Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chinese person racist against another Chinese person. I dunno what to think.

Sheeeeet. Man, I just don't know what's funny and what's offensive anymore. Context, irony, satire, political correctness... I need to factor in all these things before I decide whether to laugh or not. No wonder fart jokes are so popular and timeless: they are simple and to the point. No such thing as an ironic fart.

Anyway, that's a roundabout way to say that I'm not sure whether this clip is offensive or not. It probably is.

So that's Sam Pang, on Santo, Sam & Ed's Sports Fever last week, impersonating Chinese-American basketball star Jeremy Lin. Pang is a half-white, half-Chinese Australian.

Why is this offensive? Well, it's rehashing a litany of dumb stereotypes. Pang's accent is a ridiculous mish-mash of Chinese and Japanese accents, despite Jeremy Lin being born in California.

On the other hand...

Given that Pang's portrayal of Lin is so ridiculously stupid, is it actually non-offensive in some hipsterish ironic way? If I conclude that Pang is doing some stupid racist ish here, does that just mean that I don't get it? Am I as dumb as all the people who read my blog but get angry simply because they can't tell when I'm being serious and I'm being tongue-in-cheek? (And yes, there are a lot of them.) Is he making fun of Asian stereotypes, rather than rehashing them?

I'll confess: I have a lot of time for Sam Pang and his various endeavors into radio and television. He's a likable character, and I'm inclined to look favorably on him. That said, I didn't think this skit was funny. Well, I did chuckle at the DDR reference, I admit. But aside from that, it was kinda dumb.

But then again... that's the kind of show Sports Fever is. A LOT of its jokes are extremely lame, and the hosts know it. That their joke success rate is so poor is actually one of the appealing things about the show, if you can understand that; Pang and co-hosts Santo Cilauro and Ed Kavallee seem to enjoy looking stupid in the pursuit of jokes that were only half-funny to begin with.

Here's another way to look at it: Pang is sending up not Jeremy Lin and his Asian-ness... but instead the hype that has surrounded the first Asian-American NBA star. Linsanity, fortune-cookie-flavoured "Lin-sanity" ice cream, and the mindless stereotypes that have been floating around since his emergence. So is it those stereotypes that Pang is making fun of?

So perhaps the skit was not so dumb after all... rather, it was so meta that some of you cats just didn't get it.

Or maybe it was just indeed dumb and racist. I'd welcome your thoughts.

A couple more questions for your pondering:

  • If we accept that Pang is making fun of stereotypes rather than making fun of Asians... does that mean the audience are laughing at the same thing? It is quite possible that many people watching do not see any layer of irony and just find it funny to laugh at Asian people.
  • As someone who is not fully Chinese but Eurasian, does someone like Pang have the credibility to do Asian jokes like this? Would it be different coming from a "full Asian" rather than someone who despite having a Chinese surname, still enjoys a degree of white privilege?

I'll admit one thing - if a white person (eg. Sam Newman) did the exact same skit, I'd probably waste no time in condemning the thing as racist dumbf#ckery. I would not for a second consider that Newman was being "meta". So I'm not sure what that says about me.

My head hurts.

(H/T Yuey)

See also:

Racial humour - is it ever ok?


  1. "My head hurts"

    That's because you have kind of encountered the Theseus Paradox! Or,as one of the resolutions says in layman's terms - "if it looks like shit, and smells like shit....."

    But seriously, like you, I don't see what the joke is, or where the creative process has been applied - is it creative to spout off decades-old racial stereotypes?

  2. Isn't this the same with a white guy painting himself black and portraying an african american? People think its funny to be racist and in school grounds they learn from these tv shows that say its ok.
    It doesn't matter what race you are even if you're a caucasian being racist to caucasians it doesn't change the fact that you are a racist.
    the more the media makes it ok the more it becomes a social norm and the more people accept it... so normally people get sued for this but because Australia is considered a desert island with kangaroos and koalas everywhere nobody cares. They just think we're as redneck as Texas.

    When will we learn I wonder?

  3. It is totally irrelevant what 'blood quanta' or amount of ethnicity Sam Pang has, doesn't have, purports to have or otherwise. The skit is racist and there's all there is to it. That entire argument is a red herring to the central problem - the skit is racist.

    If anything, the whole ethnicity thing with Sam Pang makes it even more shameful. Pile on Santo Cilauro and Ed Kavaleen joining in the 'fun', and we have a big jolly therapy group trying to get over schoolyard bullying by perpetuating it in common culture. Bullshit.

    Very disappointed.