Satire: trenchant wit, irony or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly. Merriam Webster.
Satire is very useful as social commentary (except that if mainstream media loves you, you are probably not anti-establishment), but it’s also tricky because people tend to misunderstand. The Borowitz Report in The New Yorker is one of the most famous examples at the moment. There are some in Norway too and I have noticed that the newspapers have to add the word satire to the column. Some people would take it seriously if they didn’t.
Nothing has the ability to make us go collectively crazy like racism, or the fear of racism. Netflix recently released a 35 second trailer for the new series Dear White People. The trailer shows an African American woman that works as the host of a campus radio show, and she is giving her listeners a list of acceptable Halloween costumes: Pirates, slutty nurse, any of our first 43 presidents. Top of the list of unacceptable costumes: Me.
This is the trailer:
The series is based on the film by the same name, and the film is about five black students at an Ivy League college. There is a popular black-face party at the school where white students paint their faces black. Watch a trailer from the film on IMDb. Films like The Secret Lives of Bees, Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave were shown in theaters here in Norway, but I don’t think Dear White People was. That is a shame because those other films show a part of US history, which is also important, but they don’t show the present situation. I think a film or TV series like Dear White People is more relevant to college students in Norway today. I hope the series is well made because this is something we need to be exposed to.
After watching the trailer Netflix-viewers made hashtags like #cancelnetflix and #notnetflix. How about #itssatirestupid or #iamwhiteandiamdumb or #michaelmoorewasright:stupidwhitemen. Get a grip! This is not that serous.
Imagine if children dressed up as George Washington on Halloween, and had a slave doll attached to the costume. There is nothing wrong with dressing your child as a political figure. I think George Washington with a slave would be historically correct, but you don’t have to provoke people on purpose. By all means, teach your children that the founding fathers owned slaves. That’s teaching true history, but provoking is unnecessary. It would be the same with Nat Turner. You don’t have to paint your face and attach dolls with a knife in the chest.
Cultural sensitivity and a criticism of stereotypes seems to be the message in both the film and TV-series. It may seem like a good idea to have a coded party, but I wouldn’t advice anyone to participate. If you do you could still show some common sense. The director of the film, Justin Simien, said in an interview with npr that during his time in college he saw “pimps and hoes”-parties, Cinco de Mayo parties, and white trash parties. The costumes and behaviour in these parties revealed a lot of stereotypes. If you didn’t complain about racism the first time it happened you don’t have no right to complain about reversed racism.
Lighten up, people! There is a need to be cultural sensitive, but now you are being too sensitive.