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Old 01-09-2020, 05:51 AM
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Comedy foreign accents and racism


I make a few scambaiting videos on YouTube, mainly about email scams, most of which originate from countries in Africa.

A very frequently-asked question I get is "Why don't you real the emails in a funny Indian accent?"
(People are asking this because the majority of *phone-based* scams seem to be from call centres in India - and baiting these scammers is the predominant form of the scambaiting genre on YouTube now - but what I do is not the same)

But I feel like the 'comedy Indian accent', especially when it is done specifically to lampoon the supposed mannerisms of a race or culture from the outside, is sort of nearly all the way alongside blackface in terms of how (un)acceptable it is. It was accepted in the past, but it belongs in the past.

Thing is, I have quite inconsistent feelings on this depending on who is the target nationality, but I think a lot of that comes back to the intent of the piece - for example, in the British comedy 'Allo 'Allo! British, German, French and Italian accents are all used as comic devices (and the accents are absolutely essential to the material as the characters all speak English, but those speaking with an English accent cannot understand those with, for example, a French accent), but it seems like this was all harmless comedy. Was it, or do I just have a blind spot for this kind of example?
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Old 01-09-2020, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
I make a few scambaiting videos on YouTube, mainly about email scams, most of which originate from countries in Africa.

A very frequently-asked question I get is "Why don't you real the emails in a funny Indian accent?"
(People are asking this because the majority of *phone-based* scams seem to be from call centres in India - and baiting these scammers is the predominant form of the scambaiting genre on YouTube now - but what I do is not the same)

But I feel like the 'comedy Indian accent', especially when it is done specifically to lampoon the supposed mannerisms of a race or culture from the outside, is sort of nearly all the way alongside blackface in terms of how (un)acceptable it is. It was accepted in the past, but it belongs in the past.

Thing is, I have quite inconsistent feelings on this depending on who is the target nationality, but I think a lot of that comes back to the intent of the piece - for example, in the British comedy 'Allo 'Allo! British, German, French and Italian accents are all used as comic devices (and the accents are absolutely essential to the material as the characters all speak English, but those speaking with an English accent cannot understand those with, for example, a French accent), but it seems like this was all harmless comedy. Was it, or do I just have a blind spot for this kind of example?
No, you've just illustrated once again why punching down vs punching up (or sideways, really, in the case of 'Allo 'Allo) is a real thing.

So, recent example - Romesh Ranganathan can get away with putting on a fake "Oh My Golly-Gosh" accent at the Royal Variety. Rob Beckett could not.

Where I find a bit of a grey area in UK comedy is regional accents, because there's often quite a classist slant to someone doing e.g. Scouser or Glawegian. But not always. I tend to judge case-by-case.
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Old 01-09-2020, 06:06 AM
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Our sensitivities change over time. I wasn't alive when blackface was all the rage, but I'm not sure it was all that insulting then. Was there a lot of criticism in 1900? I doubt it.

One possibility for this change is the shrinking world. >100 years ago, the average Joe wasn't exposed to as much variety and diversity as now. Perhaps hearing a foreign accent on stage was quite a different experience than today. Improved communications has re-melted our pot.
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Old 01-09-2020, 06:47 AM
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Our sensitivities change over time. I wasn't alive when blackface was all the rage, but I'm not sure it was all that insulting then. Was there a lot of criticism in 1900? I doubt it.
Possibly because no one gave a shit what black people had to say back then ?
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Old 01-09-2020, 07:27 AM
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No, you've just illustrated once again why punching down vs punching up (or sideways, really, in the case of 'Allo 'Allo) is a real thing.

So, recent example - Romesh Ranganathan can get away with putting on a fake "Oh My Golly-Gosh" accent at the Royal Variety. Rob Beckett could not.

Where I find a bit of a grey area in UK comedy is regional accents, because there's often quite a classist slant to someone doing e.g. Scouser or Glawegian. But not always. I tend to judge case-by-case.
Thanks - and I think whilst it's not always possible to know intent, there is a difference between:
"X people talk funny - listen to me talking funny like a person of race X - don't I sound a funny and stupid?"
and
"Here's a funny situation when people with this accent/culture say this specific thing"

- They're both stereotypes, but the latter seems like it would be something the targets could maybe laugh along with; the former is just mockery for its own sake
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Old 01-09-2020, 07:37 AM
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Our sensitivities change over time. I wasn't alive when blackface was all the rage, but I'm not sure it was all that insulting then. Was there a lot of criticism in 1900? I doubt it.

One possibility for this change is the shrinking world. >100 years ago, the average Joe wasn't exposed to as much variety and diversity as now. Perhaps hearing a foreign accent on stage was quite a different experience than today. Improved communications has re-melted our pot.
I'm old enough to have seen The Black And White Minstrels on TV. It just seemed at the time that it was a thing that happened - if anyone was concerned about it at the time (and I can imagine people probably were), their voice was nowhere heard in the media or popular culture. Casual, but quite overt racism was popular in all forms of comedy - and standup comedians such as Jim Davidson performed material on stage and TV containing all manner of racial slurs, and nobody did anything, because nobody seemed to think anything needed doing.

Only over time did the world gradually change- looking back with today's eyes, it's quite horrific, but at the time, there was a sort of collective ignorance just accepting it all - a collective ignorance that we were all both conditioned by, and contributing to.
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Old 01-09-2020, 07:40 AM
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But I feel like the 'comedy Indian accent', especially when it is done specifically to lampoon the supposed mannerisms of a race or culture from the outside, is sort of nearly all the way alongside blackface in terms of how (un)acceptable it is. It was accepted in the past, but it belongs in the past.
I think you're right. The point is the obvious idiocy of the scam, not the fact that the scammers (however idiotic) are [insert ethnicity here], which putting on a "comedy" accent (which most people can't do as convincingly as they think anyway) just draws attention to.
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Old 01-09-2020, 08:22 AM
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I think you're right. The point is the obvious idiocy of the scam, not the fact that the scammers (however idiotic) are [insert ethnicity here], which putting on a "comedy" accent (which most people can't do as convincingly as they think anyway) just draws attention to.
Yeah, on that latter part, I'm pretty sure I'd end up also insulting at least the Welsh, and probably others too (for some reason, bad comedy Indian accents often morph into bad comedy Welsh)

Last edited by Mangetout; 01-09-2020 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 01-09-2020, 09:02 AM
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I agree with you. I think if you read a stupid scambaiting email in a 'comedy' Nigerian (say) accent, the message would shift towards "look how stupid this person is because they are Nigerian" - which is not the point at all. That's what would make it racist - you would be using the accent of a whole bunch of people, many millions of whom are presumably extremely intelligent and decent people, to imply that was a part of the stupidity of this particular scammer.

But yes, context is important and things change over time. I recently (in passing) quoted from the famous Fawlty Towers "The Germans" episode (first broadcast 1976). Then I found it on YouTube to rewatch it for the first time in years, and found it much more cringeworthy than I'd remembered. I mean, in a way it's OK because the Germans are portrayed as intelligent (most of them speak excellent English, for a start), kind, polite, and extremely tolerant, in contrast to Basil Fawlty's completely crass behaviour - which in itself is sort of 'excused' by him suffering from concussion. But I suspect a lot of the audience are laughing with deranged Basil, not at him, and it wouldn't fly today.
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Old 01-09-2020, 03:29 PM
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I guess Mangetout isn't interested in buying my collection of Bill Dana albums.
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Old 01-09-2020, 07:20 PM
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So many issues in comedy seem contentious but overwrought. Multilingual guys like Russell Peters and Trevor Noah are hilarious at doing different accents. So is Stephen Colbert or Maria Bamford.

But they are comedians. If you use a different accent, it will detract from your message. And, like comedians, some people won’t find it amusing and take offence. Others won’t understand it or watch the rest of the video. It’s a big risk, and not by itself particularly amusing or clever. The world has progressed since Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
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Old 01-10-2020, 12:22 PM
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Mangetout, I've watched a few of your scambaiting videos, though I guess I'm in the minority in that they're not my favourite content on your channel. I usually prefer your more show-and-tell (and taste) type videos. I am skeptical of the concept of "punching up vs. down vs. sideways", both for reasons of freedom of expression (I don't feel there should be subjects out of bounds for comedy) and because determining who is privileged and who isn't in a particular situation can be very hard and subject to acrimonious debate. What someone would consider punching up, I might very well consider punching down. So I don't feel it's a very useful heuristic.

As you point out, the messages you get usually come from West Africa (or the Middle East, sometimes from Southeast Asian countries), not India. The only way I would consider faking an Indian accent when reading the messages to be a useful and funny device would be if it obviously came from India, used clear English Indianisms, and especially if the scammer claimed to be British. You already do this to some extent, pointing out that a scammer who pretends to be British uses syntax that a native English speaker would never use. In this case, it would be a case of "yeah, we know where you're really from". Even then, I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you can make a very convincing accent. And frankly I think my opinion would be similar in the case of other national accents. To be honest, it's better (and way funnier) to have Italian musicians write songs about the emails you get.
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Old 01-10-2020, 08:54 PM
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But yes, context is important and things change over time. I recently (in passing) quoted from the famous Fawlty Towers "The Germans" episode (first broadcast 1976). Then I found it on YouTube to rewatch it for the first time in years, and found it much more cringeworthy than I'd remembered. I mean, in a way it's OK because the Germans are portrayed as intelligent (most of them speak excellent English, for a start), kind, polite, and extremely tolerant, in contrast to Basil Fawlty's completely crass behaviour - which in itself is sort of 'excused' by him suffering from concussion. But I suspect a lot of the audience are laughing with deranged Basil, not at him, and it wouldn't fly today.
I can remember watching this episode when it was first broadcast in the US in the 70s, and I was definitely laughing at him, not with him. Basil Fawlty was a moron. That was like the whole point of the show.
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Old 01-10-2020, 08:58 PM
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So many issues in comedy seem contentious but overwrought. Multilingual guys like Russell Peters and Trevor Noah are hilarious at doing different accents. So is Stephen Colbert or Maria Bamford.
I think about when Trevor Noah does accents: the taco truck guy, Nelson Mandela, the French asshole at the snake show, etc. His accents are funny, but they're not there to reinforce stereotypes. The taco truck guy isn't some stereotypical Mexican, the French guy is a jerk but not really in a specifically French way, Nelson Mandela is Nelson Mandela, not a stereotyped South African.

The more the accent plays into a stereotype, the thinner the ice you tread on. Also, the less funny the joke. People asking for a funny Indian accent for a scammer aren't exactly requesting a revolution in comedic ideas here.
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Old 01-11-2020, 08:29 AM
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I agree. If the accent IS the joke, it probably isn’t much of a joke. An accent can enhance a joke which is already funny. But it would probably be misinterpreted.
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Old 01-21-2020, 06:46 AM
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I'm old enough to have seen The Black And White Minstrels on TV. It just seemed at the time that it was a thing that happened - if anyone was concerned about it at the time (and I can imagine people probably were), their voice was nowhere heard in the media or popular culture.
I'm old enough to have seen it too. It was just another TV show- if you had told people that blacking up was a deliberate insult to black people you would have been met with blank incomprehension. It was AIUI supposed to be reminiscent of bands at the Victorian seaside. Reminiscence rather than racism.

Now, about kabuki theatre...
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Old 01-21-2020, 07:27 AM
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I remember a lot of jokes revolving around people over the phone with thick, almost incomprehensible Indian accents telling you their name was Steve, or Bob, or something else it most certainly wasn't.
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Old 01-21-2020, 07:46 AM
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I remember a lot of jokes revolving around people over the phone with thick, almost incomprehensible Indian accents telling you their name was Steve, or Bob, or something else it most certainly wasn't.
I don't know if legitimate call centers still do that but it's absolutely the thing for scammers.
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Old 01-21-2020, 10:30 AM
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I don't know if legitimate call centers still do that but it's absolutely the thing for scammers.
Legit call centers in India etc. I believe also do also do that. The pseudonym isn't typically as obvious as Bob, but the person's actual name might be hard for the customer to pick up. I mean not that I'm in the habit of using the person's name back to them anyway (I try to avoid being rude to call center people even if it's getting frustrating but don't feel I'm obligated to say 'no you haven't pinpointed my problem, Bob' etc).

On the intersection of humor and PC I really don't know. If people really believe whatever it is is 'racist' or 'punching down'* OK I guess it's not funny for them. If somebody else draws a different line, they draw a different line. In general from the default US perspective of this forum and a lot of internet discussion in English, the African American experience is exceptional. Not the only often very bad one (Natives obviously as another) but still unique in its way. If you draw an analogy between eg. making fun of how hard it can be to understand Indian call center people to black face, the analogy doesn't really hold IMO. Not saying anyone has to find the situation of 'English speakers' (often perhaps the person's whole education) who are extremely difficult for Americans to understand, funny. If you think it's 'racist' in a particular case, hey that's a big part of US society now, sitting around thinking and discussing what's 'racist' or not. Very important to some people, analyzing all sorts of things through that lens, and people are allowed to decide what's important to them, though that can also probably be made fun of at the extreme.


*which IME is not followed so consistently by most people, for example it's 'punching up' to make fun of lower class white people's mannerisms because 'it's still a white patriarchy' so that's 'up'...eh not really, it's still generally upper middle class to rich people making fun of lower class people.

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Old 01-21-2020, 12:16 PM
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It was accepted in the past, but it belongs in the past.
It was never accepted : People of Indian or the broader South Asian origin were just resigned to accept it because they had no voice in the media.

It’s just like stereotyping black people on cookie jars or restaurant signs. It may seem like it was acceptable in the past, but it was not - it was just that black people had no voice.


Quote:
in the British comedy 'Allo 'Allo! British, German, French and Italian accents are all used as comic devices (and the accents are absolutely essential to the material as the characters all speak English, but those speaking with an English accent cannot understand those with, for example, a French accent), but it seems like this was all harmless comedy.....
I am so glad you picked this example. You may have heard about India being called a subcontinent and may have heard that there are many distinct cultures in India like Punjabis, Tamilians, Bengalis, etc etc. just like Europe has Italians, Germans, French etc etc.

It may come as a revelation to you but guess what: just as Europeans from different cultures have different English accents so do Indians. After all Indians are humans just like the Europeans.

It may seem to you that all Indian accents are the same but that’s just like saying all Asians look the same and the very definition of racism.

So the first racist thing that white people did was to create this stereotypical “Indian Accent” - maybe started by Peter Sellers and perpetuated by Hank Azaria. You find the concept of “European Accent” absurd because Europe has so many cultures and languages but yet “Indian Accent” sounds so funny to you and you think all Indians speak English like that

So yeah, you want to do Indian accents and make fun of it, then first learn about India and the 20+ languages and accents. But if you want to stereotype all Indian accents into the one created by white media, then maybe you shouldn’t mind being called a racist.
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:34 PM
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So yeah, you want to do Indian accents and make fun of it
Did we read the same OP?
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:58 PM
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Did we read the same OP?
What is that supposed to mean ? What do I have to do to prove to you that despite being a person of Indian origin, I can comprehend English well ? Win the National Spelling Bee ?
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Old 01-21-2020, 03:37 PM
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I am skeptical of the concept of "punching up vs. down vs. sideways", both for reasons of freedom of expression (I don't feel there should be subjects out of bounds for comedy) and because determining who is privileged and who isn't in a particular situation can be very hard and subject to acrimonious debate. What someone would consider punching up, I might very well consider punching down. So I don't feel it's a very useful heuristic.
When I've read this kind of statement by a member of the majority/dominant ethnic group, I view it as a cop out and an excuse to justify not setting limits on their behavior.

First, the concept of freedom of expression is based on the notion that the government can't sanction you for the content of your speech. It has nothing to do with societal/cultural reactions to that speech.

If you are going to advocate fascism, white supremacy, etc., then the government shouldn't put you in jail for, but the social and commercial reaction to you should be harsh. People should shun you, you should lose your job, businesses should refuse to supply you or rent you their locations. Those are all things that we as citizens have a responsibility to do.

I don't buy anyone going ahead and getting into business with that kind of speech on the basis of "freedom of expression." You're misusing the concept and abrogating your responsibility to your fellow humans. You're an accomplice. Saying "freedom of expression" doesn't relieve you of your culpability.

Second, the "what's punching up to me might be punching down to someone else" is also a cop-out and another way for members of the majority/dominant group to maintain their social power.

There's no mysterious calculation here. We have a very solid and understandable grasp of the conditions of European and North American culture. We live in a white supremacist society undergirded by systematic racism. One of the essential components of the racist system is racist speech, including racial epithets, mockery of culture, speech, appearance, etc.

There are theoretically some circumstances in which you might not know who's punching up and who's punching down. But if you are a white person in Europe or North America using racial terms and mocking the speech, appearance, culture of non-white people, or failing to do what you can to shut down someone else doing that, then you are an accomplice in maintaining the racist and white supremacist infrastructure. "Freedom of expression" doesn't give you a place to hide.

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So yeah, you want to do Indian accents and make fun of it, then first learn about India and the 20+ languages and accents. But if you want to stereotype all Indian accents into the one created by white media, then maybe you shouldn’t mind being called a racist.
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Did we read the same OP?
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What is that supposed to mean ? What do I have to do to prove to you that despite being a person of Indian origin, I can comprehend English well ? Win the National Spelling Bee ?
I think the issue here is that the "you want to" makes it sound like Mangetout wanted to put on a comic Indian accent, and his OP says specifically that he does not want to. It's an ambiguous sentence so I think that accounts for Ruken's reaction.
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Old 01-21-2020, 04:06 PM
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I think the issue here is that the "you want to" makes it sound like Mangetout wanted to put on a comic Indian accent, and his OP says specifically that he does not want to. It's an ambiguous sentence so I think that accounts for Ruken's reaction.
Thank you for the interpretation, Acsenray. Although, I believe Ruken was completely capable of stating the same (if that indeed was her/his intent) rather than the cryptic questioning of understanding the OP.

For the record, consistent with my post above, the generic “you” in the sentence is used in lieu of “one”, the third-person singular impersonal pronoun, in colloquial speech.

I have known Mangetout long enough on this board to accuse him of any such thing.
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Old 01-21-2020, 04:37 PM
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Nothing cryptic about it.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:32 PM
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When I've read this kind of statement by a member of the majority/dominant ethnic group, I view it as a cop out and an excuse to justify not setting limits on their behavior.
I'm a francophone Quebecer. Are we the dominant group in Quebec, as we're often being told? Or a non-dominant group in Canada, since we're a minority in the country and most of it operates in English? Or formerly (but not necessarily anymore) a non-dominant group even in Quebec, since we used to be much poorer and less educated than English-speakers who were by far the dominant group economically? (We still are poorer and less educated than anglophone Canadians to some limited extent, though the gap has been in large part filled.) Or maybe we're actually the dominant group in Canada, as so many anglophone Canadians will claim. After all, Canada being bilingual means that some government job require knowledge of both English and French, and it's much easier for us to get them since "all the French speak English anyway" (we don't, but that's what they believe -- or think should be the case) and anyway "French is sooooo much harder to learn than English" (said by unilingual native English speakers who have no idea how hard it can be to learn their language, or any other language for that matter).

So no, finding out who's dominant and who isn't isn't easy. And no, saying this doesn't make me a Nazi or whatever else you want to claim.

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Old 01-21-2020, 05:37 PM
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I'm a francophone Quebecer. Are we the dominant group in Quebec, as we're often being told? Or a non-dominant group in Canada, since we're a minority in the country and most of it operates in English? Or formerly (but not necessarily anymore) a non-dominant group even in Quebec, since we used to be much poorer and less educated than English-speakers who were by far the dominant group economically? (We still are poorer and less educated than anglophone Canadians to some limited extent, though the gap has been in large part filled.) Or maybe we're actually the dominant group in Canada, as so many anglophone Canadians will claim. After all, Canada being bilingual means that some government job require knowledge of both English and French, and it's much easier for us to get them since "all the French speak English anyway" (we don't, but that's what they believe -- or think should be the case) and anyway "French is sooooo much harder to learn than English".

So no, finding out who's dominant and who isn't isn't easy. And no, saying this doesn't make me a Nazi or whatever else you want to claim.
Finding out who's dominant isn't easy in some specific circumstances. It's not at all difficult in Mangetout's particular circumstance. The possible ambiguity of the situation among white residents of Quebec isn't a basis for throwing up one's hands with respect to the white supremacist societies that dominate Europe and North America. I don't believe for a minute that you find the specific context I described as ambiguous and difficult to puzzle out.

For the record, I haven't claimed you or anyone in particular is a Nazi.
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Old 01-21-2020, 06:00 PM
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I'm sorry but you did talk about advocating fascism or white supremacy. I did no such thing. My post was responding to MrDibble who claims that it's obvious that British people mocking French people is "punching sideways" while British people mocking Indians is punching down. I do agree with the latter part, but the former isn't obvious to me, and I'm sure some French people would be offended by how they're stereotyped by the British. I find all ethnic stereotypes somewhat distasteful, but they're part of humour and aren't going to stop being so, which is what my "freedom of speech" argument was about. We could get into interminable debates about whether only the government can violate your freedom of speech, or whether a non-governmental group could do so as well (for example, by picketing one of your public appearances, insulting the attendees, maybe assaulting the attendees, or maybe just by threatening to do so), but this has been done to death already.

Why was this thread resurrected anyway? Mangetout posted that some commenters on his YouTube page said he should read scam emails with an Indian accent, which is both ridiculous (these emails aren't from India anyway) and offensive. And he wanted to know if we agreed with him that the stereotypical "Indian accent" was actually pretty racist and offensive, which we did. But now people want to show that Mangetout was actually being a monster by asking this question? Or that I'm defending oppression? What about Corry El who wonders why it's "punching up" to make fun of lower-class white mannerisms, when it's usually a middle-class or upper-middle-class mob who does so? There was no need at all for all this angry internet vigilantism.

Last edited by Hypnagogic Jerk; 01-21-2020 at 06:00 PM.
  #29  
Old 01-21-2020, 06:51 PM
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I'm sorry but you did talk about advocating fascism or white supremacy. I did no such thing.
I never accused you of it.

Quote:
I find all ethnic stereotypes somewhat distasteful, but they're part of humour and aren't going to stop being so
What do you mean they "aren't doing to stop being so"? There is much less ethnic stereotyping in humor today than there was in 1990, or when I was a child in 1975, and less than in decades before. This isn't an enduring fact of life. Society has steadily worked to break down these aspects of society. And they couldn't have done so with the attitude "they're part of humour and aren't going to stop being so."

The rest of your post seems to be written from a thread I'm unfamiliar with. I would ask for clarification, but I suspect I will remain confused.
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Old 01-21-2020, 11:32 PM
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Second, the "what's punching up to me might be punching down to someone else" is also a cop-out and another way for members of the majority/dominant group to maintain their social power.
Lorde got some push back in 2013 for her song "Royals" as many felt it was attacking black culture. Lorde, who is from New Zealand, said she didn't view her song as an indictment of black culture she just viewed it as American culture in general. Was she punching up, down, or sideways? If I poke fun at songs sung by wealthy black entertainers involving drinking Critsal, conspicuous consumption, misogyny, etc., etc. am I punched up or down?
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Old 01-22-2020, 10:10 AM
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Lorde got some push back in 2013 for her song "Royals" as many felt it was attacking black culture. Lorde, who is from New Zealand, said she didn't view her song as an indictment of black culture she just viewed it as American culture in general. Was she punching up, down, or sideways? If I poke fun at songs sung by wealthy black entertainers involving drinking Critsal, conspicuous consumption, misogyny, etc., etc. am I punched up or down?
I suppose that might be deemed another odd exception that proves the 'rule' that 'punching up/down' is a highly useful metric for evaluating what is correct comedy or social criticism generally. But I also tend to doubt it. It's a reasonable goal for personal conduct that I should try harder to avoid being harsh to people in a less fortunate or lower 'power' situation than I am as compared to people in a more fortunate situation, as I perceive it, OK. As a supposed objective metric for where cancel culture mobs are justified to go ape shit about stuff, there's a serious amount of inconsistency in application of that principal IMO, not a little.

In general, shaming/shunning in recent times has a tendency to be a fairly small group trying make their perceptions and standards the dominant ones. They say it's just 'society imposing its norms', but really it's a pretty small (political) minority using those tactics to try to *establish* what shall be 'universally despised'. Looking back at history, any of (what we, naturally, as people now view as) society's more enlightened (actual) norms were at one time minority views. Along this slippery slope I can see how people can convince themselves that pretty much unlimited (short of violence) aggression in pushing for further norm changes that only a small minority now support puts them 'on the side of history'. But it can backfire, either directly in a political way, or the general corrosive effect over time on yes, free expression. The fact the US constitution doesn't prohibit shun/shaming (calling for people to be fired, demonstrations that amount to harassment etc) in furtherance of minority views is quite beside the point. It doesn't endorse shun/shaming in furtherance of the actual societal consensus either. It's just not the same issue as govt suppression. Although it's indirectly related, and I've rarely encountered internet shun/shamers who were 1st amendment zealots.

Last edited by Corry El; 01-22-2020 at 10:12 AM.
  #32  
Old 01-23-2020, 08:24 AM
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Lorde got some push back in 2013 for her song "Royals" as many felt it was attacking black culture. Lorde, who is from New Zealand, said she didn't view her song as an indictment of black culture she just viewed it as American culture in general. Was she punching up, down, or sideways? If I poke fun at songs sung by wealthy black entertainers involving drinking Critsal, conspicuous consumption, misogyny, etc., etc. am I punched up or down?
I'd not heard of this. From what I can find, it seems one woman argued this in one article, but her argument was poor and people didn't agree.

Her argument was really "we all know what she's really thinking." She equates rap culture with black culture. She quotes all the lyrics, but ignores most of them.

The song is about how, even though the speaker didn't come from money, same as these other people, she's not going to make a song about praising wealth and being unrelatable. She's not going to be the bragging asshole that permeates so much of hip hop.

This is no more racist than Macklemore's "Thrift Shop." Criticizing the trends of a genre is not in and of itself racist.

As for your question: as a general rule, it would be punching up. The only way it would be punching down is if it were coded, and not really about the music.

That said, you fall into the same trap of saying this is only black entertainers. It's not. Many black entertainers aren't like that at all. The criticism is of mainstream hip hop and rap.
  #33  
Old 01-23-2020, 09:43 AM
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Why was this thread resurrected anyway? Mangetout posted that some commenters on his YouTube page said he should read scam emails with an Indian accent, which is both ridiculous (these emails aren't from India anyway) and offensive. And he wanted to know if we agreed with him that the stereotypical "Indian accent" was actually pretty racist and offensive, which we did. But now people want to show that Mangetout was actually being a monster by asking this question? Or that I'm defending oppression? What about Corry El who wonders why it's "punching up" to make fun of lower-class white mannerisms, when it's usually a middle-class or upper-middle-class mob who does so? There was no need at all for all this angry internet vigilantism.
What appears to have happened is that the thread was raised for the innocuous reason that someone was agreeing with that The Minstrel Show was not seen as racist at the time, while also saying that Kabuki theater was a different case.

This brought the thread to the attention of a poster who hadn't seen it before, and who happens to actually be from India. They disagreed with a single statement in the OP, but the way it was worded looked like they were actually attacking Mangetout. Turns out, it was a misunderstanding--they were using generic you. Turns out they weren't saying anything bad about the OP at all.

Entirely separately from this, another poster saw it and was indecisive about whether the accent would be offensive or not, and brought up the punch-up/punch down concept, which is what changed the topic of the thread. In that topic, Ascenray replied to you, and you misunderstood his post as calling you a fascist.

Instead, he was just arguing that the fact that something can sometimes be ambiguous doesn't mean it has no value. There are circumstances where it isn't ambiguous, and his example was with white supremacists. They try to argue they're punching up against the "SJWs" or "The Jews" or whatever. But there is no ambiguity in that situation.

Your situation in French Quebec is complicated. But I would generally say it's okay to punch up against the government, but not the people. However, I'd argue that minority/majority status isn't the problem. It's the difficulty in defining a group that is being oppressed vs. a group that is relatively unoppressed.

"Always punch down" still works though. If can't tell which way is up and which way is down, then you don't punch.
  #34  
Old 01-23-2020, 11:19 AM
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If you draw an analogy between eg. making fun of how hard it can be to understand Indian call center people to black face, the analogy doesn't really hold IMO.
It doesn't hold at all. The point of the joke centers around the absurdity of some heavily accented foreigner reading from a script claiming to be "Bob from Tulsa" on some sort of customer support line. There's also a layer in the joke about how stupid the company must be if they think they can foist "Bob" off on us in an effort to save a buck.

The joke's not about the accent or nationality of the call-taker; they just happen to be predominantly Indian these days. If they were in say... Hungary, the joke would be no more or less funny if "Bob" had a thick Hungarian accent. Now if the joke was intended to make fun of "Bob" because he's Indian, or imply something derogatory about Indians, then that's a different story.

Personally, I'm kind of torn about Apu on the Simpsons. The joke was originally a very time-and-place sort of thing; in the late 80s, when the show premiered, a huge number of convenience stores WERE staffed by Indian immigrants whose grasp of US niceties, etc... was less than perfect. So the character was kind of a mild dig at the stereotypical immigrant convenience store clerk of the time, not some sort of hostile jab at Indians in general.

But I can see how people might take it that way; the accent is comically exaggerated for sure- in reality, they range from nearly unintelligble, all the way to Priyanka Chopra's nearly non-existent one, with most being closer to Chopra's than the other end of the scale.

I think the real distinguishing thing is whether another accent could be substituted in the joke without it falling flat; if the answer is yes, then it's probably not racist, or at least not specifically so for a particular group. If the answer is no, then it probably is racist.

I don't know what to make of the power differential idea; on one hand, you have Scots who in general seem to like Groundskeeper Willie, despite his being a much more hostile portrayal of Scots than Apu is of Indians. I have to feel a lot of that is due to the perceived power differential between the two, with Willie being a white guy, and Apu not. And maybe it's because Willie is SO outlandish, while Apu isn't- could a more ridiculously stereotypical Apu have been paradoxically less offensive?
  #35  
Old 01-23-2020, 11:47 AM
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"X people talk funny - listen to me talking funny like a person of race X - don't I sound a funny and stupid?"
and
"Here's a funny situation when people with this accent/culture say this specific thing"

- They're both stereotypes, but the latter seems like it would be something the targets could maybe laugh along with; the former is just mockery for its own sake
For a recent example, a number of my Chinese friends were offended by a British TV presenter repeatedly doing the "ching chong" thing in a segment. He had no specific point to make and just found it funny to make fun of another language.

On watching the clip, I found that the twat in question was Piers Morgan, so I had to tell my friends that if they want to slap him, there's rather a long queue.
  #36  
Old 01-23-2020, 01:13 PM
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Oh good grief. Just when I thought my opinion of him couldn't sink any lower (not that I tend to spare a lot of brain cells in his direction on any account).
  #37  
Old 01-23-2020, 06:20 PM
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That said, you fall into the same trap of saying this is only black entertainers. It's not. Many black entertainers aren't like that at all. The criticism is of mainstream hip hop and rap.
I didn't fall into that trap because I didn't argue that only black entertainers have similar lyrics.
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  #38  
Old 01-28-2020, 05:40 AM
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A very frequently-asked question I get is "Why don't you real the emails in a funny Indian accent?"
Update:

Welp, because I always include a FAQ break in my videos, I decided to tackle this specific FAQ in my latest upload. Unlike other FAQs where I have gone into some depth of explanation, I chose to answer this one with simply 'because I'm not a racist'.

Quite the little shitstorm that seemed to cause (I did actually add narrative text pretty much to the effect of the points we all seem to be in agreement about in this thread).

So now I have:
  • People accusing me of 'virtue signalling'
  • Others arguing that prejudice against Indian people is 'not technically racism' (because the dictionary says racism is something very specific).
  • People in flat denial that the scammers I deal with are NOT in fact from India (including my personal favourite: "How is reading the scammer emails in an accent racist? They're all from India you fucking liberal moron. Unsubbed. Fuck you")
  • People playing the 'you're a bigot yourself, because you hate bigots' card
and that's only the tip of the iceberg, it seems.

And you know what? I'm not sorry. It's been a bumpy ride, but I have come to the conclusion that my scambaiting videos might have inadvertently provided a cosy little harbour for people with horrible views, up to now.
I'm not sure in myself if that means I have to stop doing them altogether, or if I can continue, and use them as a platform to confront more of this bullshit.

Last edited by Mangetout; 01-28-2020 at 05:42 AM.
  #39  
Old 01-28-2020, 06:37 AM
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Reading through those comments is depressing.

You did the right thing, Mangetout.
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  #40  
Old 01-28-2020, 06:47 AM
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It didn't feel like it had been the right thing, right after the reactions started rolling in, but I am more and more convinced it was for the best.

People want to unsub because of it? Buh bye! I would rather the channel failed altogether, than be supported by that, or provide safe harbour for it.
  #41  
Old 01-28-2020, 08:54 AM
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No, totally the right thing. You rock!
  #42  
Old 01-28-2020, 10:34 AM
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Mangetout - you did great.
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Old 01-31-2020, 10:19 AM
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Thing is, I have quite inconsistent feelings on this depending on who is the target nationality, but I think a lot of that comes back to the intent of the piece - for example, in the British comedy 'Allo 'Allo! British, German, French and Italian accents are all used as comic devices (and the accents are absolutely essential to the material as the characters all speak English, but those speaking with an English accent cannot understand those with, for example, a French accent), but it seems like this was all harmless comedy. Was it, or do I just have a blind spot for this kind of example?
Making fun of accents has been a staple of British comedy since Caxton. Scouse accents are inherently funny. Somerset, cockney and Brummie accents are hilarious.

If you round up a bunch of people from across the British Isles, they'll make fun of each other's accents. Introduce some Germans or Italians and we'll mock them too. Mocking Indian or Jamaican accents is a lot less fun these days though and there are, I think, good reasons for that.

Britain welcomed an unprecedented number of immigrants from the Commonwealth in the 50s, 60s and 70s but the welcome was less than fulsome. My fellow countrymen behaved appallingly. Many still do, but much less than they used to. Some things do get better.

It's painful to go back and watch some of the TV dramas from that period to see how awful things were for immigrants from the Commonwealth. The 70s were an absolute low point for racist comedians and I shudder at some of the things I found funny back then. However, some things are still funny.

I was watching Fawlty Towers with my son last night. Manuel is still funny because the character was written with humanity and the joke is on Basil Fawlty, not on the hapless foreigner. I loved 'Allo 'Allo back in the day and I expect I still would.

It Ain't Half Hot, Mum has a similar structure of making fun of the racist and homophobic Sergeant-Major but the jokes fall flat now because we're all aware that even ironic racism is not as funny as it used to be and it's hard, sometimes, to distinguish satirical racism from the vicious kind.

There's no doubt in my mind that there is a double standard when we decide which accents we are allowed to make fun of. Given the history, I think that's appropriate. I look forward to the day when we are comfortable enough with each other that Indian accents and Jamaican accents become funny again.

I brook no truck with the simplistic punching-up/punching-down heuristic. It simultaneously excuses too much and creates too many opportunities for taking offence when none was intended. I believe intention is everything and if that occasionally leads to accidental offence, an explanation of why it's offensive followed by a sincere apology makes the world a little brighter.
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