Shouting ‘racist’ isn’t the answer
CHICAGO — To appropriate the Franco-centric rallying cry of those who defend satire even when they don’t agree with it: Je suis Barbie!
Specifically, the fictional “Six New Barbie Dolls That Reflect 21st Century Women,” which Janet Eve Josselyn thought up and listed on the “Points in Case” blog.
Among these treasures of contemporary femininity are “Facebook Barbie,” which posts “food-porn pictures of desserts she will never eat” and “copious pictures of herself and Ken in front of famous sites around the world so everyone will know that Barbie isn’t stuck at home doing housework anymore.”
And there’s “Hot Flash Barbie,” which “sports plastic sweat beads on her brow and a big old spare tire of belly fat to accompany her saggy fanny.”
“Lesbian Barbie,” “Xbox Barbie” and “Rehab Barbie” are described in the same vulgar — and hilarious — terms. But I would never have heard of them if “Illegal Immigrant Barbie” hadn’t infuriated the Hispanic blogosphere into losing any sense of perspective and humor.
“Illegal Immigrant Barbie is tethered to a bunch of children and comes with a compass and a coyote,” reads her description. “Her hair is unkempt and her cheeks lack the rosy glow of the 20th-century Barbies. She is armed with wire cutters and sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil. She clutches Ken’s phone number in the event that she is detained by the Border Patrol.”
“Illegal Immigrant Barbie” is pregnant, sports a black eye and is pictured with a shopping cart full of multi-racial children (one of which looks remarkably like North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un) and two six-packs of Budweiser, several packs of Marlboros, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
Tasteless? Yes. Offensive? Sure — as offensive as assuming that all lesbians wear “baggy dark clothing and military-style boots.”
But is it racist?
That’s the charge among people with no sense of humor.
A contributor at Latina.com — which features such dignified fare as “6 Crazy Ways to Get a Bigger Butt” and a promo for “Latina’s Hot Papi Search!” — called the piece racist and declared it “not funny,” all the while agreeing it was satire.
The piece, written by Cristina Arreola, never explained the race part since “Illegal Immigrant Barbie” is tall, blond, blue-eyed and, in all ways except the pregnant belly, Barbie-ish.
Who’s to say “Illegal Immigrant Barbie” isn’t Polish or Estonian? (Not all illegal immigrants are Hispanic or Latino.) Or are we to believe that Josselyn is prejudiced against white people?
Arreola wrote: “All six entries bleed with ignorance and intolerance. However, the ‘Illegal Immigrant’ Barbie takes the stupidity to an entirely new level.”
Then again, overreacting to something silly and smearing its creator for it — Arreola dropped this little nugget on Josselyn: “Racism makes you die earlier. Just saying.” — arguably takes intolerance to a whole new level as well.
But overreaction seems to be our default mode these days.
The “all-white Oscars” complaint is overblown. Those who believe we need more movies that include actors with ethnicities and races that are representative of our diverse population aren’t doing their cause justice by jumping on this bandwagon.
Just look at the Best Picture nominees.
“Selma” obviously has a diverse cast, but “Whiplash” also features Asian, East Asian and African-American actors. Not only was “Birdman” directed by Alejandro González Inarritu, a Mexican director, but is also features a score by Mexican-born drummer/composer Antonio Sanchez.
Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” features two magnificent actors in the co-starring role of “Zero”: Guatemalan-American Tony Revolori and Assyrian-American F. Murray Abraham.
Yes, it would be wonderful if, by some miracle, the nominees and winners of all awards given in the United States were not only based solely on merit and outstanding excellence but were also exactly 63 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, 5 percent Asian and about 1 percent Native American or Pacific Islander.
But alleging that an awards show is racist because it’s not delivering on a social justice ideal is hardly constructive.
Those who are intolerant of everything that rubs them the wrong way and resort to the most inflammatory slur modern America has to offer — “racist” — only make matters worse.
Let’s save the heavy artillery of accusing racism for the most pressing issues that affect real people daily. Lord knows we have plenty of those to deal with.
Esther Cepeda’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.
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