Sunday, March 30, 2014

#CancelColbert and the Ultimate Fear Factor -- Suey Park!

The issue of the now trending ‪#‎CancelColbert‬ is a tough one. On the one hand I think Colbert is brilliant. I mean, I actually know people that do not get he's playing a right-wing zealot, blatant racist, unapologetic bigoted buffoon. So, he's also an effective modern day satirist -- able to appeal to his core audience while also keeping his real foes puzzled! However, the issue is, if you have not watched his show, not seen the monologue referencing Asian American stereotypes to talk about the Redskin mascot controversy, the "I want to show the ‪#‎Asian‬ community I care by introducing the Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever" tweet in isolation, is a trigger.

Some Asian Americans, like writer, activist, Suey Park, have no tolerance (or some have said, no funny bone) for tired stereotypes about Asian Americans –- even for satirical effect. She and others feel that it's not okay to perpetuate these negative images, especially since so many do not know Colbert is in character. It's unclear if there's any benefit with the skit for the groups that Colbert uses as a punchline. Some trending the #CancelColbert are saying that he is not exempt from a-historicizing the issues that matter to Asian American just to get laughs and ratings. They would argue there's simply not enough multidimensional images of Asian (Americans) in media to warrant a free for all use of Asian Americans as gags. Essentially, Colbert's brand of satire has lost its effectiveness and has become offensive to the groups he supports.

The "Ching Chong" joke and controversial tweet post that accompanied it does not bother me. I admittedly thought it was hilarious. However, I do not find Colbert's "Ching Chong Ding Dong mascot" funny (see Colbert's best rendition of Mickey Rooney's Yunioshi from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in the video clip), and I think I'm open to just about any unPC joke out there. Possibly this one hits just a little too close to home and I feel offended, not amused. Colbert didn't grow up Asian American but could have at least guessed it was not pleasant being bullied for just looking "Asian." This is where the "white, male entitlement" argument enters. But, I digress.

On the issue of the backlash to criticisms of the "racist" tweet," I can totally understand how non-Asians would respond with condescending, "uh, you're too stupid to get satire, Asians." But, what I'm disappointed about is how Asian Americans have also jumped on the bandwagon. They've taken to blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, and mainstream media about this topic with some harsh words for Suey Park and others trending #CancelColbert. The tones have been almost apologetic, in the vein of, "Sorry we have an outspoken Asian American woman that doesn't kowtow to the stereotypes of a submissive person without voice, opinion and anger. She and other Asian Americans against Colbert also obviously can't get a joke." Some of the pieces have been venomous, borderline misogynistic. But, the worst ones have labeled Suey Park a hashtag hustler and killer of legitimate twitter activism or dismissed her altogether as a frivolous debutant. 

Maybe Suey Park's most heinous crime is she gets the twittersphere. She knows no one pays attention to rational conversation so she screams her outrage. Then when she gets an audience, meaningful conversation can come from these people. Me blogging about this topic is testament to her effectively working media. I don't think it's wise to dismiss her, she's smart. She and her supporters can get a joke, but, maybe are too fed up with being the butt of one and want to be able to speak their minds about it. Just as Colbert is allowed to continue with his satirical show and should do so. 

Things have gotten a bit out of control in the virtual stratosphere and reactions to ‪#‎CancelColbert‬ is starting to remind me of the fear of the "Yellow Peril." How are there so many of them hating on a white man, a funny one at that? Scary, huh? (sarcasm) But joking aside, it is good to have this dialogue.

For background of the controversy, see HERE.