Friday, May 6, 2016

Tears and laughter

Attawapiskat is in the news again with more suicides.  Funny how that did not go away cause we stopped looking at it.

Noticed a Buzzfeed article yesterday about trying native American food.  Found the comments section interesting.  Then this morning there was a piece about MAC's new makeup line and a question of whether this line was cultural appropriation and why a lipstick color called "Arrow: was pink.  Again I found the comment section very interesting.  Maybe they should have gone fully indigenous and called the lipsticks things like "roasted beaver tail", "shimmering trout eyes", "midnight deer brain" and ""moose tongue delight"?

As I was sick all week, I finished Season Two of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" show.  I wrote about the first season of this show previously and the tension between a happiness to see an indigenous character and the fact that this person is played by a non-indigenous actor.  The pleasure of seeing modern Indians combined with the fact that it is network TV so these Indians are a little bit stereotyped.  The Indian character returns home to reclaim her native roots but is so annoying that they make up an Indian dance to get her out of the house and finally tell her that her web is in the city now and that she needs to go and mend this web.  She is sent away from her community without any real support.  She is made fun of for not speaking her language and she replaces a sacred pipe with a vape pipe in a really uncomfortable gag.

In an article I read last week, some of the problematic jokes were situated by representatives of the show with the fact that there are two indigenous writers on the show.  I know this is a comedy and that it has problematic portrayals of a number of groups (discrimination shared makes it ok right?), but the thing that is really a problem for me is the lack of any insightful messaging below the comedy.  You watch someone like Key and Peele you are getting your comedy with a serving of thoughtful analysis about the state of race relations.  Both these comedians are bi-racial and they use this to transgress boundaries and show the artificiality of "race".  A change of wig and costume and these men easily pass for almost any race and they use that ability to create some challenging and thoughtful comedy.  It can be done.

But the Kimmy Schmidt show hasn't moved past the point of stereotypes for any of the characters and that hurts the whole show.  The main gay character is a show tune, cape wearing parody.  Kimmy herself is Midwestern goodness and oblivion.  Indigenaity is something that happens elsewhere (on reserve) and is represented in the city by one sole character. This show might have indigenous writers but this has not allowed the show to transcend the problems of representing modern Indian characters.

So if you find yourself needing a little comedy this weekend I would send you to the Guilt Free Zone which I reviewed here, or to Moosemeat and Marmalade which is a cooking show but Art Napolean keeps it pretty funny or to some Métis awesomeness with Métis in Space.  Who keeps you laughing?  How about we create our own makeup line?  Nanablush anyone?

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