Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Walking A Fine Line: Satire, Stereotypes and 'Single Asians'
A video showing members of the Mixed Company of Yale University singing group dancing to their adapted version of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” entitled “Single Asians” is forcing people to ask an age-old question: should we or shouldn't we use stereotypes to challenge oppression? While I do not think there is a definitive answer to this question, I think it is important to have the conversation.
If we are trying to laugh at stereotypes to debunk them, what happens when some of us are laughing in agreement with the stereotypes? While stereotypes can be used in a satirical manner in order to try and reveal to the audience that their ways of categorizing the world are not only laughable, but dangerous, most popular culture bolsters stereotypical thinking rather than subverts it. As Harry Allen asks: "does Yale’s 'Single Asians' debunk or traffic old stereotypes?"
Recognizing the difference between comedy that attempts to shine a light on negative aspects of society in order to encourage those laughing to examine the faulty beliefs we are taught about certain groups versus comedy that highlights those stereotypes merely to suggest “ha, ha, aren't those stereotypes funny?” can be tricky. This video could be an empowering opportunity for Asian women to use these stereotypes to foster a dialogue about the place of Asian women in US society. On the other hand, it could merely be yet another chance to laugh at Asian women. Does this video critique racism and sexism or does it merely bolster it?
I'd love to know what you think.