¡ASK A MEXICAN! Not Playing in Peoria
December 7, 2007 9:46 AM   Subscribe

The joke falls flat in Eugene, Oregon.

Eugene Weekly, the local left-wing rag, had the temerity to pick up ¡ASK A MEXICAN! (previously on The Blue).

Many of the burg's more progressive movers and shakers have weighed in. The continuation of this column in this publication is up in the air.

It leaves me to wonder whether my town largely just lacks a sense of humor, or whether such humor as this, or Larry Wilmore's take on Black History Month could be found equally offensive.

I also wonder what hilarity would ensue if the paper ran something like Joe Bob Briggs, which, to my sensibility, is equally hilarious. (I either need to be a lot more, or a lot less, careful at parties. I am trying to decide which.)
posted by Danf (41 comments total)
I found that column funny once or twice, but as a running gag it leaves a lot to be desired.
posted by tkolar at 9:51 AM on December 7, 2007

It leaves me to wonder whether my town largely just lacks a sense of humor

I think they're just stoned. Dude.
posted by dersins at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2007

I'm fer it. Humor good. Humor in the spirit of satirizing ethnic stereotypes very good.

So, if the author of the column were to show up and explain what the column is about, would it actually make any difference? Or would he just get chased off the podium?
posted by cogneuro at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2007

Maybe replace it with "ask a webfooter"? I know, flagged as state-ist.
posted by Iron Rat at 9:57 AM on December 7, 2007

Ask a cute Mexican, maybe?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:57 AM on December 7, 2007

He might very well be picketed by candle-toting citizens singing "we are a gentle angry people," etc. etc.
posted by Danf at 9:58 AM on December 7, 2007

Aks an African-American is better though
posted by Flashman at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not really finding any racism in the replies. Just regular old self-deprecation. And while they're not all funny, they are all sensible deconstructions of tense questions. No hay razon para preocuparse alla.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:04 AM on December 7, 2007

How about "Ask An Upscale Catalog" or "Ask An Intro To A Fox Trot Cartoon". Now those are HI-LARIOUS!
posted by briank at 10:05 AM on December 7, 2007

When the Seattle Weekly (a similar left-leaning free weekly) first ran the "Ask a Mexican" column last year, the same kind of righteous indignation erupted. Their answer:

1) They moved the column from the front of the paper, right after the letters to the editor to the back pages, just before the classifieds where only the people who are looking for it would find it and,

2) They started their own advice column, "Ask an Uptight Seattleite".
posted by mhum at 10:14 AM on December 7, 2007

The fact that it's in Seattle Weekly is basically all I need to know to know that it sucks.
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on December 7, 2007

These Things Are Too Imortant To Make Jokes About!!!11!!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:37 AM on December 7, 2007

They have local Latinos in Eugene?
posted by phaedon at 10:40 AM on December 7, 2007

"They have local Latinos in Eugene?"

They have lawns, laundry and dishes in Eugene.
posted by klangklangston at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2007 [3 favorites]

(I like the column.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2007

Ah, Eugene. A place that embraces diversity, without actually having any.
posted by iamck at 10:47 AM on December 7, 2007 [8 favorites]

There are not even 100 comments in that thread. Fail.
posted by ersatz at 10:48 AM on December 7, 2007

How is this post not editorializing?
posted by proj at 10:50 AM on December 7, 2007

A Mexican Answers: $20 Same as in Town
posted by chlorus at 10:54 AM on December 7, 2007

*breathes in* I'm thinking the reason Mexicans haven't revolted over this article running in the LA Weekly is that there aren't enough of them living in Los Angeles. I'm just glad white people living in Oregon stepped in to deal with the situation. *releases bong hit*
posted by phaedon at 11:23 AM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

There are actually a lot of Latinos in Eugene. The folks I see arrive (legally or otherwise, which makes not a whit of difference to me) with very little, work very hard, and gradually make a go of it. Some heroin arrives via people from Mexico, but mostly very decent folks. A number of school administrators, government people, and even a city councilwoman are Latinos.

There are also some folks who make a living being Spokespeople for Aggrieved Minorities (tm) . It almost seems like it is in their job description to find offense where little exists. Their words can be seen in some of the above letters and articles.

I always hesitate in asking someone their opinion. It feels too much like I am asking them to represent their ethnicity, or group.
posted by Danf at 11:28 AM on December 7, 2007

Since Gustavo Arellano clearly thinks the U.S. should welcome the tsunami of humanity pouring illegally across our southern border — and since EW apparently agrees — why don't you write a piece on what Mexican authorities would do to a U.S. citizen or a Guatemalan caught trying to enter Mexico illegally?

Actually, Arellano has criticized Mexican immigration laws, and says their restrictive immigration laws are the reason that Mexico has fallen behind. Compare Mexico with Brazil for example.

That said, I don't exactly think the Mexican government cares to much if Americans come and stay. There are actually about 1 million U.S citizens in Mexico now, and they might be worried about drug smugglers or something but I don't think they are particularly worried about having two many Americans. Am I wrong on this? It's just a guess.
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM on December 7, 2007

So what you're saying is that a newspaper tried a new column, found that it didn't have the reaction they expected, and are considering getting rid of the column. This will leave the local people who like the column in the unenviable position of having to get it for free online.

And people called Hitler bad.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2007 [3 favorites]

Well Godwin-ed, sir.
posted by tkolar at 12:06 PM on December 7, 2007

How many "right wing" or "right-leaning" urban weeklies are there? Do they really have to be qualified that way?

Is AAM in Willamette Week or any other PDX weekly? If so, how's the reception there been?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:06 PM on December 7, 2007

During my high school years in Eugene, I was a founding member of a rag-tag group called Youth For Justice. We met each week at the Blair Blvd. offices of the anti-war organization CALC (Clergy and Laity Concerned) and discussed important issues of diversity. The Blair neighborhood at that time was the most racially-diverse area of Eugene (and the only place you could find an authentic taco); and our group of teens was lucky enough to include at least three non-white members (out of 9). We had a few direct action campaigns to go along with our rhetoric, including an overnight solidarity visit to the migrant worker camp near the Norpak frozen food factory.

Overall, it was a passionate and well-meaning bunch of kids and I was proud to be a part of it. But as with this ¡Ask a Mexican! issue, it was always the knee-jerk people who dominated the discussions. I stopped going to meetings after someone brought a motion that we stop referring to our most-used presentation tool as a "flip-board" because it could be insensitive to Filipinos.
posted by danblaker at 12:14 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ethnomethodologist: It's not, nor would it be in the Willamette Weekly, which ceased being "left-leaning" many years ago. (In fact the WW became a worthless rag so slowly most didn't even notice, but this is another story.) The only local paper with the cojones to carry such a column would be the Portland Mercury, but they have enough fun causing their own controversies without having to outsource.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:57 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

How many "right wing" or "right-leaning" urban weeklies are there? Do they really have to be qualified that way?

Yeah. Air American non-withstanding, we have the little urban weekly rags and they have talk radio.
posted by Danf at 1:02 PM on December 7, 2007

Man, I fucking love Ask an Uptight Seattleite and I fucking love it so much more now that I know it's in response to people complaining about Ask a Mexican.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2007

It seems kinda silly to get all offended about people getting offended at jokes that are designed to be offensive.
posted by Skwirl at 1:26 PM on December 7, 2007

"Keep in mind, we're in Oregon,"

Not good enough. I thought the column is decent. It's more opinion than humor, but it's hardly offensive. Except to Guatemalans.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:07 PM on December 7, 2007

I just read that issue last night.
I was actually more offended by the letter writers than anything in the columns. I mean:
"It doesn't work, not here anyhow."
"Keep in mind, we're in Oregon,"
"Reading this column, seeing those words, do you know what this means?"

I live in a white part of a white state, so this makes me culturally ignorant and unable to see humor?
That's not the way to get me on your side.
posted by madajb at 3:34 PM on December 7, 2007

I stopped going to meetings after someone brought a motion that we stop referring to our most-used presentation tool as a "flip-board" because it could be insensitive to Filipinos.

Personally, I avoid using the term "Manila folder" as it might offend Filipino contortionists.
posted by Tube at 4:50 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm putting on my Fightin' Whities T-shirt this very minute.
posted by lukemeister at 4:59 PM on December 7, 2007

Seeing as how many of the opposition letters linked referenced the anti-racist, satirical intent of Ask A Mexican, I'd just like to call out the huge fricking strawman in the room since nobody else has. Oh, and we don't know for certain (unless you stereotype by published names) the ethnicity and background of the letter writers, so there's another huge strawman that hasn't been called out: This prejudice that white, hippy Eugene is too PC and can't take a joke.

In the times when I've been somewhere where I could read the column, I found it entertaining and insightful in a lot of ways and I don't believe in censorship. But good media being responsive and sensitive to the community is just good citizenship and good business practice.

You can't define what racism means for another person, because you can't control what's in their head and what's in their history. In fact, to do either of those things is a pretty close definition of racism itself, especially color blind racism. If the only possible responses to someone else's experience of racism is, "hey jerk, you can't take a joke," or "you're offended? Well, I'm offended by you," then we're just as doomed as a melting pot experiment as we would be if everything was whitewashed with bleach and political correctness.
posted by Skwirl at 5:25 PM on December 7, 2007

I was born in Eugene. A big part of the reason why my dad insisted we move back to California was that, he claims, he would not raise a child in a place where you could find both Chinese and Mexican restaurants that were owned and staffed solely by white people. He just found the whole idea repugnant.

That's most of what I know about Eugene right there. Just sayin'.
posted by crinklebat at 6:55 PM on December 7, 2007

Is Margaret Cho funny?

next please.
posted by papakwanz at 7:21 PM on December 7, 2007

crinklebat: There is at least one Mexican restaurant in Portland run by a "Persian". He does not call himself an Irani.
posted by Cranberry at 11:45 PM on December 7, 2007

This prejudice that white, hippy Eugene is too PC and can't take a joke.

Is this the strawman you are referring to?

While most of the people objecting to the running of this column locally are white and would probably fit your (I assume perjorative) category as "hippy," there are a number of Latinos who object to it.

Anyway, my purpose for the post was not to set up a strawman, but to show an example of the political dynamics in my little burg. A few "progressive" movers and shakers quickly stake out a position, and then others jump in with the same position. And you are not "progressive" if you have any opinion that varies with the above. What is very bothersome to me is the mention that Eugene "lacks proper context" to appreciate it. Fuck that shit. I know a couple of the letter-writers personally and I intend to discuss this with them if the face to face opportunity arises. I do not intend to let anyone dictate to me what is funny, or offensive, or whatever.

I am starting to self-identify as a "flaming moderate." I don't see anything wrong with ¡ASK A MEXICAN!. . .it is sometimes very funny. Sometimes not.

But I am predicting that, if EW decides not to pull it. there will be a solemn candle light vigil in front of their office.
posted by Danf at 12:47 PM on December 8, 2007

EW posted an interview with the author of "ASK A MEXICAN".

A couple years ago, the Register-Guard (Eugene's largest daily newspaper) dropped the comic "Boondocks", in response to reader indignation. I'm not sure if they put it back later or not; I last remember seeing it shoved in the back of the classifieds section, away from all the other comics.

Eugene has been preoccupied with "political" (racial, gender, economic) correctness for the latter decade or two of my life, and probably long before that. Humor involving any popular class of people (latinos, transexuals, etc.) attracts angry statements from people taking personal offense on behalf of the class. I personally think that this stems from the local compulsions of equality and tolerance, misapplied to humor.
posted by crysflame at 5:45 AM on December 9, 2007

Danf: Eugene has a thriving sense of humor, but don't expect to see it printed in the local papers. RG is effectively neutered by targeting the business folks and EW's prime reader base seems to be vocal activists. I suggest finding comedy shows and hanging out at the downtown drinking establishments.
posted by crysflame at 5:52 AM on December 9, 2007

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