‘…The laughter of an audience at a cinema… is anything but good and revolutionary; instead it is full of the worst bourgeois sadism’.
Theodor Adorno ‘Letter to Walter Benjamin’ Aesthetics and Politics
First and foremost this quote originally from Adorno was borrowed from this blog post which I tried to reblog but couldn’t: http://dialecticonline.wordpress.com/issue-08-summer-11/the-culture-industry/
I’ve been interested in Adorno’s work ever since I started studying Sociology about 4 years ago. I just feel that he makes a good argument which sums up popular culture and entertainment of today. Most of what I want to say reflects what is in the blog I linked to so I am not claiming that this is all my own knowledge. I only want to share the information and highlight key points I liked.
Adorno argued that true art forms have been replaced by imitations which take the form of cultural products. Culture has become commodified. Capitalism fuels society so by believing that popular culture has allowed us ‘the masses’ to progress towards creative democracy is a far shot from the truth. We are only blinded further and distracted from realizing our real social conditions.
Affability refers to the loss of human dignity and isolation which I find explains the forms of comedic entertainment which label inappropriate comedy as acceptable. I refer to some of these types of media in my blog. Most people go along with judgemental statements that contrast against their own values as this is portrayed as the norm in social life. Laughter becomes an illusion because it offers no freedom from the alienation that controls the lives of us, ‘the masses’. Disney films are particularly good at portraying the pain, inequality and unhappiness we experience in daily life which only helps to reinforce it. I feel that in this respect being able to ‘take your own punishment’ is the same as saying you should ‘be able to laugh at yourself’.
Ultimately Adorno strives to unmask the false by seeking the ‘truth’ within the fiction we know as reality. We are exposed to a whole array of prejudice, racism and segregation which is accepted. Ultimately we can never truly be free or happy if we continue to buy into cultural products.
Is Disney truly a cultural product of the culture industry? :
Who agrees with Adorno?
The movie white chicks was released in 2004. It’s a clear example of how double standards exist in Hollywood and more precisely in the media. I don’t think the movie got that much slack for the Wayans use of white face in their portrayal of two American blonde girls as opposed to if had been the reverse. Again, I am not saying that the producers intended to be racist or are racist but I am saying that stereotypes can be destructive even if you may not personally see how, especially since comedy cleverly disguises even the most distasteful subjects in a way that makes them acceptable.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jDd–Xg7xo (I do not own this video or the clips contained within it)
And just to get this off my mind: Just because YOU may find something funny it does not mean that everybody should. Those people who keep saying people like me with an opinion should “get a sense of humour” because it is only comedy should stop. I don’t need to laugh at something I feel is a bunch of cheap laughs at another’s expense. Real people are affected by stereotypes and prejudice that follows so this is something that needs to be addressed.
Just to highlight my point about how dangerous the mainstream media can be in regards to hidden racism or racism presented as matter of fact or as lighthearted banter I would like to share this video. It’s a short segment taken from the Disney film Aladdin, which we are all familiar with.
Watching Disney films as a child was always fun for me, especially because of all the songs that were featured in them. Yet, not once did I ever actually -listen- to the songs and realise that those catchy songs sung by those lovable characters actually helped to portray negative stereotypes about men and women from the middle east. Now, I’m not saying that Disney has done this intentionally, but as Adults we can clearly see the harm of these hidden messages, especially how it may influence children’s thought. Yes, we may have laughed and sang along to these songs before but just be aware of the messages being spread.
The video focuses on the character Jafar. His long beard, dark eyes, turban and long dark gown not only play on his bad image as the villain in the film but represent a negative stereotype of Arabs as evil, barbaric people. Not only do they “cut off your ear” but they sing about it, why? Because it’s a norm where they call “home”! – What?? – Immediately when I saw this clip and heard those words I just remembered 911 and all the terrorist films and crude jokes that followed. After that horrific event everyone who was seen with a rucksack or big bag, with a full beard and ‘looked muslim’ was feared and hated. What I’m trying to emphasize is the point that stereotypes from the media do reflect back on society, and can change the behaviour and attitudes of individuals for the worst. The original poster of this video (hasanhd28 on youtube) made another interesting argument about how accents are used to convey good and evil and smart and dumb in Disney.
I haven’t blogged for long but I feel that I need to set my blog audience straight about the way I feel about stereotyping and racism being used as a form of comedy.
I believe that stereotypes about all races are all examples of bad, distasteful, boring humour. It gets boring seeing the same silly misconceptions about certain races in comedy, especially when you know they are being used as cheap attempts to generate laughs.Here’s a link to a blog post about lazy racism vs lazy satire which makes a fair point. http://www.themediablog.co.uk/the-media-blog/2013/02/matthew-norman-giles-coren-lazy-racism-or-satire.html
In my blog posts I am not just going to talk about my offence about racist jokes towards black people just because I am black. Instead I will highlight examples of racism used in comedy that represent different races in a negative way. London is a community in which I have lived in all my life and I don’t just see white people (…and no they aren’t drinking tea all day and talking about the Queen either). I see people from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, and have friends from different countries so I do find jokes about other races equally as distasteful. I just feel that some races are used more frequently and hit harder than others…maybe because at this current time it’s easier to do and get away with.
Racism has always been a sensitive topic and I am not trying to say that race should be a taboo topic that is hidden and buried and not spoken about. People should just try and think outside the box. Just because racist jokes and stereotypes have existed as a platform for comedy for many years and been allowed to appear on our television screens, it does not mean that it is justified. We should not all just sit down and feel that because something has been allowed to continue and be carelessly reproduced it should therefore be accepted. Some may argue that racial humour as entertainment is acceptable because it is just a simple joke. Therefore, people who cannot take a joke are sad and pathetic. I am not trying to pick people out here but a white person has said this to me before and it annoyed me slightly. Do you have to be a white blonde lady before you can take offense to a comedy which features a blonde female character being portrayed as an air head, who wears pink, wears fluffy things and cannot keep a stable relationship? Or is it the fact that not enough of the white community say anything about it therefore it is seen as okay… Point is: A stereotype directed at race is a racial stereotype and fuels the judgmental nature of humans. This is not suitable for comedy.
Everyone should be rightfully loud mouthed about racist jokes. They aren’t funny and I really do not know how producers see them to be entertaining. It is even more harmful to children in the sense that other than in school or at home with their family children rely on the media to socialize them and teach them about the world. What good is it exposing children to silly stereotypes, most of which can even be found in productions from Disney. I mean look at Aladdin!
I have a lot more to say but just not now but I will leave you with a link to a blog written by Ricky Gervais, a popular British comedian who everyone knows from The Office (Original UK version). In it he talks about the difference between American and British Humour. The second to last paragraph is particularly linked to what I was talking about. http://ideas.time.com/2011/11/09/the-difference-between-american-and-british-humour/
Please read and feel free to comment.
So following on from my earlier complaint about racist jokes and stereotypes in the Simpsons, I would like to highlight another example.
Firstly we have Apu, the owner of the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in Springfield… who happens to be Indian Hindu. His full name Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a mockery in itself. Almost all people of Indian origin have names as long as the alphabet don’t they, so the joke is okay, right? To add further insult to the character portrayal of a true Indian we see in several episodes that he has a family consisting of a wife and eight children, yes eight! It is not untruthful to say that the asian community do tend to have large families but so do other communities that are not asian. Why does the central Indian character in the Simpsons have to have eight children? Am i supposed to find it funny… I guess i just missed the joke. Aside from that Apu dedicates his life and time to his job at the Kwik-E-Mart, yes… he is indeed a workaholic – a true portrayal of the Indian community – Shop owners who eat, sleep and breath work.