Tag Archives: Aziz Ansari

Librarian Book Smack: A Culture War Report

The other night my roommate convinced me to join her at our regional library’s “Book Smack” event. At first I was concerned that it would be a tedious affair. After all, why would you want to talk about a book when you could just go ahead and read it? However, the event page promised that the librarians would “let their hair down, take off their glasses and speed review their favourite books” and that it would be “fast, furious and fun” night, so with the image of wild librarians in mind, I decided to go along.

When we arrived at the venue, I wasn’t overly surprised to see that the audience was primarily older women. The featured librarians were also all women, although only two of them sported silver-white hair.

Before the event started the MC set some ground rules. Each librarian would have a certain amount of time to convince the audience to read/watch/listen to a few of their favourite books/movies/audiobooks/CDs. In the first round each librarian was given five minutes, then three, then only one, to review their books. During the intermission audience members would then vote for the librarian who they thought would would win the book smack. Then, for the second round, librarians were only given three minutes, then one minute, then only thirty seconds to defend their choices.

I’m not entirely sure what made this event as fantastic as it was. Maybe it was just the fun of seeing librarians mutter words like “full frontal” and “masturbation warning”. Perhaps it was the appeal of seeing a group of much older women giddy with laugher all around me. Most likely, it was the reminder of just how amazing books are, and how they can bring us together by inviting us into new worlds or allowing us to wrestle with our own struggles. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: Stand-up Comedy, How Far Is Too Far?

EVAN: Hey, readers. Welcome back to yet another segment of “Evan and Gordon Talk.” This week we’re going to be discussing the limits of stand-up comedy, specifically in terms of crassness. How far, exactly, is too far?

GORDON: I’m gonna come on out swinging say that there’s really no such thing as “limits,” just inappropriate timing and venue.

EVAN: Alright, well, let’s take an example and see if you can provide an appropriate time and venue. To retread some well-worn territory, how about rape jokes?

GORDON: Before our readers jump to conclusions, please here me out-

Rape jokes aren’t alone in being terrible things. We have murder, the Holocaust, disease, Darfur- you name it. Yet we set rape aside. My best estimation for why that is for us (in the west) is that it’s a clear and present issue- as opposed to starvation and disease. It is, therefore, something that’s close to home- something that we don’t typically joke about on the grounds that it’s, well, “real,” for lack of a better term.

Now I’d be hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which a rape joke would be okay. But then again, if I were living in the late 1940s, I believe I’d be just as hard pressed to imagine a situation in which a Holocaust joke would be funny.

EVAN: I’m still waiting for an answer to the question.

I’ve got a video that my brother is quite fond of where Ricky Gervais jokes about Hitler and Nietzsche, and it’s actually quite funny, and does involve the Holocaust. I suppose it could be argued that time has allowed us to not turn to the oft-used cry of “too soon.” But, again, I am interested to know about a way rape jokes might be considered not extremely inappropriate.

GORDON: My point is- I can’t see the future; none of us can. The fact that I can’t imagine a venue in which such a thing would be funny doesn’t mean that it, like the Holocaust or any terrible event, won’t be joked about years from now and be just as funny as that Ricky Gervais bit.

You see what I’m saying?

EVAN: I think what needs to be discussed is the difference between funny and appropriate.

GORDON: Touché. But before we get into that, let’s clarify our terms here.

We’ve been saying “rape joke,” but the truth of the matter is, we’re not talking about “rape jokes”- we’re talking about ones specifically pertaining to women, aren’t we? I mean, how many “Don’t drop the soap!” jokes do we hear and think nothing of?

*For clarification to our readers- what got Evan and I thinking about this was a Tosh scandal– look it up.

EVAN: Okay, so specifically jokes regarding male on female rape, to clarify. Go on.

GORDON: Well- doesn’t that force us to rethink the entire question? With that in mind, do we have to ask rather “Who can be joked about?”

EVAN: I think that’s a pretty vague question. We can joke about a lot of people: kids, politicians, Americans-

There’s a difference between a priest walking into a bar and a woman who’s been sexually assaulted.

GORDON: Let me offer you this, for clarification. There’s a bit by (awesome) comedian Aziz Ansari which includes a rape joke. In this case the “victim” in the situation is a man. There was no outrage.

Contrast this with the outrage that surrounds rape jokes regarding women. Why is there this difference in public reaction?

EVAN: Again, what I’m asking is to specifically discuss an appropriate time and venue for the type of joke already clarified. To explore the difference is to go back to what you said earlier, that rape for us in the West is more “real” than genocide or drought, etc.

You explained it yourself fairly quickly, I think. For most of the public rape of men is not as “real” as the rape of women.

GORDON: Then, as awful as it sounds to us now, isn’t it possible that in a world where female rape is as “real” as the Holocaust (or any of the other stuff terrible stuff we joke about today) it’d be just as tame as the aforementioned jokes?

EVAN: But all you’re saying is that there’s a possible future in which rape jokes are acceptable. As an “appropriate time and venue” the same can be said of everything from cannibalizing your own children to bestiality.

I’d also argue that the aforementioned jokes aren’t classified as “tame” even today. Just less sensitive.

GORDON: Fair enough. I guess I should restate my position.

The issue isn’t with what gets put into a joke, so much as who or what is being mocked. Mocking a victim- be it a murder victim, rape victim, holocaust victim- that’s not cool.

EVAN: Agreed.

GORDON: But mocking murder? Mocking racism? (I refer you all back to an earlier discussion of ours on “ironic racism.”) You get what I’m saying here?

EVAN: Let me try to reiterate what you’re saying- We can mock an action, just not the victim?

GORDON: Absolutely- as we wound up concluding in our discussion of “ironic racism,” the point is to satirize/mock/etc. racism for the hideous and idiotic thing that it is.

EVAN: As often exemplified by comedians such as Russell Peters and Dave Chappelle.

GORDON: Exactly.

I could cite similar jabs at that Arch-Dirtbag Todd Akin by political comedians and satirists who used rape NOT to make fun of rape, but to make fun of Todd Akin’s mind-boggling moronic views on the very same subject, and NOT to make fun of rape victims.

EVAN: That’s a really great way of putting it.

And I think this is the first time we’ve actually really broken down a topic, instead of following rabbit trails and culminating with me mocking you for your human failings.

GORDON: You’re just losing your touch.

EVAN: Hey, this has been a fairly deep and legitimate conversation.

GORDON: That it has.

EVAN: And we are now reaching the end of our allotted 45 minutes. The two choices for next week’s topic are:

GORDON: What’s the greatest flaw of our generation?

EVAN: And “Television Wars.” i.e. all of the shows that feel the need to just slap words in front of the word “wars” and have at it.

Once again, thank you all for reading. Feel free to stick around and check out other posts, and definitely come back next Wednesday for our next installment.

Missing: Non-White Actors

This past weekend I asked my friends over lunch who the new generation of actors are. Who are this decade’s Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks? Who are the actors who will be representative of these years?

We came to a few conclusions. Nostalgia is a powerful force, and that’s why our Bruce Willis is still Bruce Willis. Leonardo DiCaprio has been acting since Romeo + Juliet in the mid-90s and has continued to go strong with 2010’s Shutter Island and Inception. Newer stars such as Michael Fassbender and Sam Worthington have only really begun gaining recognition in the past five or so years. Name recognition is what matters, and they’re still earning theirs.

Having answered that question, I posed yet another one: Where are all the new non-white actors?

There are actors [using the gender-neutral version of the word] making a reputation for themselves, but they’re men and women like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield [yes, the leads of this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, I think in comic book movies, okay?]. But where are their non-white counterparts? The following are short lists I’ve made categorized by ethnicity-

Donald Glover tops the list. NBC’s Community has done a lot to get him out there, and he’s beginning to become a household name. Idris Elba will be in this year’s sci-fi epic Prometheus and in Guillermo del Toro giant mech vs. alien action flick Pacific Rim. Anthony Mackie took a backseat to Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau, but will be starring in a number of films both this year and the next.

Édgar Ramirez starred in 2008’s Ché, and will be in this summer’s Wrath of the Titans as the Greek god of war Ares. Javier Bardem has been in show business for quite a while, but will be the primary antagonist [okay, villain] of the next Bond film, Skyfall. Gael García Bernal starred opposite Will Ferrel in Casa de Mi Padre, and will be appearing alongside acting greats Pacino and Daniel Day Lewis in the upcoming years.

Similar to Donald Glover television is where Aziz Ansarfi thrives and he’s gained the most recognition for his role on Parks and Recreation.  Russell Peters was in last year’s star-studded New Year’s Eve, and primarily works as a stand-up comedian. Kal Penn [Kumar, of Harold and Kumar fame] will be in the yet to-be-announced Bhopal: Prayer for Rain.

Ken Jeong has been running around screaming ever since The Hangover; he’s going to keep finding work. John Cho  will be in the Star Trek sequel reprising his role as Hikaru Sulu. Daniel Dae Kim continues to be ridiculously good-looking on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0. Really, all of these actors are Korean.

As far as Asian actors go martial-arts movies are not as popular as they once were. In fact, the two most recent listed on Wikipedia are MMA [mixed martial arts] films, starring White leads. Actors of Asian descent must find work elsewhere, and normally this means in comedy movies.

In general non-white actors find themselves relegated to supporting roles, most lacking the clout in the industry that heavyweights like Will Smith have. There’s an immense multiethnic audience out there but few studios willing to cast actors of different ethnicities in roles where names mean everything.

Actors like Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Chow Yun-fat, and Jackie Chan aren’t getting any younger. These are all names that once were, and still are, recognizable by most. One day, however, they will inevitably retire, and once that happens who will be there to take their place?