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Source: (consider it) Thread: David Walliams dressed as Kim Jong Un
simontoad
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Walliams Article

I find David's effort to dress up as Kim Jong Un impressive. It's not an attempt at a joke, as he was going to a fancy dress party. Nevertheless, he has been accused of crossing the line and being racist.

I don't think he's being racist, but I love comedy and I like David Walliams (on balance). I'm a 50 year-old white bloke from a traditionally racist country. My people believe that we use the subset of racism called "British Racism" as our base set of racist beliefs.

Do you think David is being racist? Please explain your answer.

I'd also like, perhaps now or a little later, to talk about the comedy of Harry Enfield, a gifted mimic. Harry has the power to make me weep with laughter. Some of his stuff (it's what, late 90's? I discovered him via you-tube) is very very very dodgy on the grounds of race. I'd like to, separately, post links to a bunch of different sketches where he plays Nelson Mandela, a white South African, a German guy, an elderly American couple, a northerner as a pet of a rich englishman from the south, there are quite a range.

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Brenda Clough
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If there is interest, I can find you the link to a photograph of myself with a friend. He is dressed as Kim Jong Un, complete with a little cardboard nuclear missile; I am his starlet wife gazing adoringly up into (actually over at, since he is shorter than I) his authoritarian countenance. We were at the World Science Fiction Convention in London, promoting the Pyongyang in 2039 Worldcon bid. Needless to say this bid was entirely fictional.

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simontoad
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yes please!

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Brenda Clough
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Try this Facebook link, I think it ought to work.

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by simontoad:
Harry has the power to make me weep with laughter. Some of his stuff (it's what, late 90's?

The sketches you're talking about are from 2008-2012, and it wouldn't be an enormous surprise if another series appeared.

1980s-90s for his peak stuff, but Mandela, the elderly Americans etc are much more recent.

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betjemaniac
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I think Harry Enfield (and Paul Whitehouse) get away with it because like a lot of comedians they seek to subvert expectations, but never do so in a way that sets out to offend.

The same series was I think one of the first (if not the first) to not only depict the waves of Eastern European immigration to the UK post EU enlargement, but to do so almost entirely positively.

On that note, I'd like to think that Nelson Mandela had as much fun in his twilight years as Harry and Paul show him having. Although maybe not to the extent of stealing Fidel Castro's iPhone then pushing his wheelchair off Beachy Head....

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And is it true? For if it is....

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chris stiles
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In general, I don't see a problem with someone dressing up as someone from another race - so long as that doesn't involve a caricaturing of racial characteristics in some way.

FWIW I thought a lot of Little Britain was a caricature too far (though obviously that's a slightly different issue)

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
In general, I don't see a problem with someone dressing up as someone from another race - so long as that doesn't involve a caricaturing of racial characteristics in some way.

All comedians dressing up as $famous_person are caricaturing that person - that's how the comedy works. The line between caricaturing an individual's features and a racial stereotype is a little fuzzy.

A black comedian playing Obama with large prosthetic ears is clearly not racist. A white comedian playing Obama with large prosthetic ears and blackface? Well, blackface in particular has a long and racist history. (cf. Fred Armisen on SNL attracting some complaints.)

On the other hand, a white comedian playing Obama with big ears and no attempt to make his face / hair resemble Obama? Maybe he looks more like a bad impression of Prince Charles.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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It isn't racist to dress up as a political leader, nor was it racist when many groups of people did their versions of Gangam Style, a Korean song/video.

It may be racially insensitive to do it more generally, viz "Native American" hobbyism in Germany. Some of which might be human rights complaint material in Canada.

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Tubbs

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Interrestingly, Matt Lucas commented recently that, "Little Britain is about 15 to 16 years old now … I think you would do things differently now. There was a character who was a rubbish transvestite who said 'I'm a lady'. She was fun at the time but I think we look differently at the transgender community now and it would be very hard to do that.”

Lucas also commented, “We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I'd do now … Society has moved on a lot since then and my own views have evolved. Now I think it's lazy for white people to get a laugh just by playing black characters."

Lucas is right IMO. It’s not that it isn’t still funny, it’s just that it’s maybe not as funny now as attitudes have changed and bits of it seem dated and a bit off.

Would I feel comfortable about a friend turning at my house for a fancy dress party dressed like that?. Yes I would. It’s tasteless and borderline racist. Why should Walliams get a free pass because he’s famous?! If he’d just done the suit, the wig whilst holding a nuke it would have been fine whilst still recognisable. The yellow face and the eye work push it over the edge.

[ 03. November 2017, 15:16: Message edited by: Tubbs ]

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Enoch
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Isn't the real question is whether we regard Kim Jong Un as so objectionable that any satire of him is such fair game that it trumps other issues of taste, not causing offence etc. Personally I wouldn't go so far as to regard that as an absolute, but he is so bad that I'd allow a lot more rope to mocking him than I'd give to 'just comedy'.

So, even if you think the satire doesn't work, I'd suggest giving David Walliams the benefit of the doubt.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Isn't the real question is whether we regard Kim Jong Un as so objectionable that any satire of him is such fair game that it trumps other issues of taste, not causing offence etc.

No, it isn't. Because, as noted earlier, one could satirise him without any reference to his ethnicity.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Isn't the real question is whether we regard Kim Jong Un as so objectionable that any satire of him is such fair game that it trumps other issues of taste, not causing offence etc.

No, I don't think so. Because if your costume crosses the line into a racist caricature, you're not poking fun at Kim any more, you're caricaturing Koreans.

And, as mentioned before, there's so much history tied up in blackface that one ought to walk very carefully in that direction.

To go back to my Obama example, if my black neighbor wanted to dress as the 44th president, he could use as much makeup and prosthetics as he wanted to make himself look exactly like Obama, and imitate Obama's accent, and we'd all be impressed at the effort he went to, and the accuracy of his costume. Nobody would think he was being racist.

If I, a random white Brit, wanted to dress as Obama, although I can argue that I should be able to do exactly the same things, it is to my mind too easily misunderstood. Because it's not going to be obvious to anyone whether I'm caricaturing President Obama, or caricaturing generic black features. It I was a really really good makeup artist, and made myself look exactly like Obama, perhaps I could get away with it. In the real world, almost certainly not.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
No, I don't think so. Because if your costume crosses the line into a racist caricature, you're not poking fun at Kim any more, you're caricaturing Koreans. ...

Yebbut, the question was whether it has done. And if David Walliams was caricaturing Kim Jong Un, and we are agreed that the latter is someone who thoroughly merits caricaturing, I remain prepared to give him sufficient slack as to whether there is some other person or group who might leap out of the woodwork and say they resent being caricatured.

And in this situation, I don't count the unhappy citizens of North Korea as an interest group. We've no idea what their view would be. They can't express it and it is impossible objectively to find out.

Leorning Cniht and LilBuddha, you haven't persuaded me. My view is unchanged.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
No, I don't think so. Because if your costume crosses the line into a racist caricature, you're not poking fun at Kim any more, you're caricaturing Koreans. ...

Yebbut, the question was whether it has done.
Of course, it has done. As explained, yellowface isn't necessary to caricature Kim. The outfit and haircut would suffice.
quote:

And if David Walliams was caricaturing Kim Jong Un, and we are agreed that the latter is someone who thoroughly merits caricaturing, I remain prepared to give him sufficient slack as to whether there is some other person or group who might leap out of the woodwork and say they resent being caricatured.

Because it does not target you.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:

And in this situation, I don't count the unhappy citizens of North Korea as an interest group.

Ah. It's not "citizens of North Korea" who are the victims of a racist caricature of Kim - it's ethnic Koreans, and by association other ethnic East Asians, who all tend to get lumped into the same basket.

There are plenty of ethnic Koreans in the US and UK - their opinion on Mr. Walliams in yellowface is certainly relevant.

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simontoad
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In the process of my biennial shave yesterday, I tried out a little Charlie Chaplin mo. It kind of worked, but I stuffed up on the detail and it was lopsided, so I had to shave it off. I was going to wear it for one day to make my clients laugh.

I would LOVE to have either a Kim hairstyle or a Trump hairstyle. Unfortunately my male pattern baldness prevents the former, and my commitment to a hair routine in the mornings the latter.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by simontoad:
... I would LOVE to have either a Kim hairstyle or a Trump hairstyle. Unfortunately my male pattern baldness prevents the former, and my commitment to a hair routine in the mornings the latter.

I can't imagine that it would be difficult to find wigs to achieve both.

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Doublethink.
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Isn't the real question is whether we regard Kim Jong Un as so objectionable that any satire of him is such fair game that it trumps other issues of taste, not causing offence etc.

No, it isn't. Because, as noted earlier, one could satirise him without any reference to his ethnicity.
Case in point

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simontoad
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As someone who used to suffer tremendous pain from gout, I was triggered by that sketch.

But point well made.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
As explained, yellowface isn't necessary to caricature Kim. The outfit and haircut would suffice.

It is certainly possible to caricature Kim Jong Un without representing his ethnicity, but the Walliams get-up doesn't look like a caricature to me at all. A caricature would pick out and exaggerate identifiable aspects Kim Jong Un's appearance to make them look ridiculous. The haircut would be the obvious thing to focus on, and from the photos I've seen, Walliams hasn't tried to exaggerate or ridicule that or any other feature. It looks to me like simple dressing up, which is not the same as a caricature.

I'd agree that caricaturing someone's race is problematic, even is they are as a person someone who thoroughly deserves a piss-taking, because that would give the appearance of suggesting (even if it were not the intent) that being of that particular race makes someone ridiculous.

However if you are not caricaturing, but simply trying to make yourself look like someone else, I don't see that you're under any obligation to ignore their race. You wouldn't be trying to poke fun at their race.

The attack element of the representation seems to me to be not that it portrays Kim Jong Un's race, but that that it portrays him as a fit subject specifically for a Halloween costume - ie. one that's meant to be scary. The message (to any fair-minded observer) is "Kim Jong Un, portrayed with reasonable accuracy*, is someone who terrifies me". Which is not a racist message. No fair-mined observer would look at Walliams' costume and conclude that his intended message was "Hey, Korean people look funny".


(*reasonable accuracy = identifiable, and better than I could do)

[ 05. November 2017, 21:27: Message edited by: Eliab ]

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
... The attack element of the representation seems to me to be not that it portrays Kim Jong Un's race, but that that it portrays him as a fit subject specifically for a Halloween costume - ie. one that's meant to be scary. The message (to any fair-minded observer) is "Kim Jong Un, portrayed with reasonable accuracy*, is someone who terrifies me". ...

Thank you Eliab. You've expressed the core of what I was trying to say much, much better than I did, especially in the bit I've selected above.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
The message (to any fair-minded observer) is "Kim Jong Un, portrayed with reasonable accuracy*, is someone who terrifies me". Which is not a racist message. No fair-mined observer would look at Walliams' costume and conclude that his intended message was "Hey, Korean people look funny".

Bullshit.
  • Given Walliams history of less than sensitive portrayals, it is entirely reasonable to question his intentions.
  • Yellowface has been used to insult and replace Asians with attempts at accurate makeup.
  • Intention is secondary to reasonably expected reaction.
  • Once again, the makeup was necessary, so why the fuck do it?


--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Yellowface has been used to insult and replace Asians with attempts at accurate makeup.

There are two different things here which I think bears some expansion.

There's yellowface used to replace Asians - this is your typical casting of white actors in makeup as Asian characters in films, which contributes to a discriminatory failure to hire Asian actors.

There's yellowface used to mock Asian people, which is something different, and is closely related to white kids pulling their eyes with their fingers to look "slitty-eyed".

If we're talking about a Hallowe'en portrayal of Kim Jong Un, the first doesn't apply: I can't hire an Asian actor to wear my Hallowe'en costume: that doesn't make sense.

I don't really buy your repeated "makeup isn't necessary" assertion. Repeated assertions do not make an argument. People do costumes in different ways. For some, the idea is to lampoon a particular person, and all that matters is that other people know who you are supposed to be. And in that case I agree that makeup serves little purpose. Other people aim for accuracy in costumes. If these people were going as some tinpot dictator, they would study photos of the person and ensure that they were wearing a uniform with all the correct braid and medals. They're getting a wig with the hair length just right. They're wearing false teeth, cheek pads, and false noses. If you're that kind of person, getting the skin tone right would be very much part of costuming yourself as a particular person. Thus I refute your "it doesn't matter" assertion.

The question is whether you can do this kind of costume as a person of another race without giving the appearance of racism (we'll stipulate that you don't intend to be racist). And I tend to think that the answer is "no" - somebody will always take it the wrong way, and so you are best off choosing a different costume.

I don't think this should be true, but until we have largely eradicated racism from our societies, it will continue to be true.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
The message (to any fair-minded observer) is "Kim Jong Un, portrayed with reasonable accuracy*, is someone who terrifies me". Which is not a racist message. No fair-mined observer would look at Walliams' costume and conclude that his intended message was "Hey, Korean people look funny".

Bullshit.
What part of that are you saying is bullshit? That a Halloween costume is (usually, in England) represents something meant to be scary? Or that David Walliams' costume looks to a fair-minded observer like a caricature of Korean people generally?

There's absolutely nothing in the photos I've seen about the costume which has been made to look exaggerated or absurd, and that would be the essence of caricature. And there's plenty about Kim Jong Un's appearance that would be easy to caricature - in particular his hairstyle - if Walliams had wanted to do that (and he, or his make-up team, clearly have the skill to have done that, had they so wanted).

Walliams' costume is quite obviously an attempt at a realistic portrayal of an individual not mockery of an ethnicity.

quote:
Given Walliams history of less than sensitive portrayals, it is entirely reasonable to question his intentions.
Question it, yes. And, having questioned, it is also reasonable to consider fairly the evidence.

quote:
Yellowface has been used to insult and replace Asians with attempts at accurate makeup.

These are different things. We're agreed that insulting an ethnic group is wrong, absolutely. I'm assuming that "replace" here refers to casting non-Asian actors as Asian characters, and using make-up to make them look Asian, with the effect that Asian actors don't get hired. I'll provisionally agree* that this is wrong too, because it's discriminatory.

(*provisionally, because in an alternate universe where racism isn't a thing, and any actor could potentially play a character of any ethnicity, with everyone on an equal footing, it wouldn't be discriminatory. In this world, though, it is).

quote:
Intention is secondary to reasonably expected reaction.

If you'd said "expected reasonable reactions" I might have agreed with you. It is often going to be uncharitable to do something that a reasonable observer would think was racist, even if you didn't intend to be racist.

I don't agree that there's a general duty to avoid conduct which clearly would not suggest racism on any sort of fair analysis, merely because some people will misconstrue or misrepresent one's actions.

Also, I find that I do, in actual fact, care more about whether David Walliams is really a racist, than I care that there are people who will accuse him of racism, whether he is or not. And therefore I think that his intentions matter.

Even if I thought that he should have avoided the costume because of other people's (possibly unfair) sensitivities - and I could be persuaded of that - I would still think that his actual intentions mattered.

I'll declare an interest here - I'm a LARPer, and I spent all of this weekend portraying a character of a different ethnicity to my own. I don't think you need to ask for pedantic details of how that different ethnicity was portrayed (whether I used clothes/accent/language/skin tone/facial prosthetics/religious iconography/food preferences/mannerisms/slang/whatever) to decide whether the portrayal was racist. You need only ask "Were you taking the piss out of group X?" and get the answer "Of course not" to conclude that it wasn't.

quote:
Once again, the makeup was necessary, so why the fuck do it?
Ascribing a racist motive to conduct which is fully explained, and better explained, without racism, is also unnecessary. So why the fuck do that?

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Richard Dawkins

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
There are two different things here which I think bears some expansion.

There's yellowface used to replace Asians - this is your typical casting of white actors in makeup as Asian characters in films, which contributes to a discriminatory failure to hire Asian actors.

There's yellowface used to mock Asian people, which is something different, and is closely related to white kids pulling their eyes with their fingers to look "slitty-eyed".

Different icing, same cake. They are both based on the dismissal of the worth of brown people.

quote:

Repeated assertions do not make an argument.

Right, except that is not what I was doing.
The repitition was for emphasis, not to explain a (what should be) self-evident point.
quote:

People do costumes in different ways. For some, the idea is to lampoon a particular person, and all that matters is that other people know who you are supposed to be. And in that case I agree that makeup serves little purpose. Other people aim for accuracy in costumes. If these people were going as some tinpot dictator, they would study photos of the person and ensure that they were wearing a uniform with all the correct braid and medals. They're getting a wig with the hair length just right. They're wearing false teeth, cheek pads, and false noses. If you're that kind of person, getting the skin tone right would be very much part of costuming yourself as a particular person. Thus I refute your "it doesn't matter" assertion.

Because someone might wish to get every detail doesn’t mean it is necessary.
As for accuracy, Walliams neither gained 4 stone nor used makeup to appear so. He chose to stop short of complete reproduction. He is a realistic example of the second type of person you describe which serves to refute your refutation.
quote:

The question is whether you can do this kind of costume as a person of another race without giving the appearance of racism (we'll stipulate that you don't intend to be racist). And I tend to think that the answer is "no" - somebody will always take it the wrong way, and so you are best off choosing a different costume.

I don't think this should be true, but until we have largely eradicated racism from our societies, it will continue to be true.

This is why any fair-minded observer would conclude that Walliams cocked it up.
.

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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AmyBo
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I am always surprised by any excuse for doing blackface, or maybe brownface in this instance? It's pretty easy: don't do it.

When Charlie Hebdo was in the news, ya'll were talking about punch up, not down. Blackface punches down; it's a white person pretending to be an ethnicity or race that white people treat like crap. Not all white people, sure, but not saying racist things doesn't give you a free pass to do racist things.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
it's a white person pretending to be an ethnicity or race that white people treat like crap. Not all white people, sure, but not saying racist things doesn't give you a free pass to do racist things.

You seem to assume an identity between “pretending to be an ethnicity” and “doing a racist thing”. This is question-begging, since that’s the precise point that’s in dispute.

I don’t accept that pretending to be a different ethnicity (in circumstances where it is clear that no insult or mockery of that ethnicity is intended) is racist. I’m not remotely racist, and I do it regularly. If you want to asset that it is, you have to do better than asserting that some (other) white people have done some (different) racist things.

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simontoad
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Ahhh, a LARPer! I was hoping to get a perspective from someone like you or someone who does cosplay. I really appreciate you putting yourself out there.

Brenda, I forgot to mention that I couldn't make the link to your photo work. It doesn't matter if its a bother, but it would be great to see it [Smile]

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Doublethink.
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So, is this racist ? Are the comedians involved in the sketch racist because blackface occurs ? Or is the fact they are mocking its existence relevant ? And is the Larp racist because it involves blackface, or because of the way blackface is done ?

Conversely, are people playing Roundheads and cavaliers being sectarian ? Does it depend where that is done, would it be unacceptable in Northern Ireland for example ?

Does the black experience in America, that shapes discourse there, necessarily apply in exactly the same way elsewhere ? The 18th century Englished Black Act wasn't passed because they thought folk were blacking up as form of racist mockery. The Rebecca riots in Wales definitely weren't.


[Fixed link - Eliab]

[ 07. November 2017, 22:06: Message edited by: Eliab ]

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:
So, is this racist ? Are the comedians involved in the sketch racist because blackface occurs ? Or is the fact they are mocking its existence relevant ? And is the Larp racist because it involves blackface, or because of the way blackface is done ?

The sketch obviously isn't racist (no reasonable person could think that Mitchell and Webb intend any racial insult).

The re-enactment also isn't, in itself, racist. It wouldn't be racist for a group of re-enactors in Congo to re-enact a battle in England, and it isn't racist the other way around either.

The use of make-up also isn't racist. It's costume. Some of the costume portrayed in the sketch is bad, and/or inauthentic (comically so), but that's not enough to make it racist.

The difficult bit is Webb's character's silly voice and mannerism at the end. That quite clearly is drawing on a crass and racist stereotype for inspiration. The only people who would think of portraying black people like that in real life would be trying to insult them. Real re-enactors (who are distinct from, and generally much more pedantic about authenticity than, us mere LARPers) would care more about getting the details right than the characters in the sketch seem to, and I can't easily imagine that a real re-enactor so stuck for realistic inspiration about his role as Webb's character seems to be would be playing that role in the first place. I suppose the only answer is that Webb's character is ignorant and inept, but there's no evidence that he intends any insult - and, most importantly, he's an unrealistic fictional character, with deliberate inconsistencies written into his persona for comic effect. But, on balance, he's not a racist, he is merely, and briefly, acting like one.

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simontoad
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Reading that thing on the not-welsh borders morris dancers reminded me of the Black Boy Inn at Caernerfon in Wales, where we stayed for a couple of nights a few years back. There's a few stories of the origin of the name, one being that it was a hideaway for Royalists, and named after King Charles II's cradle name. That's my fave, but begs the question of why the Parliamentary forces didn't put two and two together.

We did hesitate to book the place because of the name, and my recollection is that it was the best value for the location, close to the West Highland Railway. I think I ended up booking it because of the food reputation, and in that I was disappointed.

The pub is great for non-British people who have never seen a modest building older than the nineteenth century. It's a rabbit warren but our room at least was roomy. Do not attempt to move large pieces of furniture through there. A backpack could be a problem. It's got a reputation for good welsh food, but I wasn't impressed. Sauce upon sauce upon sauce is not my style.

The other thing I suppose is that we British (and I include myself because Australians like me are just British colonials) are hardly the leaders in inclusivity and what we do needs to be viewed having regard to our tradition of considering ourselves the naturally superior race. Slavery, apartheid, forced labor, white Australia policy are all par for our course. We can't forget this when we think about race.

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simontoad
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Still, at least we are not as bad as the Belgians.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:
So, is this racist ? Are the comedians involved in the sketch racist because blackface occurs ? Or is the fact they are mocking its existence relevant ? And is the Larp racist because it involves blackface, or because of the way blackface is done ?

The sketch obviously isn't racist (no reasonable person could think that Mitchell and Webb intend any racial insult).
Any reasonable person (Hell, anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex) would understand that lack of intent doesn't preclude harm.
Such a person would also conclude that privilege might obscure one's view.*
I love the effort at a back-story to the Mitchell and Webb sketch, but such contortions are not necessary.
They do absurdist comedy, they pushed the sketch in an absurd direction. It is just that simple.
Is their sketch racist? I've a mixed view on it. ISTM, their intention was just absurdity. The make-up is extremely cringe-worthy but wouldn't have been excusable if it had been film-quality.
I don't know that lack of racist intent obviates the problem that they are essentially using centuries of mockery for a quick laugh.

*But then there is this, so...
quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:

I don’t accept that pretending to be a different ethnicity (in circumstances where it is clear that no insult or mockery of that ethnicity is intended) is racist. I’m not remotely racist, and I do it regularly.

quote:

If you want to asset that it is, you have to do better than asserting that some (other) white people have done some (different) racist things.

No, you want the exception. You need to prove why it should be so.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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simontoad
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No, I think the onus lies with you lil B. I'm not sure if you're dodging it. It reads that way, but I'm unsure.

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Doublethink.
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Any reasonable person (Hell, anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex) would understand that lack of intent doesn't preclude harm.

I think this one of the sources of confusion/disagreement on this thread. In the sense that most people think of racism as a moral offence, they tend to transfer rules of thumb from how we evaluate crime.

To be found guilty of a crime, you require both a guilty act *and* a guilty mind (intentionality). Your responsibility In a given situation is, in theory, determined by your intentions and not by the severity of the outcome.

You appear to be implying that the presence of harm is evidence of moral offence.

This may partly reflect whether one is thinking about racism as an individual attitude/discrimination or whether one is reflecting on systemic racism.

I do not consider myself racist, but I recognised that my service not having purchased the assessment tools necessary for use with non-native English speakers rendered our service systemically racist.

It may be that people engage in blackface/yellow face either with or without the intention of mocking people of other races - so having racist beliefs or not - but it might be reasonable to assert that blackface is a form of systemic racism regardless, because it creates a hostile atmosphere for folk of the race imitated.

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Doublethink.
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quote:
Originally posted by simontoad:
The other thing I suppose is that we British (and I include myself because Australians like me are just British colonials) are hardly the leaders in inclusivity and what we do needs to be viewed having regard to our tradition of considering ourselves the naturally superior race. Slavery, apartheid, forced labor, white Australia policy are all par for our course. We can't forget this when we think about race.

I would not dispute this, the British Empire was built of the back of criminal and viscious exploitation. But the history of Britain is not identical with the US.

I recall Twitter exchanges where Americans have argued it is impossible to be racist to white people - on the grounds it doesn't form systemic oppression - but I am convinced that the Irish experience in the UK in the 20th century disproves that. The same might be said of the Scots, who experienced ethnic cleansing at the hands of the English in the 18th century. Arguably, the experience of Eastern Europeans in the UK now also provides counter evidence. England has been, and continues to be, a racist country - that's undeniable.

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All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. George Orwell

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Any reasonable person (Hell, anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex) would understand that lack of intent doesn't preclude harm.

We’ve identified three sorts of harm. Exclusion, deliberate insult, and apparent insult.

The first doesn’t require intent at all, but it only applies where there is a competition for roles, and people of one group are using make-up to take roles that others would get with no reciprocity. It’s irrelevant to the cases we are discussing.

We’re also agreed that deliberate racial insults are wrong. And I think we’re agreed that something might look like a deliberate insult without being one, and it would be polite to avoid giving that appearance. Intention, is relevant to both, though in different ways. What is common to both is that an observer could conclude that an insult might have been intended (even if that could be a mistaken impression).

But where it is obvious that no insult is intended, or at least where that would be obvious to any fair-minded person, there’s no harm. No one has to feel insulted. I can’t stop people choosing to take offence, but I see no reason to let those people dictate my choice of hobby.

quote:
No, you want the exception. You need to prove why it should be so.
No. I think the general rule is “don’t treat people less favourably on racial grounds - otherwise, wear whatever the fuck you like”.

I don’t think there is a general rule “don’t dress up as other races”, so I don’t think I need an exception to it. We are agreed that it is at least sometimes wrong, and I think that is because of the specific harms that have been identified, and which we would both say apply to the instances which we agree are wrong. You seem to be arguing that dressing up as another race is still generally wrong even if those harms are entirely avoided (as they are in most of the cases under discussion here), and I think that you haven’t even begun to make a convincing case for that.

[ 08. November 2017, 07:43: Message edited by: Eliab ]

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Richard Dawkins

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Bishops Finger
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I don't know much about David Walliams, but it always seems to me as if his name has been misspelt, and should read Williams.

Reminds me of the late, great, Spike Milligna, that well-known typing error.

I'll get me coat, and shut the door on the way out.

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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His name is indeed Williams, but apparently Equity advised him to change it for his stage name as they already had a David Williams on their books.

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Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. - Oscar Wilde

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Bishops Finger
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Well, my instinct was right! Thanks for the info.

IJ

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AmyBo
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quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:
So, is this racist ? Are the comedians involved in the sketch racist because blackface occurs ? Or is the fact they are mocking its existence relevant ? And is the Larp racist because it involves blackface, or because of the way blackface is done ?

Yep, racist.

I don't think racist is a huge moral failing; I think it can be that we jut missed the mark. I've missed the mark all the time. But then I look at what I did.

In the context of American history especially, Blackface was used to denigrate, ridicule, and reinforce institutional racism, and carries those values with it. It's still really loaded. Race isn't shoe polish, and to try to change one's race with paint reduces the experience of people of color -that white people cannot fully understand - to costume. That's rude.

I've seen a LARPer in shoe polish or whatever they've used, and it was cringeworthy at best. I avoided him; it wasn't my space to challenge him (it was my first time); however, I couldn't look him in the eye and it was part of my reasoning for not going back.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:

I recall Twitter exchanges where Americans have argued it is impossible to be racist to white people - on the grounds it doesn't form systemic oppression -

Racism is bias based on race. Anyone can be racist, with or without any oppression.
The difference is what harm it does.
quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:
but it might be reasonable to assert that blackface is a form of systemic racism regardless, because it creates a hostile atmosphere for folk of the race imitated.

This is something that any reasonable person will recognise.
quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:

You appear to be implying that the presence of harm is evidence of moral offence.

When what one does causes harm, one should feel the need to understand why. I don't see that here. I see people hanging their hat on intent.
If one is going to use law as a model, think of it like the negligence laws. Intent is not the criterion here, but failure of reasonable action.
Dressing up as a member of a group which still suffers from oppression for amusement is going to be fraught, regardless of intent.
It is privilege that blinds one to this.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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simontoad
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quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
quote:
Originally posted by Doublethink.:
So, is this racist ? Are the comedians involved in the sketch racist because blackface occurs ? Or is the fact they are mocking its existence relevant ? And is the Larp racist because it involves blackface, or because of the way blackface is done ?

Yep, racist.

I don't think racist is a huge moral failing; I think it can be that we jut missed the mark. I've missed the mark all the time. But then I look at what I did.

In the context of American history especially, Blackface was used to denigrate, ridicule, and reinforce institutional racism, and carries those values with it. It's still really loaded. Race isn't shoe polish, and to try to change one's race with paint reduces the experience of people of color -that white people cannot fully understand - to costume. That's rude.

I've seen a LARPer in shoe polish or whatever they've used, and it was cringeworthy at best. I avoided him; it wasn't my space to challenge him (it was my first time); however, I couldn't look him in the eye and it was part of my reasoning for not going back.

I really like this post, especially the bit where you review your actions with humility. I would say that racism isn't
necessarily a huge moral failing. If that's your insight (and I'm sticking a word in) I think its a good one.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
Yep, racist.

For clarity, are you saying that Mitchell and Webb are being racist, or that the (fictional) re-enactors that they are sending up are racist?

quote:
I don't think racist is a huge moral failing;
I do think that being racist is a huge moral failing.

And I think that this a mark of superiority for my position over yours.

quote:
In the context of American history especially, Blackface was used to denigrate, ridicule, and reinforce institutional racism
For sure. But we aren't taking about denigration, ridicule or reinforcement of institutional injustice. Everyone on this thread, as far I can see, agrees that dressing up as another race for that sort of purpose would be wrong.

We aren't even talking about cases which could easily be misconstrued as that. I don't think it's possible to look at Walliams' costume and honestly think that he dressed up like that to take the piss out of Korean people. I don't think it's possible to watch the Mitchell and Webb sketch and honestly think that they wrote it to take the piss out of Congolese people.

Well, maybe it is possible, but the viewer would need to be phenomenally obtuse, and grossly unfair. There really isn't any reasonable way to confuse what those performers are doing with the sort of racism that gave us blackface, and I think it's disingenuous to argue as if there was.

quote:
Race isn't shoe polish
And a sheet of clingfilm stretched over a gap in silver coloured fabric won't keep you alive in the cold vacuum of space.

But it'll do if you're dressing up as an astronaut.

quote:
to try to change one's race with paint reduces the experience of people of color -that white people cannot fully understand - to costume.
It's trivially true that a white person can't fully understand the experience of a person of colour, because no one can fully understand anybody else's experience. SFW?

Can we agree that if I, a person of race A, had the talent to write a story in which the lead character was a person of race B, that would not, in itself, be racist?

If I did that, I would probably do two things - I would signal that the character was indeed of race B, and I would imagine how that character would think and act, taking into account the personality I had written for him of which his membership of race B might be a greater or lesser factor, in the circumstances of the story. The signalling could be done in various ways - describing a skin colour, use of an ethnic name, reference to a place of birth, use of religious or cultural features - and would be relatively simple. However the fact that the signalling of race is achieved with the shallowest effort, is no clue whatsoever to the depth of thought that I may (or may not) have put into imagining the character and his experiences.

LARP is a form of story-telling. It can, like any other form, be done well, or it can be done badly. I don't think any serious LARPer thinks that they can "fully understand" the experience of a different race or culture, but that doesn't mean that making the effort is valueless - at a minimum, it gives an appreciation that the experience is different, and that my way of seeing the world isn't the only one.

Different LARPers have different standards of costume and authenticity - but essentially the costume is the signal. Painting one's face green or black is the exact equivalent of writing "Grallac had lived all his life in the goblin-warrens of Dastria..." or "A young African-American man was standing in the corner of the room..." in a novel. It tells you a bit about the character as a prelude to actually telling their story. It's that subsequent imagining which is the real point of the exercise.

It seems to me that if it isn't racist to imagine and portray a character of a different race through a written medium, it isn't racist to do so through an improvised dramatic medium either. Your complaint that we can't fully understand another race's experience is as nonsensical to me as an objection to LARP as I hope it is to you as an objection to novels.

[ 09. November 2017, 15:56: Message edited by: Eliab ]

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:

And I think that this a mark of superiority for my position over yours.

Superior...
Telling choice of words.
quote:
For sure. But we aren't taking about denigration, ridicule or reinforcement of institutional injustice.

A more correct way of constructing that sentence would be 'we aren't talking about intentional denigration, ridicule or reinforcement of institutional injustice.'
quote:

We aren't even talking about cases which could easily be misconstrued as that. I don't think it's possible to look at Walliams' costume and honestly think that he dressed up like that to take the piss out of Korean people.

Of course it is possible. Is it reasonable? From a photograph one cannot know his intentions. His behaviour would give more clues, however, barring descriptions of that surfacing we do not know those.

quote:

I don't think it's possible to watch the Mitchell and Webb sketch and honestly think that they wrote it to take the piss out of Congolese people.

No one said anything about Congolese people or M&W taking the piss out of a nationality.
quote:

Well, maybe it is possible, but the viewer would need to be phenomenally obtuse, and grossly unfair. There really isn't any reasonable way to confuse what those performers are doing with the sort of racism that gave us blackface, and I think it's disingenuous to argue as if there was.

What a moronic statement. No, not accurate: Your post is an advanced stage, syphilitic moron with severe oxygen deprivation. If it were not for the history of blackface, the sketch would not have happened. It needs that history to make sense.
quote:

It's trivially true that a white person can't fully understand the experience of a person of colour, because no one can fully understand anybody else's experience. SFW?

Holy shit! And I though the last statement daft. It isn't trivial. That you think it is underscore how little you appear to comprehend racism and its legacy.
quote:

Can we agree that if I, a person of race A, had the talent to write a story in which the lead character was a person of race B, that would not, in itself, be racist?

Slow your roll. Writing ≠ LARP.


quote:

LARP is a form of story-telling.

No it isn't. It is a bunch of grown-arse people who still wanna play dress-up.
I know, because I've seen it and feel sympathy towards the participants. Erm, I am sympathetic towards the desire to LARP. Hell, some of my best friends have LARP'd and I've read a bit, so I am an expert with a deep knowledge of the whole thing. Except for the trivial bits, of course.

Sarcasm aside, LARP is more akin to improv with a particular set of limitations than it is to story telling. In other words; dress-up for grownups. This is not denigration, but an accurate description.

quote:

but essentially the costume is the signal.

And all that is necessary.

quote:

Painting one's face green or black is the exact equivalent of writing "Grallac had lived all his life in the goblin-warrens of Dastria..." or "A young African-American man was standing in the corner of the room..." in a novel.

No, the fuck, it isn't. Black people aren't fictional, for one. Literature has its own problems with racist caricatures and inauthentic characters. But we needn't go down that tangent.

LARPenacting is a visual medium. You see the skinny white dude in blackface and a bad afro pretending to be Sigidi kaSenzangakhona (Shaka) Zulu.
If blackface were truly ancient history, then your "respectful" re-enactment argument might have legs. As it is not, it does not.


A related anecdote. I once watched a production of The Elephant Man in which the man playing Merrick wore no prosthetic at all. The play was brilliant.
And no one was at all confused. Weird, huh?

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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AmyBo
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
Yep, racist.

For clarity, are you saying that Mitchell and Webb are being racist, or that the (fictional) re-enactors that they are sending up are racist?
It's all racist. Doing racist things to send up racism is still racist.

quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
I don't think racist is a huge moral failing;
I do think that being racist is a huge moral failing.

And I think that this a mark of superiority for my position over yours.

I am little offended by this; I will endeavor to stay in purgatory though. I think it can be a spectrum. Some of it is a huge moral failing, but it's not all so. Such as a tacky sketch.

quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
In the context of American history especially, Blackface was used to denigrate, ridicule, and reinforce institutional racism
For sure. But we aren't taking about denigration, ridicule or reinforcement of institutional injustice. Everyone on this thread, as far I can see, agrees that dressing up as another race for that sort of purpose would be wrong.

We aren't even talking about cases which could easily be misconstrued as that. I don't think it's possible to look at Walliams' costume and honestly think that he dressed up like that to take the piss out of Korean people. I don't think it's possible to watch the Mitchell and Webb sketch and honestly think that they wrote it to take the piss out of Congolese people.

Well, maybe it is possible, but the viewer would need to be phenomenally obtuse, and grossly unfair. There really isn't any reasonable way to confuse what those performers are doing with the sort of racism that gave us blackface, and I think it's disingenuous to argue as if there was.

I think you just called me obtuse?

It's not about nationality, it's about RACE. In that case, Black people. That performance IS blackface. The act of putting on makeup to look like another race is in and of itself a denigrating act. The BLACK people being ridiculed for their BLACKNESS cannot take off their BLACK skin and walk away. It's not a costume.

quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Race isn't shoe polish
And a sheet of clingfilm stretched over a gap in silver coloured fabric won't keep you alive in the cold vacuum of space.

But it'll do if you're dressing up as an astronaut.



For the people in back: RACE. IS. NOT. COSTUME.

Posts: 122 | From: Minnesota | Registered: Aug 2009  |  IP: Logged
AmyBo
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:

quote:
to try to change one's race with paint reduces the experience of people of color -that white people cannot fully understand - to costume.
It's trivially true that a white person can't fully understand the experience of a person of colour, because no one can fully understand anybody else's experience. SFW?

Can we agree that if I, a person of race A, had the talent to write a story in which the lead character was a person of race B, that would not, in itself, be racist?

I'm really struggling with this. To write and to mock a person's appearance are such different things that I'm not seeing the connection. And the act of writing does not shield oneself from racism any more than sexism; but that's a different topic.

I'm not responding to the rest because I think we're getting too personal.

Peace!

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
I'm not responding to the rest because I think we're getting too personal.

I apologise. I think the position you are arguing for is flawed, but you are quite right that it doesn't need to be personal.

I am sorry I offended you, and will try to argue less aggressively.

I will have a go at getting to the heart of our disagreement, though.

quote:
I'm really struggling with this. To write and to mock a person's appearance are such different things that I'm not seeing the connection.
OK - the reason you're struggling is that you don't seem to get that I deeply disagree with this:

quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
The act of putting on makeup to look like another race is in and of itself a denigrating act.

You seem to think that this is obviously true. To me it seems obviously wrong.

I'm NOT saying that dressing up as another race is NEVER wrong. You, and others, have cited cases of it which I completely agree are wrong - and we can identify, and agree about, what makes those cases wrong. But you have failed to set out a cogent argument from the specific cases that we agree about to the general rule that you are arguing for. The racism is NOT inherent in the act of dressing up. The racism is in the mockery. Subtract that, and what's left is innocent.

Do you think, for example, that if the Mitchell and Webb sketch were reversed, and a group of black re-enactors were dressing up as roundheads and cavaliers, that would be racist? Even if they were as comically bad at it as the white actors were at dressing up as Congolese soldiers?

Because I don't see how it would. There's simply no reasonable way to see bad ECW re-enactment and leap to the conclusion that the English as a race are being mocked.

I'm applying that same reasoning to all races. If it's obvious that there's no racial mockery, there's no reason to see racism. You seem to be saying that even if you knew for certain that there was no racial mockery you would still see racism. To me - because I think racism is a serious fault - that is not only an illogical position, it risks being an unfair one.

--------------------
"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by AmyBo:
]I'm really struggling with this. To write and to mock a person's appearance are such different things that I'm not seeing the connection. And the act of writing does not shield oneself from racism any more than sexism; but that's a different topic.

Which Is why I'm against those who mock the size of Trump's hands. He has absolutely no control over that and it's offensive. There's enough to criticise about what he says without geting into this area.

There seems to me to be an enormous difference between black-face or yellow-face on the one hand and caricaturing Kim on the other. Walliams gives every appearance of attacking Kim and not being at all racist.

--------------------
Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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