steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Paging the Racist Joke Acceptability Bureau

"And now, Profile. This week we look at the new Chinese leader-in-waiting."

Thus the Radio 4 continuity announcer, while I'm getting my tea yesterday. Half-listening, for a moment I think she has told me that the new Chinese leader's name is In Wei Ting. I laugh involuntarily, then choke it back. Did my id just make a racist joke? Or was I merely laughing at my own stupidity (a source of constant amusement)?

Chinese jokes seem to be weirdly acceptable, or at any rate widespread, on the TV comedy scene at the moment. You can see people like Dara Ó Briain and Chris Addison doing Chinese impressions that are almost childishly racist on national television - and then excusing it with a beguiling guilty laugh.

I don't really understand who gets to decides which kinds of racism "count". Is there an official line on such things? I can't remember the last time I heard an Irish joke being broadcast, or even a gentile-told Jewish joke. Jokes about Americans and the French are rife, though - and Germans too seem to be fair game. Broadly speaking the rule seems to be that, the more powerful you are, the more you are allowed to be mocked for your appearance, accent, or national character. From that point of view, the popularity of Chinese jokes is a very backhanded compliment - especially as they always come with a kind of cringe. One expects Ó Briain to say something about "overlords" in a Kent Brockman voice.

On the other hand, I also hear jokes about, for example, Greece - and although they're usually related directly to their current financial woes, it's hard to stop that leaking into a general image of the Greeks as a race being lazy, corrupt, etc.
Tags: maunderings
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