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Monday, January 09, 2006

Asian Americans heart McDonalds

A year ago, McDonald's launched www.i-am-asian.com, where a caption under changing pictures of Asian Americans exuberantly consuming various McDonald's fare reads:
We're Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and our diverse cultures and our everyday American lifestyle are becoming one. We're hanging on to our great traditions while we move to the beat of the times. We honor our heritage and we love being Americans. From high fashion to high tech, from Asian Pacific American hip hop to haute cuisine, we're weaving the threads of our culture into the fabric of everyday American life. Whether we're celebrating one of our cultural holidays or enjoying a Big Mac sandwich, we're helping make the magic mix called America become even richer. And McDonald's is right there with us, everyday! We are proud of our cultural heritage. (more in extended post)
Luckily, I think this sad attempt to twist cultural awareness into a marketing campaign will simply be met by dismissal (or annoyance, if like me you noticed that "Taiwanese" isn't included under the fifteen cultures "McDonald Celebrates"). I do reluctantly admit, though, that the fact that Asian Americans are getting a nod in any marketing campaign is unusual and at least recognizes we are a growing population and can't be ignored.

An extension from this example, which tries not to participate in racial pidgeonholing, is how essential it is to be aware of and to avoid stereotyping as a form of racism. A list-serv discussion of this brought up the point that this is something that is very not okay, but is often found to be hilarious simply because it's not considered wrong. The prime example of this is making fun of Asian accents. Years ago, it used to be a German accent that was found to be so funny, and now it seems to be a Chinese one. Here's an example that was quoted, where "Tai Mai Shu" (tie my shoe) sings/raps in a Cantonese accent about he wants to eat a cheeseburger at McDonald's for 39 cents and how Asians study hard etc. For some reason, it seems acceptable for people not to be politically correct about Asians in America.

3 Comments:

At 7:49 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

I was talking to someone about racist humor last night. I always here "oh, it's not racist, it's a joke!" as if jokes simply can't be racist. If a joke is laughing at the idiocy of the stereotype, then it's not a racist joke. If it's funny because it plays into the stereotype, it's racist!

The subtlty seems to confuse people. Hell, I read that (while the conspiracy theory is entertaining), part of the reason Chapelle decided to cancel his show is that he worried that people were laughing with the stereotypes/racism, not at them as he intended...

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger deborah ho said...

That's very interesting...I think the line is verrryy thin sometimes. Some people also mistakenly think, if I belong to a category, I can make fun of it with impunity. That's not true; I think it tends to be more the fact that if you are a part of a group, you understand it well enough to make fun of the stereotype and not play into the stereotype. For example, I find Russell Peters to be hilarious. My favourite are his "mixing people" bit and his "wedding" bit, because the first one's just genius and the second is so true. Some of his jokes definitely stereotype but I don't find it to be in a negative way. Definitely a difficult line to draw.

 
At 7:20 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

I agree that there's a difference in humor as you pointed out, Andrew. I also believe that Deb is right in saying that people who are part of an in-group making fun of something is very different than when out-group people make fun of it due to more personal cultural understanding and sensitivity. Black jokes by Chris Rock = Funny. Black Jokes by Andrew Dice Clay = Not Funny.

 

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