Tag Archives: perpetuating

Albert Brennaman, the Patron Saint of White Dancers

I know you’ve probably seen it, but I’m starting with this: 

Arguably one of the most memorable films of 2005 [tenth highest-grossing that year], Hitch wormed its way into our hearts due to a number of reasons. First and foremost was Will Smith, but trailing surprisingly close behind was his co-star, Kevin James, and the bumbling Caucasian everyman he represented.

Now, I’m not one to perpetuate racial stereotypes; I’ve had too many people assume I like rice just by looking at me. But here’s the thing: I Love Rice. As much as many of us would hate to admit it, stereotypes typically have some kind of truth to them. The one I’m writing about today is one many of you have probably heard, and that is that:

White People Can’t Dance.

This is a truth I’ve come to more or less believe due to personal experience. The first piece of evidence being found in college dances I attended [student body 95% Caucasian]. The second was while working at a nightclub a few years ago. A group of four to five white people in their late 20s/early 30s came up to the floor I was busing, and it. . . wasn’t pretty.

Bringing this back to the beginning, what I’ve found is that a lot of the aforementioned not only love that clip from Hitch, they live it. In the most literal sense. Many know the dance by heart, and at parties moves like “the Q-tip” actually make an appearance. The character of Albert Brennaman has been lifted up to this odd place of veneration, his dancing a guide and example for others.

To put it simpler, they are proud of the way they move. There’s no shame there, and they’ve owned the fact that for the most part others don’t think they can dance. Without that social buffer of potential embarrassment, they unknowingly keep the stereotype alive. It’s a vicious cycle, and one illustrated in the equation below:

“White People Can’t Dance” —> white people dance however they want —> white people can’t dance

I’m not judging, it’s just a cultural observation. For an ethnic group to take pride in something they’re not good at is a strange thing, sort of like if Asians decided to own the stereotype that they’re bad drivers. In this case, however, no one is at risk of getting hurt. One group is content to move however they please, and the other is more than happy to sit back and watch it happen.

I leave you with an uncomfortable clip of white people dancing to “Take On Me.”

Michael Patrick King, Definitely Not Being Racist

About two weeks ago I started watching another show, as I am wont to do, mostly because my schoolwork was piling up and I needed a reason not to do it. The show was CBS’s 2 Broke Girls, and after catching up on the first eight episodes I was linked to this article via a review on the A.V. Club’s TV Club.

The article discusses 1/2 of the show’s creative duo Michael Patrick King, who was an executive producer on Sex in the City, and his reasons for disregarding critics who are calling him out on perpetuating racial stereotypes. I’m going to present his quote first, then the alleged racist portrayals.

“I’m not going to change. No, absolutely not.”

“I believe that anybody, when you see them for the first time, you judge them based on the surface.”

First (and foremost) on the docket is Asian-American actor Matthew Moy, who plays Han (Bryce) Lee, the owner of the diner where the two leading ladies work. To be fair to King and CBS, a lot of the racial idiosyncrasies described here in the casting sides were toned down a lot in the actual airing of the show. Yes, Han still speaks terrible English, has a very poor understanding of holidays and anything else American (“And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving”), and makes an obvious reference to William Hung (“And the Rich People Problems), but it’s all in good fun.

The following are two clips. The first from Moy’s appearance on Criminal Minds, and the second of his character on 2 Broke Girls.

, you may be asking, has the show deepened Moy’s character? Maybe all we’re seeing is this surface King was describing. To answer your question, not really. Moy continues to speak hilariously broken English, but has since become more of a nerdy stereotype than anything. His accent has become distracting at best, and continues to baffle me since Koreans are good at English. It’s like Han was raised in a remote village or much further North.

I’m going to list off the other racial stereotypes in a huge list, because going through them one at a time would be exhausting: the in-your-face Puerto Rican (“And Strokes of Goodwill”), the obnoxious Italian women (“And the Pretty Problem), the Mexican men who help with manual labour (“And the Disappearing Bed”),  the wealthy, Middle Eastern women speaking very heavily accented English (“And the Pop-Up Sale”). All of these appear only once, and don’t include principal cast members Oleg, the salacious Russian fry cook, and Earl, the aging African-American hepcat.With the exceptions of Han, Oleg, and Earl, none of these other characters have a chance to redeem themselves, to give you a chance to do anything but “judge them based on the surface.” The three aforementioned characters, however, have been resigned to the sidelines, not really moving forward at all.Michael Patrick King also said in the article that “Anyone who’s ever lived in New York has walked through an enormous melting pot of people. So for me, to do a show where you’re not exploring race would be absurd in Brooklyn, N.Y.” I can agree with the statement, but believe that only half applies to King. This is a man who has “walked through an enormous melting pot of people,” and gleaned what little he could from short glimpses as he passed them by.