A thoughtful discussion of "ironic racism" in the arts


Wow, that’s the kind of work that I want to see coming from critcs. He tells us what works and doesn’t work about the art and why, and how it relates to other similar art.

I also really liked his explanation of how privilege can cause this kind of problem: ‘I don’t see racism therefore it doesn’t exist’, etc., and how the white male guys can constantly interrupt the colored woman in a privilege double-play without even realizing it.

It also shows a lot of self-awareness from the critic author. If I had been in that Q/A session he talks about, I probably would have felt very uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t have picked up how the white males were able constantly interrupt the woman but not vice versa. Or if I had watched the production, I would (hopefully) again have felt uncomfortable, but I probably wouldn’t have consciously noticed how many times racial slurs were used.


When I was a kid I thought and still think that Archie bunker was a comedic outlet to comfort the throwbacks as they watched their socially acceptable working class racist world dissolve before their own eyes. They laughed as Archie faced the same trials they did every day. I really see it as a very fortunate safety valve to chuckle them through the worst of their experience without resorting to organized violence.


Agreed, very good article.

I think for me the whole ‘ironic bigotry’ (since we’re really not only talking racism) works just fine if it’s in a comedic format that’s clearly self aware about it.

Actually, now that I think about it Token Black from South Park is probably one of the better examples out there.

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Couple observations:

One: The thing that made Archie Bunker work was the rest of All in the Family: Archie always represented the far right position, Michael (Meathead) the far left, Edith the moderate right, and Gloria the moderate left. Anything else, from plots to secondary characters, were there to provoke the discussion between the various viewpoints. There was always a point to it.

Two, and this is something way too many people don’t get: The “edgier” you are, the more skill it takes to pull it off in a way that a) isn’t just offensive, b) can be taken in context, and c) has a point. Saint Carlin or Louis CK or Jon Stewart can make rape jokes and talk about racism because they’re experts at it- Just because they can get away with it doesn’t mean that just anybody can do it.


And even then, they can easily take things way too far if they’re not careful.

They can. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if that was followed either by some sort of object lesson in the show, or an actual sincere apology.

I wouldn’t expect that from Seth McFarlane or Dennis Miller, but I could definitely see it coming from Louis CK.

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