While I'm not always the biggest fan of Margaret Cho's art, I sometimes find myself on the same wavelength as her when it comes to race matters. This is a long and not very interesting setup: The other day I abandoned a very list-y post in which I enumerated things that were wow (Rachel Ingalls fiction), things I still liked (Harry Stephen Keeler, Italian food), and things I was sick of. This last category included George Carlin (whose shtick/persona/whatever I find completely, bafflingly unappealing) and the "Harujuku Girls," the uber-fashionable Japanese pixies, denizens of the fastest-forward district in Tokyo, who serve as muses and mute chorus for Gwen Stefani.
I must have been prompted to grumbling by the recent Times photo of GS with her Nipponese posse, because Cho had a reaction, too. I like her ambivalence: "I want to like them, and I want to think they are great, but I am not sure if I can. I mean, racial stereotypes are really cute sometimes, and I don't want to bum everyone out by pointing out the minstrel show."
I wonder what Cho thinks about...Sarah Silverman. I know some Asian-Americans who aren't convinced she should be disliked for a joke she made on Conan a while back, but forgive me for not being a Silvermaniac.
This is from Steve Almond's recent piece in Nextbook:
Silverman knows about the risks of taking such an approach. A few years ago she found herself embroiled in a national controversy after she told the following joke on Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Silverman receives a summons for jury duty. A friend suggests she send back the form with something racist written on it, such as "I hate chinks." "I didn't want them to think I was racist," Silverman says, "but I did want to get out [of] jury duty, so I wrote, 'I love chinks.'"
In Jesus Is Magic, she admits that newspaper stories about the episode did bother her. Specifically, she's concerned that Jews are losing control of the media. "What kind of world are we living in," she demands, "where a totally cute white girl can't say 'chink' on TV? I mean, come on. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I tell Asian people that all the time."
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POSTSCRIPT (11/12): Author Dean Koontz's recent anti-Japanese remarks at a mystery writers' convention have drawn some coverage; the Guardian has some of the story here.