

In the “Average Asian” skit, MADtv is poking fun at all the stereotypes that the “average Asian” person goes through. When white people are in the majority, they tend to be more racist, albeit subconsciously. I’m not saying that white people aren’t racist when they’re alone with a majority, but it’s easier to be brave/racist when you have a crowd backing you. The first joke in the skit is when the Asian actor Bobby Lee, who plays Haidiki, walks into the house. The predominantly white guests begin to bow as soon as he walks into the door. The host, played by Stephnie Weir, accepts some wine as a gift from Lee and calls it “orijami”. Instead of handshakes or waving, MADtv pokes fun at the fact that Asians have a “monk” or “Zen-like” state of mind. People laugh because this isn’t how Asian Americans greet each other.  The denotative meaning in this case is just people greeting an arriving guest by bowing. But the connotative meaning tells us that the guests are being racist by assuming that Lee is a person that greets others by bowing.

The second joke that stuck out at me was when the couple tells Lee that they were considering adopting an “Oriental” baby because they were so cute when they are little, but were also against it because they get uglier as they grow older. The man in the couple then has the nerve to say “no offense” to Lee. On the surface, you don’t notice the part where the man says, “no offense”. It just seems as though they’re trying hard to get a laugh, but again, they are just pointing out things that actually happen to the average Asian person. MADtv is pointing out that people tend to say some deeply offensive things about someone and then cover it up by saying “no offense” especially to minorities, such as Asians. Oriental is also a term used that is out of date and used by people are ignorant and/or racist. The joke also takes a really dark turn when the man makes a face of utter disgust when referring to the appearance of a matured Asian person. So far the jokes in the skit had been poking fun at less harmful stereotypes, like origami and bowing, but this one outright calls grown Asian people, ugly. MADtv seems to be pointing out that the media feels fine not putting any Asians on television shows, movies, or advertisements because they don’t compare to the “white standard”. This forces people to think of Asians as ugly people, because they seem to be the most underrepresented race on television and movies. This seems to be the most telling joke of all. White people seem to find it all right to make fun of Asian appearances because they have the “nerd, smart” stereotype and assume they won’t fight back against the injustice.

The third joke is when the overzealous, patriot, played by Ike Barinholtz, challenges Lee to a ping pong match and wages $1,000 on the “red, white, and blue”. This is again poking fun at Asians and their prominence in the game of ping pong. The man takes it upon himself to challenge an Asian on behalf of all “red-blooded” Americans. Up to this point, the transitions for the show was a hook for a song “he’s an average Asian”, meaning he couldn’t do origami or help people with back problems because not all Asians can do that. At first, it seems like Lee was going to be an average Asian when it came to ping pong as well. But after he changes the paddle to his good hand, Lee dominates Barinholtz. The transition then changes to “he’s an expert Asian when it comes to ping pong”. MADtv allows one stereotype to be true because it shows that everyone is different. He might be good at ping pong but it’s not because he’s Asian, he’s just good at ping pong. The other stereotypes were not true and this one was, showing that yes someone could be upholding certain stereotypes, while not proving others right. The last joke was as simple as that. The skit pokes fun at Asian stereotypes but it also makes the white audience take a long look in the mirror by putting their racism on a mainstream stage.

Week Five: Race, Gender and Class Politics in Comedy

In Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny‘, Hitchens takes a very close look at humor. He notes that humor is very stupid and men laugh at it because they are extremely stupid. Hitchens argues that men started being funny because they wanted to take shots at authoritative figures, in this case women. Women don’t care about being funny because they know it’s not a primary thing they should be concerned with.  They’re vessels of life and they don’t consider being funny more important than other things. Hitchens’ contribution was that women aren’t funny because of their innate choosing. Men need humor so they get validate themselves to women and they view funniness as a top priority for courting mates.

Alessandra Stanley’s views on women and humor can be seen in her article for Vanity Fair, ‘Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?‘. Stanley states women got their huge chance from cable. Chances began sprouting up because “there were too many hours to fill up and not enough men”. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were absolute pioneers for female comedians. To be on television/cable, women had to be funny and attractive. She added a gem to my knowledge: funny women writers, such as Fey, have to tone down their sexist writers to make shows appeal to a broader audience.

In the blog post ‘Genderlicious: Dear Olivia Munn‘ by Thea Lim, Lim takes an angry stance against Munn and her ability to sell out her own race (and gender) so easily. Lim feels Munn doesn’t use the stage she was given as a Southeastern Asian woman to set a good example but instead uses it to give white people the ‘A-OK’ to laugh at (instead of with) Asians and women. On a segment on The Daily Show, Munn uses her stage to make fun of Vietnamese people and say Indians are “Asian-ish”, implying only Chinese and Japanse are true Asians. Lim taught me that audiences find it hard to take female comedians sorry because a select few would rather sell out to misogyny and racism than use their stage to show women of color can be funny and be laughed with.

Roseanne Barr’s ‘And I Should Know’ definitely exposes the sexism and classism in the television industry. Roseanne was told how to dress and was made to say sexist lines that she didn’t agree with. Roseanne received no credit from the beginning on a show that she created and when she got the number one television show, she was rewarded with chocolate ignoring the Porsches and Bentleys that were given to men previously. The worst thing was that she couldn’t quit because she knew there would be no other chance for her to create a feminist, working-class show in a male dominated world. Roseanne opened up my eyes to how incredibly sexist television actually is. She would just have to take the abuse and cry in her dressing room while men got all the credit. 

Rojas Questions

1. Lela Lee created Angry Asian Girl because she went to Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation and felt like other “ethnic people” were being laughed at and mocked. Instead of laughing with her, Lee felt like they were laughing at her. This is similar to Dave Chappelle, who quit making Chappelle’s Show because he felt people were laughing at him instead of with him. Lee came up with a way to “speak out against injustice”.

2. Rojas means that people of color have the power to create anything they’d like but they could be providing the majority with a “conceptual blueprint” on which to establish stereotypes. One example is the Madea series. It was a way for people to show black women can stand up for themselves but instead the majority sees Madea as a loud, angry, and obnoxious woman and it pins all black women with this label. Another example of this is some Asians being proud of their studious nature, and their hard work paying of in high grades. The majority twisted this into a “Chinese kids are robots who do nothing but study while their parents are unrealistic and strict. The High Expectations Asian Father meme and Glee’s “Asian F” episode in which Mike Chang gets an A- while everyone goes ballistic are further proof of this.

3. Alicia Gaspar de Alba dislikes the use of the word “subculture” because she feels it carries an incredibly negative connotation with it. She prefers “alter-Native” because it reinforces the fact that Chicano culture, although in the minority to white America, is not considered inferior.

4. Rasquache is a type of art that uses the cheapest, easy to find materials and making into something to be prideful about. It’s akin to making the most out of a bad situation. One example is the transforming of a cheap car into a canvas of culture with hydraulics that becomes the red dye that mixes into society’s melting pot. Another example that could be considered rasquache is the use of plastic ziplock bags as beverage holders. On a trip to Guatemala, I ordered an horchata and found the vendor used ziplock bags instead of cups. This is making the most out of the cheapest materials you have.

5. Anger plays such a huge role in the productions of women of color, especially black women. There is always an angry black woman in a predominantly black film. It’s the staple, cliche, etc. that black films carry around with them. This is exactly how pop culture has trivialized it. They just add it to every film. You can’t take people with angry dispositions seriously. It’s unrealistic for anyone to be that angry all the time, so people just dismiss it as “Oh Madea, she is so sassy (another word associated with black women) and angry at everything all the time”. Madea might have valid points at times, but it gets easier to dismiss these points when the character has become a cliche.

Week Four: Critical Frameworks Bechdel Test for Race Part II

This was an interesting experience becase my friends and I had tried to figure out how many predominantly white tv shows had more than two people of color in them. We came up with Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Community, and Scrubs. We had no idea that this was being looked at in a scholarly manner.

For films, it’s definitely harder. I tried to think of any for five minutes without any help and was shooting blanks. The film industry could be (and is) racist. There’s no other way of putting. Whether saying audiences wouldn’t want to watch black people do things on the big screen or not being able to relate, it’s all veiled racism.

Week Four: Critical Frameworks The Bechdel Test Part I

Black Swan – Passes the test because the two main people are Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis and they talk about ballet.

Drive – Does not pass the test because it does not have more than 2 women.

Ides of March – Does not pass the test because the women don’t talk to each other.

The Help – It passes the test because it’s a mainly women cast who talk of things not having to do with men.

Crazy, Stupid, Love – Does not pass the test. The women in the movie don’t speak to each other about anything other than men.

Sherlock Holmes II – Does not pass the test.

Kung-Fu Panda II – The women characters don’t talk to each other.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II – Though the film has multiple strong women, they rarely talk and if they do it’s about the men in the movie.

50/50 – It has multiple women characters but they do not converse.

Puss in Boots – It had some women but they did not talk to each other.


The Bechdel Test was a really interesting way of looking at something that most people overlook.  Filmmakers are not degrading women explicitly, but instead are limiting their roles and typecasting them into roles that enforce stereotypes. If they do put multiple female roles into a movie, they usually are there to talk about the male protagonist. It’s a shame that there aren’t many roles women can play without having to lean on a man.

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