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Fri May 25, 2018, 08:10 AM

American sitcoms are dealing with race more than ever, but too often the jokes reinforce stereotypes

https://slate.com/culture/2018/05/american-sitcoms-are-dealing-more-openly-with-race-but-not-always-getting-it-right.html

On CBS’s Mom in the same week, a tipsy female character watches TV with a Hispanic man and says, “Everything’s in Mexican.” He responds in Spanish, without subtitles, then he and his wife exit the scene as they continue speaking in Spanish, still without subtitles and over a laugh track. The Spanish language is reduced to a comedic prop, the meaning of the dialogue irrelevant with the implication that the humor lies in its loud foreignness. We’re laughing at, not with.

Meanwhile, on NBC’s Will & Grace, Will says to Joyce, “Wow, you’re tan.” Joyce responds, “Like Moana, but thin like Pocahontas.” Contrary to popular misconception (perpetrated by quips just like this), Polynesians like the Disney character Moana are naturally dark-skinned, not “tan” versions of white. Such statements inaccurately imply an identity that can be easily appropriated while also subtly fetishizing brown women’s bodies, the darker realities of skin color washed over to suit the punchline for a white gaze—part of the reason why blackface is considered such an explicitly racist offense.

These references are not intentionally offensive, and some are probably even meant to be positive or inclusive. The fact that they’re comedic also makes them more challenging to debate, making critics seem like bad sports unable to take a joke. Mutual laughter can unite audiences, and sometimes comedy is meant to be controversial. But comedic context can also be a way of deflecting criticism about undeniably disparaging undertones. This becomes especially damaging when the laughter or controversy satisfies one group at the expense of another, creating more walls than connection because, as experiments have shown, messages of bias picked up through humor can lead to discriminatory behaviors.

(snip)

Furthermore, the same researchers found that not all stereotypes are created equal. Different groups have different degrees of immunity from humorous jabs, which means minorities and marginalized communities are more likely to suffer from discrimination than whites and other socially secure groups. Groups with more malleable social reputations, like gay men, are more likely to face increased discrimination because of comedic routines than those whose social standings are already fixed.

(more at link)

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Reply American sitcoms are dealing with race more than ever, but too often the jokes reinforce stereotypes (Original post)
gollygee May 2018 OP
NCTraveler May 2018 #1
gollygee May 2018 #2
NCTraveler May 2018 #3
gollygee May 2018 #5
Blue_Adept May 2018 #4
gollygee May 2018 #6
Blue_Adept May 2018 #7

Response to gollygee (Original post)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:25 AM

1. Stereotypes are a comedians comfort food. Always has been.

 

Stereotypes are also there for a reason.

The show "blacked" feeds into many stereotypes of POC but also does an amazing job of showing why said stereotypes aren't as negative as when they are being used in a racist stereotyping context. I love that type of comedy.

Here is an example of a racist stereotype that is a valid stereotype to start and is actually positive after one becomes educated on why it happens. Many Americans use the fact that it is very common to see numerous Mexican Americans, or Mexicans, including many generations in their family, living under the same roof. It is used as a means to highlight a lack of cleanliness, irresponsibility, laziness, and economic status. A small portion of that stereotype is grounded in reality. That is often how they live. The stereotype is based on a grain of truth and then the racist aspect is added. Fact is it is more often than not for very positive and thoughtful reasons. It helps them to care for one and other, to keep the family close, to save money, to share money with other family members, to share duties, to dilute the impact of the devastation of losing a job, etc. The fact that they don't place enormous standards on the individual in this area is something I think we should find admirable. Just because we do the exact opposite in this country doesn't mean they must be wrong.

I really like comedy that intelligently deals with these things. That includes the promotion and defining of stereotypes.

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Response to NCTraveler (Reply #1)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:28 AM

2. Do you mean "Black-ish" ?

If you read the article, you'll see they use that as an example of how to do this well and how it's different from what other sitcoms are doing. I could only quote 4 paragraphs so that isn't included here but it's early in the article.

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Response to gollygee (Reply #2)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:33 AM

3. Thank you.

 

It's an amazing show in how it deals with issues. There is another one that I can't currently remember the name of. I'm so bad about that.

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Response to NCTraveler (Reply #3)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:38 AM

5. I believe the creative team behind Blackish is largely made up of POC

which isn't that common in Hollywood. That's probably a big part of the difference. I think Will and Grace might have one woman of color, but one person alone is easily outvoted and doesn't give the kind of balance necessary.

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Response to gollygee (Reply #2)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:34 AM

4. The article is frustrating in that it only provides, what, two examples?

Mom and Will and Grace get most of its attention. Roseanne's in a weird place simply because of what it's trying to do.

I would have liked to have seen them tackle Fresh off the Boat as a counterpoint similar to Black-ish while also noting just how hard it is over the years to get anything that's not white as the main focus.

And to actually do more than talk about a couple of primetime big three network shows. Sitcoms are a lot more varied than that across many networks. It's a very narrow focus that gives a very incomplete picture.

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Response to Blue_Adept (Reply #4)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:40 AM

6. There are probably lots of examples if they wanted to make a longer article

They talk about "punching up" vs. "punching down" and SNL and the David Chappelle Show a bit too, but they don't have a ton of examples, true. There are probably lots.

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Response to gollygee (Reply #6)

Fri May 25, 2018, 08:45 AM

7. Yep; I wasn't looking for balance but there's not much to the article

But that's kind of the huffpo way, a step or two beyond a list and little more.

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