Racist or no? Ali G at the Oscars


So I’ve been thinking about #OscarsSoWhite and the use of Asian kids as the butt of a bad racist joke that didn’t work. I have also watched the Ali G footage a few times and I feel that the piece shows up foolish white and privileged folk who get non-white people’s names wrong (referring to previous award ceremonies where presenters struggled with “foreign” names), think yellow dudes have small dicks, forget about the black guy in Star Wars, or only see John Boyega as a black kid (a criticism towards people who only define a person by the colour of their skin) etc. In character as Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen also reminded us to notice the Academy’s efforts to include loads of token ethnic minorities as presenters, and that folk *sometimes* appropriate black culture merely to be cool.

I mentioned in a Facebook conversation somewhere that Sacha Baron Cohen uses bouffon as a strategy to criticise society – bouffon being a form of character comedy which uses an “outsider” character (in this case, suburban white kid who has appropriated black culture) to question and criticise society – but this does not mean that one needs to know about the form of comedy to see what he’s doing.

I do however take the point that folk might not see the critical nature of the comedy because of course there ARE racist comedians out there. And you can’t predict how the audience will receive your material so it’s a risk. And of course some folk in the audience didn’t get it but that is not the point. Many others did and many others are inspired by what he stood up for. It’s worth thinking about – inspiring makers and performers to speak out themselves, in their own way, may be relatively easier and more productive to do than to try changing one privileged person entrenched in the system and unwilling to change.

That’s always a danger with comedy or art – working out what the intention was and how it will be received. I do NOT advocate any comedian or performer using a character as a thin veil to hide behind to be racist or to bust out cheap jokes at the expense of the weak. The accountancy joke was lame, fell flat, and was racist. (I do not know who wrote it or if something went wrong – I know how easily this can happen- but the end result was a shame.)

Sacha Baron Cohen on the other hand, deliberately snuck his costume into the awards after being banned by the Academy from causing a stir, and used his position to create a stir. AND he did state that diversity and change is more than about black and white people which I of course appreciate.

I decided to write his because I was disturbed by the hatred I’ve caught glimpses of against him and his wife, Isla Fisher (who incidentally, is an incredible comic actress who is inspiring in a male dominated industry where women aren’t considered funny. How is it possible that we don’t believe that anyone small or vaguely pretty can be funny?)

I know many won’t agree with me but just thought I’d state my case.

Here’s the clip if you haven’t seen it: http://youtu.be/2TdfOOIlPu0

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