Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The battle over the appropriateness of a recent YouTube video depicting adoption from China is still raging-weeks after the video was first uploaded. This discussion followed hot on the heels of the controversy generated by O. Yang's photos of white fathers and daughters born in China. Like everything, some people feel that it is satire and other think it is a horrendous and destructive and racist piece of 'entertainment'.
Who is right? And do we have the right to make that decision?
Merriman-Webster Online dictionary defines satire as:
1 : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly
Franky, both the video and photo series meet the criteria as satire. Yet, members of the community were enraged that these artistic endeavors saw the light of day.
They want these types of things stricken from our collective memories? Other think that if something offends you then you should just not partake.
So what is a thinking person to do? Surely, ignoring the offensive material is one way. Censorship of offensive material may be desirable, but not realistic in our free speech society.
Thinking people have to come to grips with the fact that there will always be material, billed as entertainment, will sneak into our lives-and it will always create controversy. However, as time goes by, things that were once considered ok, become obsolete (think about Aunt Jemima Pancakes-Aunt Jemima was portrayed with a kerchief on her head, thick, full lips and curly, curly hair early on...and by the next generation her look had changed significantly because the earlier look was hopelessly stereotyped.) We can hope that what we find offensive will go the way of the original Aunt Jemima.
Until that happens, we might want to look at these things as opportunities to help our kids understand the role that the media plays in our points of view of what is ok and what isn't. We can use these opportunities to discuss the 'whys' and 'what ifs' of our value systems.
It is a great opportunity for you to show your kids the difference between satire and racism-from your point of view. We should not give up the fight to eliminate bias and racism, but we should use what examples to show our kids the consequences of 'satire'.
With luck, by the time our kids get older, they will find hurtful satire has gone by the wayside because they don't get the play they once had.