GQ Writer Compares Harold and Kumar to “The Happy Go Lucky Negro” Caricature

by Latoya Peterson

Paging through the new issue of GQ, I happened to notice an article on the upcoming Harold and Kumar movie. I browsed the article – which is a critique of the film that gives away way too much of the plot – before pausing at this paragraph:

The lowly stoner comedy has always had interesting underpinnings, too, starting with the ethnic angle that dates from Cheech & Chong’s invention of the genre. Even when the stoners are Anglo, the basic gag amounts to a weird modern spin on old-fashioned race humor. Like the comic minorities white folks used to laugh at in a bygone screen era, they’re funny because they can’t get with the program. Face it, they’re our time’s inoffensive equivalent of that offensive Jim Crow caricature, the Happy-Go-Lucky Negro: those childlike perceptions, that puzzlement about responsibility. Sean Penn’s Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High is the perfect example.

Umm…I didn’t read the movie that way at all. But I suppose I see how that perspective could be argued.

Well, I did see how that perspective could be argued until I hit the next paragraph, which reads (emphasis mine):

Hurwitz and Schlossberg’s trick is to take advantage of all this at the same time they’re turning it inside out. One joke is that the heroes come from two immigrant groups with reps for industrious conformity, not rebellion. Another is that they aren’t slackers: They’re bright college grads on the fast track to success—à la Borat, the clouds of reefer smoke and the actors’ ethnicities barely hide Harold and Kumar’s secret identities as a couple of brainy, affluent Jewish kids who aren’t too unlike, dare I guess, their creators. That just shows how things have changed, since Jewish characters used to have to be disguised as—or in a pinch, played by—goys to keep Middle America buying tickets. Now they’ve got to be passed off as dope-happy Koreans and Indians to avoid looking like juvenile Woody Allens.

Whoa, whoa, whoa – WTF?

I find a great many things wrong with that statement, but I’ll open up the floor on this one – what do you think the writer is implying?

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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