Heard on FX’s Wilfred: “Not Asian-American…Real Asian!”

by Latoya Peterson

So last Thursday night, I was peacefully watching Wilfred. My dog, the reason I thought the promos were hysterical, was napping at my feet. Wilfred is an FX remake of an Australian comedy, about a suicidal man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) who prepares to kill himself in the first episode. After a failed attempt, Ryan finds himself helping out his next door neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) by watching her dog Wilfred (Jason Gann). The set-up is fairly simple – it’s kind of like I Love You, Man, only one of them is in a dog suit.

I was just in the middle of wondering how a show with a dark, funny premise could end up as just another dudebro comedy when a line floated to my ears. Kristen (Dorian Brown), Ryan’s sister, a doctor, and the show’s resident shrew (because there’s always one in these kinds of comedies) is busy screaming at him about getting his life together. She launches in on another explanation of why her life sucks, but this time, she says:

You had a rough morning? Try prying twin boys out of a tight little Asian gal. She wasn’t Asian American, Ryan, she was REAL ASIAN!

As if Thick Dumpling Skin needed another thing to write about.

Whenever I get around to writing about Archer, I’ll talk about the difference between writing a joke that involves race and writing a racist joke. But, in essence, this is the Kate Rigg rule:

When someone tells a joke about Asian people and there’s no actual joke – the joke is the Asian people. The joke is [racist-comic voice] the funny way they talkie-talkie! “They don’t use proper diction! Only verb and noun! Verb and noun!” I just heard a comic that I respect doing that fucking joke the other night. An Asian comic. And I was like, “Dude! Write a punch line or you’re just being racist!”

I apply this rule all over the place, as did Carmen back when she wrote about how to respond to a racist joke. The joke only works with the implicit acceptance of a certain stereotype. If the stereotype isn’t there to play on, the joke falls apart. (Hence Carmen’s advice to play dumb, and try to get the joke teller to explain exactly why that joke is funny.)

When will comedy writers, producers, and directors learn that throwaway racist jokes just aren’t funny?

Why Did I Get So “Sensateeve”?: Homophobia and Tyler Perry’s Black Marriage Franchise

by Guest Contributor Nonso Christian Ugbode

A good rumor is like a wild forest fire. It comes and goes mostly on its own grand will and terrorizes most in its presence, firefighters and rumormongers alike. The frenzy of speculation around Tyler Perry’s stated or implied sexuality is such a rumor, a sea of loud crackles and hazardous smoke, so forgive me for keeping my distance. Fire burns. This statement is about something different, albeit adjacent. After a viewing of Perry’s “Why Did I get Married, Too?” one cannot help but be struck by its somewhat blatant and unchecked homophobic moments. From “boys-being-boys” to boys in drag jumping out of cakes for no apparent reason the film strikes a discordant chord in some instances of comedy that mostly comes across as coded homophobia.

A good critique should always come with a healthy dose of confession, so here are a few to color your reading. My perspective is one of a black man in search of true love. “That all-consuming, can’t-live-without you love,” (forgive the borrowed phrase dear Carrie Bradshaw.) The kind of marriage I seek is expressly banned in about forty-one states in this great union of ours, and New York just barely legalized it. So aside from being an idealist I am also a bit of a fantasist. Suffice it to say that when I look at depictions of love, Black love in particular, I seek mirrors of myself by habit. Tyler Perry is the main focus here only because he has the biggest mirror – one that if it is not going to pay me any compliments should at least not distort my reflection. That’s all I’m saying.

With two movies in this vein under his belt, a look inside the contemporary Black marriage one might say, Perry has succeeded in saying absolutely nothing about Black gay marriage. Much has been explored when it comes to the committed heterosexual Black relationship; the physical cheating, the emotional cheating, the wanting the baby, the not wanting the baby, the death of the baby, the emotional and physical abuse, etc. And beyond the pathology one manages to glimpse quite a few moments of bliss; which is what keeps me coming back to the franchise maybe. The love portrayed for example between Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson in the sequel is moving. And in all that exploration there is not a mention of girls who marry each other, or boys who are committed to one other, and how wonderful that might be. Not a sentence. Now this is of course expected, as it is status quo. If the president is allowed to have a constantly “evolving” perspective on the “issue.” Well, we can all also pretend it’s nothing to speak up about, I guess.

So beyond being a martyr for the cause the least one could expect from Perry would be not to put down being gay, right? Well, here come the spoilers. Continue reading

We Just Can’t Avoid The Help

The Help UK Cover

This book will not just quietly die.

We first were notified about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help back in 2010. A few readers asked us if we had read it. If we had heard the NPR interview. One blogger, Onyx M, started a critique blog. We’ve been silent for a while on the book world – outside of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, we haven’t reviewed a book in a long time. Probably because the stack of books that people have sent in still teeters on my desk. And all of the books are good, so they deserve a thorough discussion. But stealing time away to read a book, analyze it, and write about it doesn’t come easy.

And that process is even harder when one enters a book with as much trepidation as I enter The Help. Now that ads for the movie adaptation are all over TV, it’s time to go ahead and put this to rights. I have a new book review format that may help with timeliness. Now, if I can only get over my reluctance.

Even skimming the reviews makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. Continue reading

links for 2011-06-27

  • "Solier grew up in a family of Quechua farmers in Peru's highlands. Whether speaking or singing, she often calls on Quechua in addition to Spanish, but Solier says she was initially cautioned against speaking Quechua in public.

    "'People thought that I would be laughed at,' Solier says. 'My family, my friends — they told me, 'Don't speak in Quechua. You'll be humiliated; you'll get knocked down; you'll be made fun of.'"

  • "He has repeatedly spoken out against Islam, once calling it 'a religion of hatred.' He has raised questions about the sincerity of President Obama's Christianity, and heaped praise on several of the Republicans seeking to challenge Obama in 2012.

    "Asked Friday about his position on immigration reform, he said only that the current system is broken and needs to be fixed to allow people to 'travel freely back and forth' across borders. He didn't say how that might be accomplished. He said he had no position on the federal Dream Act, legislation that died in the U.S. Senate last year but would have given legal status to many young undocumented immigrants who now attend college or serve in the military.

    "'I'm not a politician," he said. "I'm for law, and I believe that our laws need to be obeyed, whatever they are.'"

  • "Perry said he has made historic strides in naming Hispanics to state boards and commissions, including appointments of the first Latinas to the state's top two courts — the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — as well as the secretary of state. He also noted that he named Jose Cuevas as chairman of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, an appointee whose name bears striking similarities to the popular tequila, Jose Cuervo.

    "'That is the right job for that man,' Perry said."

  • "Axed Sky News anchor John Mangos has hit out at claims he is a racist and insists he still has the full support of the Chinese community despite his controversial on-air remarks earlier this month.

    "Mangos exclusively told The Sunday Telegraph he deeply regretted the comments in which he referred to a man as being clearly Chinese because he had 'squinty eyes' and 'yellow skin'–but maintained that he meant no harm."

  • "A fenced lot overgrown with weeds near the heart of downtown Riverside is believed to contain the largest undisturbed early settlement of Chinese farmworkers in Southern California. But now a local developer wants to put up a medical building there.

    "The proposal has touched off a legal battle with activists who want the lot and its buried artifacts to become a memorial park. They say it should honor early Chinese pioneers and stand testament to the prejudice that led to the birth and demise of this Inland Empire Chinatown."

  • "The snafu is the latest twist in the contentious history of the immigration lottery. The Diversity Visa Program was authorized by Congress in 1990 as a way to increase immigration from under-represented countries. Though supporters still believe it's the most democratic way to allow new immigrants into the country, critics want to eliminate it altogether, arguing that immigrants shouldn't be chosen at random but for their skills and family relationships."

TrueBlood Season 4 Episode 1 Roundtable – “She’s Not There”

It’s baaaaaaack!

Racialicious has been obsessed with True Blood since it began, and its teasing around modern politics, civil rights, women’s rights, and queer rights. Our crew is definitely Team Tara, Team Lafayette, and Team Alcide…but is Team Eric ascending? When we last left Bon Temps, Tara was getting the hell out of town after beating Franklin’s head in – unfortunately, that fool was still alive, and it took a wooden bullet from Jason Stackhouse to send him on. Lafayette and Jesus had been on a roller coaster ride to mystical points unknown, Sam reconnected with his dark side, Sookie was so through with vamps that she headed to the land of the Fae, and Russell Edgington pulled out someone’s spine on national television. Let’s just relive that last moment:

The season four opener did not disappoint. The roundtable this week is: Latoya Peterson, Jordan St. John, Amber Jones, Kendra Pettis, and Alea Adigweme.

After the jump – a FULL OF SPOILERS, minute by minute roundtable, plus some random Vampire Diaries and Buffy the Vampire Slayer cross chat…

Warning: We talked for 90 minutes. This is an epically long roundtable. Continue reading

Now Reading: Jose Antonio Vargas on “[His] Life As an Undocumented Immigrant”

by Latoya Peterson

Jose Antonio VargasLast year, at a Poynter function, I had the privilege of meeting Jose Antonio Vargas in person. Both charming and interesting, with a huge drive to make journalism a true tool of democracy, he seemed like someone I wanted to get to know.

Last week, Vargas wanted the world to get to know exactly who he was. So he took the bold step of writing a piece that could change his life forever. Called “My Life as an Undocumented Worker,” Vargas used the New York Times platform to reveal his secret:

Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

Vargas artfully describes the pain of the political becoming personal:

The debates over “illegal aliens” intensified my anxieties. In 1994, only a year after my flight from the Philippines, Gov. Pete Wilson was re-elected in part because of his support for Proposition 187, which prohibited undocumented immigrants from attending public school and accessing other services. (A federal court later found the law unconstitutional.) After my encounter at the D.M.V. in 1997, I grew more aware of anti-immigrant sentiments and stereotypes: they don’t want to assimilate, they are a drain on society. They’re not talking about me, I would tell myself. I have something to contribute.

Continue reading

links for 2011-06-26

  • "It's not just black audiences who get short shrift on theater screens. Several recent studies also have shown that Latino audiences buy a lot of movie tickets. They might buy even more if Hollywood could go beyond its one-size-fits-all approach to reaching various segments of the Latino market.

    "'It's sort of like comparing somebody from Texas to somebody from New York,' says Ivette Rodriguez, president of American Entertainment Marketing."

  • "'Hill staff—particularly those who serve with committees—are the gatekeepers to a very important part of the democratic process,' Rockeymoore says. She says that all-white staffers often lead to 'mainstream' experts being called to testify at hearings, and in this case, 'mainstream' translates into 'white' experts speaking on issues that disproportionately affect people of color, women, and the poor.

    "When policy is being crafted post-hearing, the lack of diversity on staff 'creates sub-optimal policies that create sub-optimal results for people of color,' Rockeymoore says, which affect everything from education to job creation. 'What you get is a biased policy-making process that ends up undermining people of color.'”

  • "A recent analysis of the data found school neighborhoods were increasingly likely to have lower prices and more advertising for Newport cigarettes as the proportion of African-American students rose. The same was true of neighborhoods with higher proportions of children aged 10 to 17.

    "The study 'shows the predatory marketing in school neighborhoods with higher concentrations of youth and African-American students,' by the menthol cigarette maker, researcher Lisa Henriksen said in a statement."

  • "Sonya Grier, an American University marketing professor who also studies race and sociology, said although a company has a right to have such a campaign, but 'some people may consider it unethical, insensitive or just in bad taste.'

    "Such campaigns work by relying on associations already in people’s minds — in this case, orange jumpsuits have a strong connection to jails, and thus, crime and punishment, Grier said. 'At a theoretical level, it’s basic marketing.'

    "But social context has an influence on the way such campaigns are perceived, leading to 'some unintended consequences'— particularly since there’s been quite a bit of research showing many people believe black men are more likely to commit crimes, she added. Marketing can reinforce that stereotype."

  • "'This could have been a beautifully brilliant opportunity for the Black Church to talk about molestation, our youth and young adults and how they must be protected,' says the Rev. Kevin E. Taylor, the openly gay New Jersey-based senior pastor of Unity Fellowship Church of New Brusnwick, a predominately black LGBT denomination. 'It could have been a galvanizing moment to separate the wolves from the lions. All of those opportunities were missed.'

    “'The church has been pummeled by fondling, fear and secrets for generations,' says Taylor, who is also an author, activist and a veteran BET producer. 'And now with Eddie Long, the Black Church is doing what it’s always done: ‘Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell.’"

links for 2011-06-24

  • "Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders was cleared of all five charges in the Netherlands on Thursday, where he had faced up to a year in prison for allegedly inciting violence through his anti-Islam rhetoric.
    "TPM readers will remember Wilders as a special guest at Pamela Geller's rally against the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero, which took place last September 11. Geller introduced Wilders as 'a modern-day Churchill,' and in his remarks he called the project 'a mosque, a house of sharia,' that is 'not only a provocation. It's humiliation.'"
  • I Can't dot com.–AJP "A new anti-abortion movie called "Gates Of Hell" envisions a world where the government outlaws abortion because a group of black terrorists begins murdering abortion doctors.

    Molotov Mitchell, a contributor for World Net Daily who produced the film, said in a promotion that "this film could do more damage to the abortion industry than anything we've seen. 'Gates of Hell' raises questions about Planned Parenthood's racist history in a way that's never been done before."

  • "The underrepresentation of Latinos in science is problematic on several levels. The attrition of Latinos among the ranks of scientists limits our ability as a society to benefit from the full range of talent and minds in this country. The scientific enterprise is enriched by the variety of thoughts, experiences and ideas contributed by diversity. A lack of diversity among the research workforce is detrimental for innovation and can also have the effect of decreasing the diversity of research topics, particularly those that pertain to Latino communities and individuals. Minorities, for example, have been found to suffer a disproportionate burden of disease in the U.S. Recruiting diverse talent to scientific and engineering careers could help bring more attention and new perspectives to these problems and enhance the access by researchers to minority communities."
  • "The second, smaller report shares firsthand stories from minority men. One African-American student currently enrolled as a freshman in a public university seems jaded about the process. The authors write: 'He remembers that all through school people told him to get good grades so he could succeed and go to college, but senior year he realized it was all about money and affordability.' Money is cited as one of the biggest roadblocks to gaining an education, along with social stigma and lowered aspirations."
  • "Torres and other undocumented workers around the US are increasingly declaring their status openly, as a protest to legislation which they say criminilises them. 'We are at a point where there will be civil disobedience,' Torres said. 'We have studied and learned from the civil rights era; sometimes you have to fight the system to make it change.'

    "She has openly declared her "illegal" status, and other migrants in the same position will be traveling to Georgia's state capital on Tuesday to 'come out of the shadows and declare that we are undocumented, unafraid and unashamed'."

  • "Asians, a group more commonly associated with the West Coast, are surging in New York, where they have long been eclipsed in the city’s kaleidoscopic racial and ethnic mix. For the first time, according to census figures released in the spring, their numbers have topped one million — nearly 1 in 8 New Yorkers — which is more than the Asian population in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles combined."