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[personal profile] morgan_dhu

OK, we all know that a huge swath of popular culture is in reality a massive slough of despond when it comes to racial, ethnic, religious, gender and other kinds of stereotyping. In fact, sometimes it seems as though the mainstay of much popular culture is poor and/or lazy conceptualisation, design, art and writing that depends on stereotyping of one sort or another to communicate its message.

But seeing as how all sorts of people who are regularly stereotyped have been watching, analysing and complaining about this sort of thing for a very long time now, you’d think that somewhere along the line, the folks who create this kind of stuff might have toned it down just a little.

Well, you’d be thinking wrong.

First, there’s this mindboggling plotline in a children’s cartoon based on the Legion of Superheroes, in which a prospective new member is made to prove his worthiness to join the Legion by doing all the other superheroes’ laundry. Apparently it did not enter the writers’ minds that this might be a touch inappropriate, considering that the prospective member is an Asian character.

Wanna join our society as a full member with equal rights and priviliges? Maybe, sometime in the future – but for now, just shut up and do our laundry.

Then there’s the clothiers Abercrombie and Fitch, which in 2002* released a line of designer T-shirts sporting offensive caricatures of Asians:
One has a slogan that says, "Wong Brothers Laundry Service -- Two Wongs Can Make It White." Beside the prominent lettering are two smiling figures in conical hats harking back to 1900s popular-culture depictions of Chinese men.
More laundry. How original.

And then there’s the advertising for an international fast-food take-out and delivery chain that features a happy black family sitting down to partake of their featured fare. Just one bite, and the main character can’t help himself – he just has to jump up and start singing and dancing about how much he loves Kentucky Fried Chicken. (I have no link for this, but if you’re in Canada and watch English-language TV, I’m sure you’ve seen it.)

So, what have you seen lately in the realm of blatant in-your-face offensive stereotyping?


*I originally thought this was a recent product, becasue I do not always notice dates, but [personal profile] jenwritespointed out that this occurred in 2002. No matter when they did it, it's still some weird racist stereotyping shit.

Date: 2007-10-29 09:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenwrites.livejournal.com
Then there’s the clothiers Abercrombie and Fitch, which has just released a line of designer T-shirts sporting offensive caricatures of Asians:

Check the date on that story again. It's from 2002.

Date: 2007-10-29 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morgan-dhu.livejournal.com
Oops. Somehow, everything seems current on the Net.I'll fix that.

Date: 2007-10-30 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fancymcsnazsnaz.livejournal.com
So Ruby and I have been out Halloween costume shopping (and just having Halloween costumes in my face when I've been doing any kind of shopping) lately, and I cannot believe the costumes for kids. Target had a geisha costume for toddlers. (White girl in the picture on the package, of course.) It's not exactly the same, but it is some blatant, in-your-face offensive appropriation and objectification. I had to explain to Ruby that concepts like geisha and "Indian princess" (GAG) are not costumes.

Date: 2007-10-30 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morgan-dhu.livejournal.com
Good point about racial and ethnic objectification/appropriation in Hallowe'en costumes for kids. I don't know if this is still a popular "costume," but when I was young, dressing like a "gypsy" was a favourite.

Very interesting combinations of layers of othering - dress kids up in totally inaccurate dress associated with cultures that are seen as different, exotic and inferior, if you're dressing up girls, make sure that you're also using highly sexualised sterotypes, and then send the kids out to beg and/or threaten on a night where things are supposed to be scary.

Oh, and let's ignore the fact that for at least some people, the day in question is still a religious festival devoted to either honouring or placating the spirits of the dead.

I just love the North American culture, don't you? Not.

Date: 2007-11-26 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deven-science.livejournal.com
According to my son's school, it's not Halloween. It's the "Harvest Festival". I've got a whole rant on that one somewhere.

Date: 2007-11-27 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morgan-dhu.livejournal.com
The symbolism of Hallowe'en, whether Christian (All Souls' Eve) or pagan (Samhain and other such festivals of the dead, which is likely where the Christian church took All souls' Eve from anyway) is not the same as the Harvest Home symbolism.

The purist in me dislikes the wholesale sanitizing and renaming/reconstructing of historical traditions, even if they are deemed to be improper for some reason in modern times.

It's one thing to wear costumes that are not insulting to other people of different backgrounds, or problematic in terms of how we have reconstructed images of childhood, and another to wave your wand and say "that old tradition of dressing up like other people so vengeful spirits couldn't figure out who you are and do you some harm on the night when they find it easiest to cross over, and/or pretending to be those spirits - all gone. We're dressing up because there's enough corn and wheat in the barn to last the winter, even though in our culture most of us eat food flown in from other continents on a year round basis and only people living in farming communities have any idea of what a harvest home means anymore, anyway."

Date: 2008-01-25 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victoriacatlady.livejournal.com
The thing that's been bothering me lately is the increasing use of "girl" for adult women. I thought we got rid of that. I'm also seeing a bit of a comeback in "mankind" and "man" and "men."

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