Come For The Outrage, Stay For The Sloths
February 22, 2016 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In case anyone missed this, a surprisingly good, yet humorous description of the types of hurdles women must go through to obtain an abortion in the US (with bonus bucket of adorable sloths thrown in for good measure).
posted by WalkerWestridge (56 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you want to just start with the sloths.
posted by achrise at 11:16 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Probably a good call on the sloths.

That entire episode last night... starting off with the whole Supreme Court bullshit (i.e., who gets to nominate) before going into racebending before finally getting into, just barely, abortion rights (I say just barely, though the segment clocks in at about 15 minutes)? Even with humor, it's eye-blindingly rage-inducing.
posted by qcubed at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Even with humor, it's eye-blindingly rage-inducing.

Quite possibly the episode where Oliver got out from under the shadow of Jon Stewart. ;)
posted by hippybear at 11:30 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Interesting how many of these jokes just didn't land, compared to the Supreme Court piece. Like people weren't interested in being entertained, they just wanted to hear what was going on, wanted to hear more information, more stories.
posted by mittens at 11:33 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


That is my consistent reaction to the show. Oliver is a fantastic and engaging host, the segments are well-presented with clarity and POV, and then it feels like on the last run-though the writing staff gets a note that says 'U forgot it's a comedy show?' so they cram in a handful of laugh lines. The show could completely do away with the jokes and I'd watch it more, probably.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2016 [40 favorites]


Yeah, there are some terrible jokes squeezed into this bit.
posted by Catblack at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


You could tell the jokes were rushed. But that's ok, because I really really just want more people to be aware of all the bullshit he talks about.

The race-bending one is crazy, I can't believe there are that many examples, and I was already rightly prepared to be pissed off about the Last Airbender movie for the umpteenth time.
posted by numaner at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't the point that humor is redundant because reality has become too unreal and inhuman?
posted by mumimor at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hmm, I had no problems with the jokes.
posted by Pendragon at 12:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


If it takes some crappy jokes to get the information across, fine. Crappy jokes it is.

There was a thread in July 2014 about a drug called Cytoteca that can induce miscarriage.

The main take-away of that thread was -

'Miso' or Cytoteca recommended dosage:

women are supposed to take 12 pills over nine hours if they’re in their first trimester. That’s what most doctors recommend.

(Dear America, please join the rest of the industrialized world in leaving these kinds of decisions between a woman and her doctor. )
posted by From Bklyn at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


I got about half-way through the segment and was so angry I had to turn it off. Florida is pulling out all the stops to "out-Texas" Texas when it comes to curtailing abortion rights and it makes me sick. Even with the jokes I just couldn't stomach it.
posted by photoslob at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Quite possibly the episode where Oliver got out from under the shadow of Jon Stewart. ;)

Or having realizing he'll have to raise his game another level to avoid the shadow of Samantha Bee. (Knowing that they are giving us two great half-hours per week... ironically, Colbert gives us another great half-hour - out of his five hours a week)
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I clicked for the sloths, and stayed for the comedy show.

I do not believe that John Oliver has ever been under the shadow of John Stewart. Their senses of humor are both quite different, in that The Daily Show mainly features caricature and irony; whereas Last Week Tonight typifies juxtaposition and hyperbole. This episode demonstrates that quality in a poignant manner.

In my academic opinion, the evolutionary purpose of comedy is sociobiological. Jest directed at an outgroup idea or behavior is an attempt to designate flaws and therefore preserve ingroup traits. Thereby, apparent fallacies and misbehavior are recognized as wrong, and enlightened humor supports the health of a social organism. In this bit, John Oliver provides several examples of explicit comparative reasoning, such as the simile between the contrasted regulation of Taco Bells and abortion clinics.

Sometimes Last Week Tonight can be a bit too absurdist for just anyone, but that improves the eusocial effect of John Oliver's material. His target demographic is a group who have such a preference for esoteric jokes that they seek them out late at night, on HBO. The use of expletives is a kind of code-switching to affect the memory of a viewer; so that they later remember important details about issues in women's rights or epidemiology. Thusly, John Oliver creates a tendency for sympathy in people who might otherwise feel cold about societal problems.

These are my best wishes for John Oliver to keep up the good work!
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Also, Jon Stewart has simply never measured up in the spider fingers department.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stewart never coined a term as useful as "fuckeuology," I'm not sure Oliver's ever been in his shadow.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


John Kasich signed a bill into law this weekend defundingPlanned Parenthood in Ohio. This in light of our infant mortality rate (7.3 per 1,000 live births in 2013, 6th after MS, AR, LA, WV, and AL). This is in light of all the other abortion restrictions he's signed into law. The fact that they already don't get any federal or state money for abortions. As someone who has received significant - important, life changing - healthcare from Planned Parenthood in Ohio, this is just incredibly disheartening and feels dehumanizing in a meaningful way.

Which makes John Oliver talking about this so much more important to me. A guy I tangentially know posted this on facebook! A white guy without a girlfriend! "This is terrible!" he said. It's amazing, he's tapping into different demographics that can (and do) ignore the pink of Planned Parenthood because it's not aimed at him, who don't feel like they need to keep up with this sort of news because it doesn't personally affect them ... I don't know. I really, really appreciate it.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2016 [45 favorites]


i am actually not all that into sloths.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, Empress, guess you're no Kristen Bell.
posted by qcubed at 2:40 PM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


I first heard the complaints about the jokes on this show, and I want to say that I read them on here first, months ago. It seems like every episode I watch it gets worse but it's probably that I'm just more aware of it.

There's a gulf between the jokes and the topic at hand. You get this great emotional intensity and then, here's a dog in a judge outfit. I think the best jokes, that ones that work, are the ones where he showed a country on a map and then a sentence later is like "that's not actually where that country is, you just don't care about geography."

It's weird to watch, especially with how heavy the subjects he talks about are. I rolled my eyes at the sloths, I rolled my eyes at the dog. I wish the humor was far more barbed, but that's just me.
posted by Neronomius at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Stewart never coined a term as useful as "fuckeuology,"

Not Catastrofuck? Not Mess O' Potamia?
posted by JHarris at 3:26 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Personally? I'm a big fan of the absurdist jokes. They help make it possible for me to watch a segment on a topic/reporting of things so awful they make flames go down the side of my face.

Much bigger fan, in fact, of sloths than the Jon Stewart facial mugging that he came to rely on way too heavily towards the end.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Indecision 2000.

Also, John Oliver is touching a demographic that doesn't know how bad it's gotten in the trenches, and if supreme court dogs is what that takes...bring on the dogs. Abortion rights advocates need all the help.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:41 PM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


Put me down as generally being a big fan of John Oliver's jokes, which fall squarely into "dad joke" territory. They seem a little more forced at some times than at others but overall I think they really work for the show.

I loved that he did the long segment on abortion. I'm a little surprised (and dismayed) that so many people didn't seem to know the extent of what's been going to effectively dismantle Roe v. Wade, but to be fair I've been following this issue closely for years, so all of the things he covered are depressingly familiar to me.

He brought up Kermit Gosnell and I was waiting for him to touch on what I think is the most important point to make whenever anyone is talking about Gosnell or abortion in general. Namely, that Kermit Gosnell is the kind of thing we can expect to see more of as we put more and more restrictions on abortion. Kermit Gosnell is what illegal abortion looks like and I rarely see people make this connection. We need to shout it from the rooftops.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


The doctor and staff of the "Alabama Women's Wellness Center" are fucking awesome.
posted by yesster at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Their inclusion of The Last Samurai in the race montage was offputting because it's about a white guy. Like, the character is supposed to be a white guy. I mean if I can check wikipedia before I write jokes on facebook, they can do it before it makes it onto HBO!

The abortion segment was far less funny than usual but some topics just don't lend themselves to great comedy. Once again they nailed the message though. This show's success at explaining humanist causes has been astounding.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:07 PM on February 22, 2016


Yep, Oliver does good work, but a lot of times—especially in this one—he can lose a lot of momentum by doing a complete non-sequiter joke, instead of one grounded in the reality of what he's talking about. Can err into being the Family Guy of news satire.
posted by little onion at 9:36 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Whether or not they are successful, I feel like the non-sequitur jokes are entirely intentional - going "holy shit we know that was rough, have a palette cleanser".
posted by flaterik at 11:15 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Their inclusion of The Last Samurai in the race montage was offputting because it's about a white guy. Like, the character is supposed to be a white guy. I mean if I can check wikipedia before I write jokes on facebook, they can do it before it makes it onto HBO!

Well, the relationship of the plot of TLS with the Satsuma Rebellion is very debatable and any resemblance of Katsumoto with Saigo Takamori is incidental, but the closest Algren analogue was the non-American Jules Brunet, and I don't recall TLS being about establishing a Western-like republic in Hokkaido under Enomoto Takeaki with a handful of other Frenchmen.

But the point of Oliver's segment is that Hollywood is incapable of making a movie about non-American Whites (like Native Americans, disgruntled samurai or Blue Cat People from Planet Pandora) without an American White Male as a protagonist. Even when the movie is set in the USA like Stonewall they will make up a not-too-gay fictional white guy to throw the first brick instead of having Black trans women be the protagonists.
posted by sukeban at 11:23 PM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


(Oh, and so you don't have to check too many Wikipedia pages: Saigo Takamori from Satsuma was initially aligned with the pro-Imperial side while Brunet was *on the other side* of the Boshin war in 1868-69 with the pro-Shogunate forces. Later on Saigo had a disagreement with the Meiji government because he wanted to invade Korea and ended as the leader of the Satsuma Rebellion which was more about samurai wanting to retain their feudal privileges, but that was some 10 years later than the Boshin War in 1877-78)
posted by sukeban at 11:30 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Love the show, hate the weak gags awkwardly shoe-horned into its main story each week. For my money, the main story's information content, coupled with Oliver's righteous anger, is more than enough to propel that segment of the show unaided. Apologetic tag-ons like the sloths clip suggest the show feels its audience is incapable of absorbing any serious content without a consoling lollipop every two minutes, but I wonder if that's really the case?
posted by Paul Slade at 12:34 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think John Oliver is more talented than Jon Stewart is. And probably doesn't abuse his writers, either (please don't tell me John Oliver does!).
posted by persona au gratin at 12:50 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


well I for one think it is completely counterproductive to tell silly surreal jokes while talking seriously about serious outrages. it's terrible to mix weird jokes and politics. terrible. anyone who does it is terrible.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:27 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Apologetic tag-ons like the sloths clip suggest the show feels its audience is incapable of absorbing any serious content without a consoling lollipop every two minutes, but I wonder if that's really the case?

The sloths clip was explicitly poking fun at anyone who didn't want to deal with the serious content (or at least deal with it on Oliver's terms, which were that if abortion is legal, it needs to be accessible).
posted by Etrigan at 9:58 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


The sloths clip was explicitly poking fun at anyone who didn't want to deal with the serious content (or at least deal with it on Oliver's terms, which were that if abortion is legal, it needs to be accessible).

I understand that, but they've used the same gag in exactly the same way before (I think it was kittens on that occasion). Even when it's done tongue-in-cheek, this habit - combined with the shoe-horned gags throughout the piece - always suggests the show is genuinely nervous about retaining its audience's attention in these longer, more serious pieces. Given that this is a late night HBO show with a subscription-paying audience, I think its viewers may be more robust than they're given credit for. I don't need a fart joke every two minutes to keep me watching, and I'd be surprised if many people in Oliver's target audience do either.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:22 AM on February 23, 2016


Hamster eating a tiny burrito is the first one I remember from the show.
posted by Night_owl at 1:27 PM on February 23, 2016


I have high hopes for Samantha Bee's show, too. Here's her segment on John Kasich.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:38 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


always suggests the show is genuinely nervous about retaining its audience's attention in these longer, more serious pieces.

When it needs to be, the show is pretty explicit about how the subject of the monologue that it's dealing with is boring. Like, John Oliver will say, "Listen, this is boring, but here is why it matters." I'm pretty sure those words or something close actually came out of his mouth at one point in a recent segment. And in the Snowden interview, he'll actually stop and say that stuff is getting too arcane, and bring it down to a level that people actually do get.

I don't need a fart joke every two minutes to keep me watching, and I'd be surprised if many people in Oliver's target audience do either.

Two things:

First, Oliver aims for a reach beyond the subscription, late-night HBO audience. It's why pretty much every one of his long-form segments ends up on Youtube, and a good chunk of the other stuff, too. You think HBO usually lets their product, the only thing they really have to sell, wander out and about free on Youtube?

In fact, Oliver is explicit that he wants to effect change in the larger world. It's why a lot of his shows end with explicit appeals that can be participated in by non-HBO subscribers -- the joke church intended to show the ridiculousness of IRS rules about religious organizations, the anti-tobacco billboards in other countries to protest how shitty cigarette companies are, the calls to yell at the FCC about regulations, etc.

Second, let's be clear here. You may not need a fart joke every two minutes to keep you watching. However, as a uterus-having person who is currently pregnant and thus really fucking familiar with how being pregnant is an absolute shitshow at the best of times, and consequently will RIP THROATS OUT over the idea that anybody should stay pregnant one second longer than they consent to being pregnant -- I would not have made it through the abortion segment without basically storming out of the room in a fury. I probably would have walked away. I don't need to be told that the state of abortion access in this country is un-fucking-acceptably terrible.

But the promise of sloths kept me around, and the way he savaged people who don't believe in abortion in any circumstances and just tuned back in for the sloths made me laugh really, really hard.

And as a result, hey, I learned a couple things. I got a refresher on statistics to buttress why the BUT WOMEN'S HEALTH!!!!!!!! argument is absolute horseshit, and I have some new abortion providers to respect.

Plus, y'know. Sloths.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:41 PM on February 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


I have high hopes for Samantha Bee's show, too. Here's her segment on John Kasich

And he seemed so reasonable when he comes on talk shows, most likely because they were told not to ask him about that. I could tell Colbert really really wanted to, too. And it's appalling that he's the most reasonable GOP candidate.
posted by numaner at 4:29 PM on February 23, 2016


I don't need a fart joke every two minutes to keep me watching, and I'd be surprised if many people in Oliver's target audience do either.

I think there's some truth to this (and I definitely WANT it to be true), but I sometimes think that people give the general population (even the HBO-watching population) a little too much credit. I mean, I'd watch John Oliver do his thing for three hours every night without any jokes or commercials, if given the opportunity. But I'm the kind of person who LOVES it when people go into excruciating detail and get very wonkish about politics. John Oliver really only just skims the surface with his 15-20 minute segments and a lot of the stuff he covers I already know.

I'm not sure people like me (or probably most of the people of Metafilter) are his target audience, because people like me would likely watch anyway. There aren't really any other shows on TV that cover current events and issues in a longer form way (i.e. using humor and satire) like this. Things like Frontline and 60 Minutes aren't really getting the same kind of buzz and subsequent foothold in popular culture like John Oliver (I don't even think Vice does, and they might be the most similar in what they're trying to do and who they're trying to target); and the reason that he does is because of the non-serious things like Jeff The Diseased Lung and Our Lady Of Perpetual Exemption. I just don't see him as ever having had the same reach (especially on HBO), had he started from a more serious place. He might be able to do that now, but only because he has people's attention; and even so, I still think there's a fine line for him to walk and that if he starts being too much more serious and news-ey, he'll lose viewers.

I also think he's pretty talented in that he has the ability to really communicate the gravity of whatever he's talking about even while throwing in a few jokes here and there. And I'm super okay with him making the jokes if it expands his platform and enables him to continue to get the word out there on really important issues. After all, he doesn't need to convince me about abortion restrictions, government surveillance and our prison system - I already know about that stuff. He needs to convince people who wouldn't have otherwise noticed or cared, and I think he's doing that.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


But the point of Oliver's segment is that Hollywood is incapable of making a movie about non-American Whites (like Native Americans, disgruntled samurai or Blue Cat People from Planet Pandora) without an American White Male as a protagonist.
posted by sukeban


Maybe that was the point and honestly I 100% agree with their point but what they were literally saying didn't make sense and pulled me out of the joke. I mean I am not at all claiming the movie was remotely accurate or it makes any SENSE for him to be a white guy, but he is explicitly supposed to be white as far as the character at least (in the context of the film, not any historical realism), so in a montage of people in various-colorsface it stuck out as an off note. It certainly is part of Hollywood whitewashing, but I would argue on a lesser scale (or at least a less offensive one). Of the movies I'd blame for this problem I wouldn't have put it high on the list and I thought they had plenty to work with.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:54 PM on February 23, 2016


The Supreme Court dogs are honestly the funniest thing he's come up with.

For those who didn't know, well, um, it's actually a reference

Basically, the Supreme Court doesn't allow any cameras at all, only audio recordings, and that makes the oral arguments even more boring than they already are. So LWT made the .... dog ... footage ... in order to spruce them up in the style of viral cat videos.

It's precisely that kind of humor that I love, completely absurd and completely serious and also a surpringly compelling idea. "We are inviting all news networks to use this footage to make Supreme Court arguments more compelling" please imagine it
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:56 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean I am not at all claiming the movie was remotely accurate or it makes any SENSE for him to be a white guy, but he is explicitly supposed to be white as far as the character at least (in the context of the film, not any historical realism)

Yes. The problem is that they can't make a movie about things that aren't the USA without a White American as protagonist because people who aren't white americans don't count. They can't make a movie about the Meiji Revolution without Tom Cruise in the lead role. They can't make a movie about Native Americans without Kevin Costner or Dustin Hoffmann as protagonists. They can't make a movie about the end of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian genocide without Christian Bale to be in a love triangle so the audience can emote about something (Armenians don't count unless they're Kardashians).

And when Hollywood takes a Japanese historical narrative like the 47 Ronin (and the 1962 movie is a straight example of the main plot) they just have to add Keanu Reeves as the 48th because who will watch a movie with all non whites.
posted by sukeban at 11:19 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait, reading wiki they made another 47 Ronin movie. This time they sidestepped the problem of having all those Asians clogging the roles by setting it in a fantasy world and of course the Ooishi Kuranosuke analogue is played by Clive Owen.
posted by sukeban at 11:47 PM on February 23, 2016


When it needs to be, the show is pretty explicit about how the subject of the monologue that it's dealing with is boring. Like, John Oliver will say, "Listen, this is boring, but here is why it matters."

Granted, but this is just another example of the unnecessary apologies I'm talking about. My contention is that the show's audience (whether on HBO or on YouTube) is less trivial and infantile than this attitude implies. Quit apologising for asking us to treat a serious subject with the gravity it deserves - we're all grown-ups here, we can take it.

Oliver aims for a reach beyond the subscription, late-night HBO audience. It's why pretty much every one of his long-form segments ends up on Youtube, and a good chunk of the other stuff, too.

The suggestion here seems to be that casual viewers will watch Oliver's show on YouTube purely in search of laughs and accidentally end up being educated by the main story as a by-product of this process. Isn't it more likely that such people will rapidly learn that the main story offers only a handful of pretty weak gags, and therefore avoid those particular segments altogether?

I would not have made it through the abortion segment without basically storming out of the room in a fury. I probably would have walked away. I don't need to be told that the state of abortion access in this country is un-fucking-acceptably terrible. But the promise of sloths kept me around.

This attitude puzzles me. Here's a subject you're clearly very engaged with - even passionate about - and yet it took the promise of some sloths footage to keep you watching?

I just don't see him as ever having had the same reach (especially on HBO), had he started from a more serious place. He might be able to do that now, but only because he has people's attention; and even so, I still think there's a fine line for him to walk and that if he starts being too much more serious and news-ey, he'll lose viewers.

I'm not suggesting he drop the jokes from the whole show, merely from the lead story. Either that, or find a way to integrate them MUCH better into the body of the piece. At the moment, most of the gags in this segment are neither funny enough to draw in the unconverted nor well-integrated enough not to grate. As I've said in other LWT threads, I hope the show will eventually grow in confidence to a point where it can trust its viewers' intelligence and attention span a little more.

That doesn't mean the lead story has to be solemn or dull either. Its information content, combined with Oliver's righteous rage, is quite enough to hold people's interest even without the gags. Keep the emphasis on big yoks throughout the other 60% of the show - where they tend to be much more successful - by all means, but maybe assume that's earned you the right to give people the lead story straight-up.

I'm super okay with him making the jokes if it expands his platform and enables him to continue to get the word out there on really important issues.

The critic R. Fiore once said that the brief dollop of family values sugar at the end of every Simpsons episode was a price worth paying for the 20 minutes of acidic, smart gags which preceded it every week. If the approach I'm complaining about really is the price we have to pay for LWT's many merits, then OK. I'm just not convinced it's as essential to the show's ratings as is often assumed.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:13 AM on February 24, 2016


This attitude puzzles me. Here's a subject you're clearly very engaged with - even passionate about - and yet it took the promise of some sloths footage to keep you watching?

I think joyceanmachine explained pretty clearly why sloths are helpful. Not that what they said requires any validation but I'm also pregnant and I feel the exact same way. I don't want to add stress to my life when my body is doing a new weird thing literally every day and I'm so hormonal that I cry at Hallmark cards. I still want to be able to get the information he's providing but I need some jokes to get me through it. I also like his jokes! I'm not sure why there is an assumption that these are inherently bad jokes that no one could possibly enjoy.
posted by chaiminda at 10:11 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


It certainly is part of Hollywood whitewashing, but I would argue on a lesser scale (or at least a less offensive one). Of the movies I'd blame for this problem I wouldn't have put it high on the list and I thought they had plenty to work with.

The whole white Savior angle found in Hollywood movies is less offensive?

Is it? Really, is it? I mean, I guess the whole white man's burden shit isn't as bad as outright erasure, but that's like saying getting fucked by a rusty spoon is less bad than getting fucked by a rusty spork.

It's still horrendously bad and it feels like you're splitting hairs here.
posted by qcubed at 8:29 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


And yes, they had plenty to work with. I think that's part of why that segment just kept going and going and going to underscore just how this keeps happening and happening.

And by that point they had clearly gone into the white Savior shit what with name checking The Help.
posted by qcubed at 8:31 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


And to tie that whitewashing piece to the larger discussion about jokes--there are people I've talked to who said they tuned out of that precisely because it stopped being funny.

So, I mean, take from that what you will. The whitewashing wasn't that funny because yeah, it overstayed its welcome by belaboring the point to underscore just how frequently this happens.

And that shit doesn't have the same high stakes as abotion accessibility does at the moment. So, yeah. Let's get rid of the jokes and asides. People just love being lectured at, which is why the sermon is always the part people pay attention to at Mass.
posted by qcubed at 8:36 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Put another way: erasure just tells little white boys that they can grow up and be anything they want and everyone else is just a sidekick.

White Savior stories tell little white boys they can grow up to be anything, but if they like another culture enough they can be better at it than little boys of that culture. And that they can be the hero that those minority boys can't. And that they can bed the exotic women those minority boys can't. It teaches them they can walk in and do whatever the fuck they want in minority spaces because they know better and are truer to whatever culture it is than people who grew up in it, lived in it, suffered for it.

So don't fucking say that it's "less offensive" than outright erasure.
posted by qcubed at 8:46 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


This attitude puzzles me. Here's a subject you're clearly very engaged with - even passionate about - and yet it took the promise of some sloths footage to keep you watching?

Oh, absolutely. See, for some of us, there are subjects that we're so passionate about and engaged with that sometimes we reach a point where going over the same issues over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again gets just the tiniest bit exhausting. Sometimes it feels like, great, we're going to talk about this issue for the umpteenth time and for the umpteenth time a huge swath of America just won't fucking get it, and for the umpteenth time it'll feel like a tiny part of us just died from exhaustion and frustration and pure unchecked rage.

So yeah. Sometimes we need some fucking sloths to get through it. Didn't realize we were all required to be perfect paragons of activist virtue who never, ever need a break or some levity in order to keep going.
posted by palomar at 3:01 PM on February 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Put another way: erasure just tells little white boys that they can grow up and be anything they want and everyone else is just a sidekick.

Back in my day, Erasure told me that I needed to give a little respect.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 AM on February 26, 2016


So don't fucking say that it's "less offensive" than outright erasure.
posted by qcubed


I don't know what the hell you read from me that made you react that way. If you seriously don't believe a Tom Cruise movie with white savior complex which also featured complicated asian characters featuring talented asian actors is less offensive than a movie where Mickey Rooney imitates the most over the top Japanese stereotypes imaginable.

You seriously overreacted to what I said and propped me up like I'm racist or support whitewashing because I grade on a scale of offensiveness.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:59 PM on March 6, 2016


I mean, if we're specifically talking about The Last Samurai, where you see "complicated Asian characters", I see typical Hollywood tropes: the mysterious submissive China doll that is a prize, the moustachioed evil Asian vizier, and oh.

The white dude who's a better samurai than pretty much everyone else there, including the wise old Asian guide's own fucking son.
posted by qcubed at 9:40 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


You seriously overreacted to what I said and propped me up like I'm racist or support whitewashing because I grade on a scale of offensiveness.

Look, let's be real. After that bit came out, the internet was filled with a bunch of white dudes who, for some reason, really decided to focus on the whole The Last Samurai bit as if its inclusion somehow detracted from the message.

And, just like how Hollywood keeps whitewashing roles over and over and over again, a lot of white dudes for some reason take it upon themselves to rank for non-white people what is more offensive and what isn't.

You did it right there. And to be frank, that's why I went off on you. I would rather have no portrayals of people like me than bad ones. I'd rather see no gay characters than stereotyped, mincing bad ones. I'd rather see no Asian characters than sorry uncivilized-yet-somehow-magical natives that the White Man helps.

So, yes. The Last Samurai was more offensive than Breakfast at Tiffany's, because Tom Cruise is unrepentant whereas Mickey Rooney is; because the latter collection of tropes isn't used anymore precisely because everyone recognizes it, but the former cesspool still gets made (Avatar, for example); because in the latter, the racism could be snipped out as easily as it is in Sixteen Candles, but it permeates the whole of The Last Samurai.
posted by qcubed at 1:38 PM on March 7, 2016


So I'm a standin for all white dudes now? I mean seriously. I broadly agree with your points about whitewashing but you're attacking me as a surrogate for people I'm sincerely nothing like. I specifically objected to the way the show presented The Last Samurai. The voiceover simplified it and just repeatedly emphasized "a white guy!? Tom Cruise! As a samurai" which I honestly felt gave the misleading impression he was supposed to be portraying an asian character in the film. I honestly am not even defending the movie that strongly, I probably haven't seen it in 8-10 years and good god I'm no Tom Cruise supporter. Not that it's the greatest measure in the world but Ken Watanabe was nominated for an Academy Award for the film, so at least it certainly helped his western career. So in the context of a 2003 film in Hollywood, I do honestly still believe it's not that bad as compared to the rest of the montage, based off my memory. I don't think your personal beef with the film should lead to treating me this way or acting like I'm on par with generic white dudes on the internet.

I object to the fact that I apparently can't contrast levels of racism without being lumped in with all WHITE DUDES who rank offensiveness. I do not participate in any other forums of communication on this subject aside from Metafilter so I have no idea what other white dudes are saying but I sure as hell don't want to be blamed for their idiocy. Seriously if you think it's okay to call me out as some sort of white crusader trying to protect Hollywood whitewashing from scrutiny you are strawmanning me so badly. I agree with you on about 90% of this and would appreciate not being treated like some sort of enemy.

I am honestly and truly sorry that you don't find portrayals you like in english-language media enough. It's a problem we both agree on. But I sincerely don't think I deserved your response based on my criticism of the Oliver segment. I think his thesis was stronger if it was more focused. That's pretty much the beginning and end of my disagreement.

I don't think you've been fair to me at all.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2016


[I feel like this is kind of a take-it-to-email thing at this point if you two want to keep discussing it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:57 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


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