Mark Frauenfelder at 10:03 am Tue, Jun 14, 2011
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[Video Link] Nick Denboer did a good job of increasing the informational content of The View's "Sextape" episode. (NSFW)
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
The anxiety of unplugging and why we should disconnect to connect
Suspicionless searches at US border: the next battleground for press freedom
After wading through a number of thoughtful posts on both sides of the racially offensive intent vs. effect debate, it makes me much more appreciative of the 4chan b/tard approach, which most people just don’t get:
Racism is a waste of time. It is one of the lowest forms of stupidity. It should always be mocked. The racist should be allowed to speak, promptly ridiculed, and his statements repeated ad absurdum in the context they deserve. The “be ever sensitive” approach leads to taking the racist seriously… it leads to debating with the racist on his terms. It allows no one to laugh at a tragedy so that they may move beyond it. Overuse of racist banter and memetics, coupled with likewise useless and disgusting matter results in it not being funny anymore… renders it pointless and absurd among anyone who ever cared one way or the other… kills it as a race meme.
As noted by some posters here, 40 oz alcoholic beverages in the hands of anyone where they’ve not been seen before are funny in and of themselves to many people… why is that? How did that happen? I bet most who found this video funny would have found it *exactly* the same level of funny had Walters and Goldberg traded the turtle and 40. The reason? Perhaps the racist tones of the meme have given way to the absurdist tones, completely in the minds of many. That’s beautiful, and it’s happening now.
Forget about the racial stereotype of black people drinking malt liquor . . . what about the stereotype that all jewish women love Diet Coke? Whoopi’s Jewish too!
And a lesbian! (I think, I’m too lazy to verify this)
And developmentally disabled! Whoopi is off limits!
Please people. There were no racist intentions in the making of this video whatsoever. I used to drink that gross Olde English piss when I was younger with all my friends and I only included it in the video because it is disgusting and has funny connotations on it’s own as a cheap and gross drink. Applying a racist spin commentary on this is a stretch and I am offended as the creator of this video to be accused as such. Please enjoy it for it’s absurd nature and leave the racist finger pointing for content that is actually offensive or hateful or we will live in a world where this kind of loose association of brands and racism will censor all of our media to the point where all we can watch is teletubbies and the fireplace channel.
Nice post. People need to get over that ignorant kneejerk reaction (especially in the political realm). Also, a great video.
smearballs, I’m not calling you a racist; I’m identifying something you did–that is, the video–as racist.
cf. Jay Smooth
And I’m not calling for censorship either. Instead, I think that racist depictions of black people should be called out as such. Putting a 40 in a black person’s hand reiterates a racist stereotype, no matter how much you as a white person used to drink it too.
Food for thought–and growth:
You’re not doing this right, smearballs. You’ll look better, believe me, if you man up and admit your mistake.
smearballs, I’m not calling you a racist; I’m calling what you did–that is, that one moment in the video–a reiteration of a racist stereotype.
No need to take it personally.
And to those others also saying that they’ve seen other sorts of people drinking 40s–that doesn’t negate the fact that depicting a 40 in a black person’s hand reiterates a pernicious stereotype. I mean really, why Whoopi’s hands, and not Joy’s or Baba’s?
You are being rather incoherent. Yes, there is a huge difference between doing something racist and somebody reading racism into a thing.
s nc bsrvd, blck ppl rlly d lv chckn. But there is nothing wrong with that because chicken is delicious.
Now that I’ve lighted the flare to distract your racism-eating Tyrannosaurus Rex, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as Layne notes.
So, you’re saying that black people really do chug 40s double-fisted?
Wait, you’re also saying those 40s are just 40s. . .
They’re not, btw. Like a cigar, a malt liquor 40 often is just a 40, but not when inserted into the hand of a black person who’s not actually drinking one.
And who’s being incoherent?
And who’s “reading racism into a thing”? Tell me, Crispian, Layne, and others–would you also not object if she’d been depicted eating watermelon? how about fried chicken? (Crispian, I can already surmise that, incredibly enough, you see no problem with depicting Whoopi getting happy about some fried chicken. I wonder if bb moderators will let your claim that “black people really do love fried chicken” [wtf?] stand . . . )
Well it appears my original statement was ‘moderated.’ But it was obviously facetious and not a straight-faced attempt to stereotype. But I understand how some could be confused. As for personal observations on the matter, we’ll leave that for another day.
You’re talking about ostensibly more obvious signs of stereotyping (watermelon and chicken) but that all goes to evidence of showing that the creator had an ill intent in mind or is amazingly oblivious. For instance, if Whoopie were holding a watermelon in one hand and a chicken leg in the other…we would say the creator’s racist intent is painfully obvious. I mean, how could he have been so unaware of such a blatant “coincidence”! And maybe it’s a generational thing, but I didn’t note the “40s” connection at all. Though I’ve seen that stereotype mentioned around the internet before it’s not one I’m very familiar with.
This is why it is so easy to accept it was a coincidence and not expect smearballs to feel a sharp pain of guilt. I mean…he had Barara Walters shot. Is it because he is antisemtic? I mean, the only Jewish person on the View is shot! Is he recalling the Holocaust? How could he be so insensitive to such a major part of world history?
We can read all kinds of things into his video. You feel that the 40s is a really obvious reference. I don’t think so.
Thanks for the detailed and reasoned response.
As I said above, though, why the focus on intention, rather than effects? Can’t someone do something that’s racist without meaning to do so? I don’t care what smearballs meant to do, and I do know what smearballs did–that moment in the video has the effect of reiterating a common stereotype about black people in the U.S.
Re the Baba Wawa bit–how many Americans realize she’s Jewish? I’ve known of her for decades, and I didn’t. Far as I know, she’s basically just “white.” IOW, she doesn’t register for most people (far as I know) as Jewish.
But Whoopi is obviously black, and although you may not be aware of it, associating black people with 40s is a common and pernicious stereotype about blacks. I’m not “reading that into the video.” It’s there. And I’m not saying smearballs should feel “a sharp pain of guilt.” A sincere “Oops, my bad!”, felt and verbalized, would be just fine.
“As I said above, though, why the focus on intention, rather than effects?”
Sometimes effects are nearly as important as intention. If a government policy has disproportionate effects on a particular demographic. There are examples in the law, such as manslaughter charges where there was no intent to kill. But what is the unintentional effect here? That someone is or could be offended?
It could be put more generously as ‘maintaining harmful stereotypes of blacks.’ But a split second clip in a music video is hardly maintaining harmful stereotypes. All I could remember was the diet coke and the giant breasts. I don’t think blacks must never be depicted ingesting watermelon, chicken, or 40s, lest it automatically be racist. It will always depend on context. In this context, it was a very brief part of odd behavior that included soda and breasts.
If we turn again to Ms. Walters, she is also depicted holding pickles (a staple of Jewish delis) and a pig’s head (Jewish people are forbidden from eating pork). Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to dismiss any offensiveness because people may not know Walters is Jewish; that it isn’t obvious. Well that is what I’m saying about Whoopie holding the 40s for a split second.
Now if someone is truly offended, even if the offense is exaggerated or silly, I agree it’s nice for someone to apologize for creating unintentional offense. But I don’t think that person needs to concede the action was inherently racist.
BTW, thanks for a more interesting discussion that just that the video was amusing.
Just one more, a question–why, when it comes to racism, are white people so often so concerned about intentions, instead of effects?
Isn’t it possible to do something racist without realizing that’s what you’re doing?
Puh-leeze. The real question – why are some people gonna see horrible offensiveness no matter what they’re looking at? Not everything’s a secret smear code for hidden agendas. Is there some kind of an anti-semitic smear that Barbara Walters is gunned down and holding a turtle?
Maybe you can find something personally offensive if you spend all your life looking for it, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
and @devophill Oprah does put in an appearance towards the end. Might wanna watch the whole thing before making yourself look foolish.
Yes, I know Oprah is in the video, but she isn’t depicted drinking malt liquor like sauce seemed to think. Also, bcsizemo‘s longer, more racist comment is gone so nobody knows what I was upset about. I’m done with this thread now, guys.
I love you smearballs.
Oops. I meant to make my above comment a ‘reply’..
Please see my comment above.
Just to say again — I totally love all your vids. Hilarious and odd… and I LOVE the View one here but PLEASE take it down before things spiral out of control. You know how these things do.
(Sorry about the repetition in my comments; I thought #10 didn’t go through.)
Yeah, sometimes a bottle of malt liquor is just funny and not offensive.
So yeah, “sometimes a bottle of malt liquor is just funny and not offensive,” but sometimes it’s inserted into the hand of a black person who’s not actually drinking it. That context adds meaning to the malt liquor; it’s not just a 40 anymore.
And where did you put the rest of my posts?!
Boing Boing is the wrong place to look for a point. Haven’t you learned that by now?
To expand my original comment in #4 – I didn’t find the 40oz racist – just a blase stereotype. It was also rather cruel and below the belt, given her issues with incontinence there is no way should could enjoy 80oz of frosty malt liquor.
On the flip side, the pickle and pigs head puppet with Joy was unexpected and sorta funny.
Maybe I am just too old. It seems like a lot of humor lately is just ‘weird’. Tim & Eric I think optimizes this trend. While I often enjoy weird – weird doesn’t always equal funny.
Huh? Stereotypes about black people ARE racist, just like stereotypes about women are sexist.
Why do so many people find the fact of racism so hard to name? Why has “racist” become such a hard word to say?
Because stereotypes are funny. Pointing out stereotypes isn’t necessarily racist/sexist – depending on the context. If this were true Chris Rock and other comedians would be as bad as a KKK Grand Dragon.
Thank you millie for telling me what racial stereotypes are. However I am not that far out of context. And you didn’t answer my question about the bottle association. Thank you niro5 for helping that out. Now I see that bottles=unemployed, that could be offensive, when presented in generalized terms, especially in combination with race. As I understand, the whole video is ripe with offensive stuff, which was probably the goal. Lots of cultural references that elude me (the fish?) but are too prominent to be just random. That it makes fun of everybody should cancel the rest out. This is not racist, antisemitic or misogynous, its just nihilistic.
I think the point is that Oprah is an underage punk, I mean the only people I have ever seen drinking OE have been kids outside of punk shows.
That isn’t Oprah. Do all black people look alike to you?
Also, @bcsizemo? You’re really not making yourself look less racist there. In fact, I’ll bet the folks you’re defending (smearballs I guess) wish you would just shut the hell up.
Wow, that takes care of the acid flashback I was planning on having in a few weeks. Thanks for the laughs!
“If we turn again to Ms. Walters, she is also depicted holding pickles (a staple of Jewish delis) and a pig’s head (Jewish people are forbidden from eating pork). Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to dismiss any offensiveness because people may not know Walters is Jewish; that it isn’t obvious. Well that is what I’m saying about Whoopie holding the 40s for a split second.”
What isn’t obvious? That Whoopi is black? That is obvious. If you’re saying the racist idea that “blacks sure do loves them some 40s!!” isn’t obvious to a helluva lot of Americans, then I think you’re wrong. That visual joke-among-many in this video invites recognition of, and thus laughter at, a racist stereotype, and it will register that way to a lot of viewers, whether it did for you or not. And so, the problem–non-black laughter at black kids stealing and eating watermelons, black men stealing chickens and eating fried chicken, black adults acting as easy to scare as children, and so on, are all racist forms of entertainment that mainstream U.S. society respectfully dropped decades ago (for the most part). And so, I object to the resurgence of that form of racist humor here. And if pickles and a pig’s head in Jewish BW’s hands evoke a lot of similarly explicit anti-Semitic laughter, then I object to that too.
“Now if someone is truly offended, even if the offense is exaggerated or silly, I agree it’s nice for someone to apologize for creating unintentional offense. But I don’t think that person needs to concede the action was inherently racist.”
I’m not following you here If the offense isn’t a racist offense, then what kind is it? (And again, I don’t care whether the offense was intended or not.)
Smearballs ignore the haters . . . you do great work! Keep it up!
Actually, I stopped watching it in disgust when Whoopi was given massive bare breasts. What the hell?
The reason why intention is important is two fold.
Firstly, interpretation in language follows certain common understandings about meaning; however, there can be many interpretations, some of which may be brilliant deconstruction, some of it may be whackjob conspiracy theories.
Secondly, these common understanding stem for contingent cultural factors. What is racist or offensive in one cultural context isn’t necessarily so in another. A good example is a kentucky Fried Chicken ad from Australia that caused a minor furore in the States. The ad depicted a white Australian at the cricket amongst a group of West Indies supporters, the lone supporter felt isolated and intimidated and so shared his fried chicken with the black West Indies supporters.
Americans seeing the ad cried racist because a group of hostile black people are placated with fried chicken. In the States, this aspect certainly would be racist. However, the black people weren’t African Americans, they were from the group of countries known as the West Indies, and the ad was for an Australian audience. Neither the West Indies nor Australia have the same association between black people and fried chicken, and to claim a culturally contingent meaning as universal is quite insular and ignorant of the histories and cultures of other places.
However, in Australia and the West Indies the ad could certainly have been deemed racist for other reasons (all West Indians are Jamaican, and all Jamaicans are Rastafaris; or that black people are inherently intimidating to white people).
Now I’m sure that the makers of the ad did not intend to be racist in either way. To claim that the ad is racist in the first instance is to be ignorant of the great big world outside of the US. To claim the ad racist in the second instance is to deconstruct some of the semiotic meanings that the ad-makers were using without being aware of it and so display some of the racist undercurrents in mainstream Australian culture.
I’m not sure where Whoopi and the 40 oz bottles sit, because I’m relatively ignorant about these sorts of representations of African Americans in the US. What I do know, however, is that an Indigenous Australian depicted with 40 oz bottles would hardly register, but an Indigenous Australian comically depicted with a flagon or cask of wine would be, rightly, condemned as racist.
I remember that ad and the subsequent dust-up, thanks for the good summary.
However, all that you wrote seems to me an argument for the significance of effect, rather than intention–the effect on context on meaning-making.
Again, it doesn’t much matter what smearballs meant by that image, whether s/he meant it to be a what amounts to a racist joke; its effect, within the U.S. context, is to regurgitate and recirculate racist imagery, an effect that registers with the many here who know of that stereotype.
I suppose my point is that there is no clear winner in the intention versus effect dichotomy, and that both can be ‘wrong’ in their interpretation of semiotic meaning. Afterall, any effective piece of communication is a meeting between intention and effect.
Austin’s distinction between locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary speech acts is an interesting take on literal meaning, intended meaning and the meaning inferred.
These meanings may be the same, or they may be wildly different. Discerning which is the ‘correct’ meaning may not be very easy or possible at all. As you say, context is what it is all about; but context can only help us tease meaning out, it cannot ever provide ‘true’ meaning.
I suppose that attempting to discern meaning is what human social experience is all about, and if it were always plain and always easy we would have no art or poetry, or political discussion or top 10 lists, or…well, you know, no human social experience!
Hmm. I’d say that the opposite is true – it’s now come to a point where the hyper-sensitivity over what one person would call a stereotype is getting to an absurd level that threatens any real instances of race (or abuse or whatever). Look at all this agitation over :10 of absurd video footage that features a giant breast-ball, animated pig head and holographic breasts. It could just as easily have been outrage that Ms. Walter’s line about being raped is misogynistic. Root through this and censor out anything that could be culturally significant, and you be left with….well, you’d be right back to having ‘The View’, I guess.
I’d associate OE more with something a destitute person would drink to get the most booze for their buck. Not shuck-and-jiving or any other sad, hateful cultural throwbacks. Watching the brutality turned on sit ins and protests in the South makes me more vigilant about treating a class of people like less than human. This just made me laugh.
I feel sorry for people who’s offense-meter (offensimeter?) is pegged so high that a little absurd bit of culture like this is supposed to merit a contrite apology. Having open, dynamic creative forums seems like a higher goal than walking around looking for toes not to step on.
short summary: it sure all seems mighty coincidental.
“I feel sorry for people who’s offense-meter (offensimeter?) is pegged so high that a little absurd bit of culture like this is supposed to merit a contrite apology. Having open, dynamic creative forums seems like a higher goal than walking around looking for toes not to step on.”
I’m not “offended.” I hardly ever am, and I’m not even quite sure what that would mean.
I see it this way–the video reiterates, recirculates, and thereby reinforces, a harmful (because dehumanizing) stereotype about black people. If you don’t have that stereotype in your head, lucky you, but many, many Americans do. It’s part of a general cultural environment that still contains toxic levels of racist presumption.
Don’t avoid committing racist acts because you’re afraid of hurting someone. Avoid them so you don’t help to HURT someone (emotionally, physically, and so on).
Oopsers–the effect OF context on meaning-making.
Having said all of that, I’m certainly more inclined to go with your interpretation than some of the others. That’s the other thing about discerning meaning, it may be hard or impossible, but you do have to actually do it!
You don’t care if the offense was intended and the offense you take is based on racial stereotyping, so from your perspective it was a “racist offense.” The fact that you take offense on the basis of racism doesn’t mean there actually is racism. If there were no 40s but you thought the big breasts were somehow racist…that doesn’t make it so.
In the video featuring 3 black women, you cite a single brief behavior of one of them, among several odd behaviors displayed by that one woman. There are watermelons on display as well, but held by a woman of Italian descent. Obviously Whoopi is black and she is holding 40s for a split second. But is a racial connotation more obvious than when Walters is shot, is holding pickles, a pig head, a brain (Einstein was Jewish and his brain was removed and preserved). While I’m no ichthyologist, there appears to be a salmon on the table of Walter’s show (another staple of Jewish cuisine). In the case of Whoopi, we would have to know about the connotation of 40s (while perhaps an easily recognized stereotype, it does require outside knowledge). But in Walter’s case we would only need to know she was Jewish in order to draw a conclusion of bigotry (at least shooting deserves no special cultural/historical knowledge). And I’m not Jewish, so I don’t know these things by virtue of belonging to that heritage.
Is something only racist depending on its obviousness? Is mere coincidence not possible? Given the multitude of potential references to Jewish culture and history I’ve raised, do you think there is antisemitism in this video? Should smearballs be embarrassed by unintentional antisemitism, or am I reading too much into the significance of silly props?
Thanks for the post boingboing. I enjoyed it. Please feel free to post videos with malt liquor in the future. I don’t need you or anyone else to censor videos for me. I can decide for myself what is appropriate.
On the flip side…. I watched “Do the Right Thing” again the other day. So many stereotypes…. Is Spike Lee a racist?
Don’t avoid committing racist acts because you’re afraid of offending someone. Avoid them so you don’t help to HURT someone (emotionally, physically, and so on).
Amazing how worked up some folks get. I think the real reason ms. fink, et al, are so offended is because of their inability to see something as absurd overall, and must pick and choose elements that they believe they understand to single out and cry about.
I’ll just come out and say I don’t understand any of it, nor am I inclined to spend any more of my life trying to ferret out the “meaning”, if indeed it has one.
I don’t get it
As someone who is a bit out of American context, I’d like to ask someone to enlighten me about the background. I never imagined that associating black people with plastic bottles, watermelons or fried chicken is in any way racist. Seems to me that the world of political correctness has become a minefield of associations so strange that it slowly begins to consume itself. When not offending anybody is the main goal, then humor is lost. (for reference see the rampage about the Mohammed caricatures).
That rampage was due to political correctness? I had no idea it was so popular in the Middle East.
Here’s some help:
Some people might say, â€œThereâ€™s no harm in having racial stereotypes or making racial/ethnic jokes based on stereotypes. People these days are so politically correct and should just loosen up. Anyway, thereâ€™s always a kernel of truth in every stereotype.â€ In some instances, all of the above might be true. However, in most cases, racial stereotypes are harmful because they ignore the full humanity and uniqueness of all people. When our perceptions of different races are distorted and stereotypical, itâ€™s demeaning, devaluing, limiting, and hurtful to others. In some cases, people who are repeatedly labeled in negative ways will begin to develop feelings of inferiority. Some times, these feelings of inferiority can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies that perpetuate the stereotype. Racial stereotypes can also foster feelings of hate and aggression that might lead to a false sense of entitlement and superiority. For those individuals who have power, this can lead to their engaging in discriminatory and racist practices.
Thank you. Now I know what it’s all about, and I haven’t even seen the original.
Nick does all the animations for Kenny Hotz. This guy is super talented. His youtube channel rules.
NSFW? To hell with work, thatâ€™s NSFLSD!
Smearballs is my kinda of beautiful madness! Always a good day when there’s a new one.
Yep. I thought this was really fun and totally well done… EXCEPT for the Whoopi holding 40′s part.
Sorry, Smearballs – It COMES OFF as racist.
Even though it was done innocently and without knowledge of the negative stereotype of black people and 40′s of malt liquor.. In the end, that doesn’t really matter.
I know you’re not racist but YOU WILL BE PERCEIVED AS MAKING A RACIST JOKE.
And now that you know that’s it’s considered a racist joke, you should get out while you can. You don’t want to have to keep explaining yourself.
Seriously, you’re super talented and hilarious and I don’t want to see your talent overshadowed by a misunderstanding –
My advice, though you didn’t ask, is to take it down before your rep is soiled.
Needs more dubstep…bwwahahah.
Rather stereotypical for Whoopie to be holding two 40oz malt liquors, don’t you think?
You beat me to it. And not just “rather stereotypical”; it’s “racist.” Why not just have her eat some of that watermelon too?
I stopped watching when Whoppi Goldberg was given two 40s to hold up. Way to stoop to FOX NEWS’ level http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201105240034
What the fuck, BoingBoing?
Holy Crap, are we still talking about those 40′s which appeared for 1.5 second in a 196 second clip? Klingons had more face time in this video (which, btw, is why I posted, yay Worf as a studio audience member!)
I grew up in a pretty racially divided city (think Gran Torino). To us, the 40 was a symbol of the idle poor, not any particular race. Woopie is idle rich, so naturally her holding 40s is ironic.
millie fink, by calling this video racist, you have shown us all that you think all black people are poor. Please take your racism elsewhere.