The Onion's "VNN" Doesn't Really Get Racism
by B.J. Delas Armas
on 10/13/2007 10:34:00 PM
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Still damn funny and I like a good lot of their articles, but whenever they come across issues of race, they really never seem to get it.
They make it seem as if people who denounce racism do it illogically, and irrationally. Code words for stupid, and not worthy of opinions.
I like the Onion. I really appreciate their funny articles and videos.
The site has built its reputation on making everything seem like a news-worthy story, from weekend visits to your family-in-law to kids making fun of a social worker's car.
They make things up based on colloquial language like Bill Clinton's "National Get Your Shit Together Day." They make graphics and lists of things. Like what's marked SAVE on the blackboard, which is usually done in schools with different classrooms. It's very intuitive --- these are some things that do cross my mind, and they have the genius to make it seem like a real news graphic, a real story. They manage to be funny too.
Usually, my favorite articles are where they manipulate the language to make a scenario appear to be true.
Like the one about The Sports Team from My Area Will Humiliate the Sports Team from Your Area. The article deconstructs the sports male message board fan bravado using quasi-scientific, Shakespearean language instead of the usual "ur team is gay" pissfights.
Now they've just recently delved into the world of video satire, which is a bit harder to coordinate.
Still I've loved the satire in video clips such as "situation in Nigeria seems complex", "Gap Unveiling a For kids By Kids Clothing Line", and the report on how "Stabbing May Reduce Your Life Expectancy."
They present things the way news networks would usually present news, with the same subtle but hilarious exaggerations of anchors and reactions.
However, when they approach something African-American or anything race-related, something seems to be a bit off. They have a habit of making those who denounce racism seem stupid and overly-sensitive.
The only thing that's different from typical news stories is that black folks are responding to a It makes them seem irrational. And that's what we see in this first video.
The story for this: A blonde porn star getting fucked in the ass by a black person calls his cock the N-word. "Put that N-word cock in my ass."
That's not the funny part. The comedy is supposedly to occur within the black community's reactions/overreactions. They even include a clip of Jesse Jackson, implying that the "leaders" of the black community are getting involved.
It seems like the thought process behind the production of the video went like this:
Gee, wouldn't it be funny to see black leaders reacting to a racial slur...in porno? Ha ha ha. Imagine, it's such an irony that the white woman is getting fucked this time around. Then, we can get clips of black people reacting to other race-related incidents and watch how funny it becomes when they're reacting to...a porno video!
Everyone knows that pornos are careless and shady businesses, and these reactions by blacks will look so silly! It'll be quite the joke!
The irrationality and triviality of people denouncing racism is highlighted again in another video.
This video is tricky. I like how they overexaggerate the tech effects. Mimics CNN pretty nicely.
The thing that ruins this video is the last string of comments by DocChewey89.
Chewey text messages that their report on Asian immigrants is terrible. In quick, successive texts, Chewey notes that he is Chinese American, that he is offended, and tells the anchor fuck you.
Keep in mind that title of the Onion video is where we respond to the opinions of our uninformed viewers. Uninformed viewers, meaning irrational, stupid, illogical, incoherent, undeserving of an opinion (did I leave anything out?). The '89' in Docchewey89 implies that the user making the comments is some teenager born in 1989.
Once again, it seems to be a commentary on what these Onion writers think: minority populations can be stupid times when they decry racism and they become offended way too easily. They make it seem as if minority populations often get offended at media and big corporations for no good reason.
They also have a third video, "African-American community enters 80th year of boycotting LL Bean." It isn't as obvious as the first two videos in making people of color who note racism seem irrational, but it's still there and still has an appalling amount of non-hilariousity.
It does get real reactions from real black people on the street, but of course they're not saying anything about boycotting, just that they're not going to buy anything from them. Why?
Because the company is so obviously not in tune with what we know as "African-American culture."
I guess that's where the funnies begin! The clip proceeds to show how outdoorsy and upper middle-class and whitesy the company is. They feature an ad with black people. The CEO makes an appeal to black folks, "Sorry for whatever it is we've done." Again, mesh that thread of irrationality of black people
I wonder how many people they had to interview just so they could say that the whole African-American community to write the headline that they "boycotted."
Maybe I am being too harsh on this particular segment, and it is a commentary on how companies automatically assume that they've done something wrong, but then why do they have to make it as if black people are instigating something without any logical reason? Maybe the reason they don't buy is not because their black, but because they aren't bourgeois rich folks. You ask Billy Bob Joe and Helga Mary Sue from Biloxi if they like those kinds of outdoorsy clothes too. It's not really a "cultural but really a class thing? They ever hear of Tiger Woods? They probably didn't need to turn it into a race thing.
Anyway, to sum it up, even though what the Onion does is satire, their jokes in the race department are a bit annoying. The reason I attack some jokes is that I do believe that there is a half-truth believed in every joke. Humor has the ability to unite, but it also has the ability to alienate. And alienate is what they've done more of at this point regarding people of color.
Labels: Dissecting Humor, Media Discourse, Racial Misunderstandings