humor

Elizabeth, over at Blog of Stench (and now a regular Soc Images blogger), brought our attention to a New York Magazine article about the Obama sock monkey doll (the company set to manufacture it has apologized and canceled production). Here is a picture of the doll:

From the article:

We were happily cruising around the Internet yesterday when we stumbled upon a link on Andrew Sullivan’s blog that gave us one of those moments Dave Chappelle joked about in Killin’ Them Softly: “Have you ever had something happen that was so racist that you didn’t even get mad? You were just like, ‘Goddamn, that was racist.’” That’s how we felt when we saw TheSockObama.com, a Website peddling an “Obama” monkey doll.

The response the author got after contacting the company:

To Those with Heartfelt Queries,

We chose twenty-two customer queries today that we believe merit a response. You touched us with either your concern, intelligence, humor, sensitivity, and/or your thoughtfulness. We thank you. There are other queries we received today as well that we chose not to respond to, because of their spewing of venom and their aimlessness.

We at TheSockObama Co. are saddened that some individuals have chosen to misinterpret our plush toy. It is not, nor has it ever been our objective to hurt, dismay or anger anyone. We guess there is an element of naviete on our part, in that we don’t think in terms of myths, fables, fairy tales and folklore. We simply made a casual and affectionate observation one night, and a charming association between a candidate and a toy we had when we were little. We wonder now if this might be a great opportunity to take this moment to really try and transcend still existing racial biases. We think that if we can do this together, maybe it will behoove us a nation and maybe we’ll even begin to truly communicate with one another more tenderly, more real even.

This is only our introductory plush toy. If we choose to move forward with a Republican candidate, we’ll begin with an elongated and slightly lumpy, fuzzy Idaho potato. Had a different Democratic candidate won the nomination, we were prepared to move forward with the cutest, fluffiest 12″ chestnut and golden-haired squirrel, with a short Farrah-like do in a brown pantsuit and call her Squirellary.

In earnest folks, we’re so sorry we offended anybody.

Best Regards,

TheSockObama Co. www.thesockobama.com

Thanks, Elizabeth!

NEW: Consider also…

 

Thanks to Green Ink for pointing this out in the comments!

WOW, AN UPDATE:  Click here to see the TheSockObama Co. aggressively, and I mean aggressively, revoke the conciliatory words they offered in apology (thanks to Breck C. for the tip!).  Some highlights:

We at TheSockObama Co. have some questions to pose. What’s really going on in America? In the good ol’ fashion spirit of entrepreneurialism ; free enterprise has been censored, and TheSockObama politically plush toy has been discriminated against in the marketplace of the United States of America…

Double standards appear to be a common thread here. It’s okay for there to be hundreds of thousands of Google sites containing references to our current president’s resemblance to a chimpanzee. However, it’s not okay to make that same association regarding our possible next president. Isn’t this the very definition of hypocrisy?

TheSockObama is no longer scheduled to go into mass production… Have the bullies won here?

…the blogging dens of resistance quickly began their fury of emails. An electronic battery of fiery darts flowed swiftly but silently through the veins of technology. Feverish fingers frantically clicking coast to coast, crashing and burning our tragically naive – yet sparkling website. A steady stream of repetitive verbal eloquence graced our Customer service inbox with tasty tidbits like, eff-ewe and every other colorul expletive you could possibly imagine. We thought we had heard it all. Hey thanks. This is America, right?

…With the number of Customers we’ve had to disappoint in our first week of business; are we saying it’s okay to take something out of the marketplace that other people want to buy? Are we now censoring one another’s liberty as Americans to freely purchase goods and services on our own terms? Is this the kind of America we want?

Lisa analyzed their “anti-apology” and what it means for U.S. race relations over at the Huffington Post.  Check it out.

Also, it appears they are still selling the sock monkey, now at another website.  The website has exactly the same design as the original one.

See our follow up to this post here.


Matt W. sent us links to a whole set of very popular videos on the theme “My New Haircut.” Here is the original, which, as Matt says, is “mocking popped-collar ‘bro’ masculinity.” Note: the language is not safe for work.

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After the first video came out, people began making other versions, such as the “Jewish edition” and the “Senior Citizen edition.” As Matt points out, “It seems to be a mix of people of different ethnicities making fun of themselves/how they’re perceived, and outsiders indulging in outright bigotry.”

Asian edition:

Mexican edition (sadly, my rural poor-white upbringing led me to think, in response to him saying he is wearing a wife-beater shirt, “That’s not a wife-beater, that’s a muscle-shirt. Not the same thing.”). His Spanish accent sounds fake to me, but I might be totally off there. Also, the video is by “Mr. Fagg” productions.

Gay edition. The actors say, “For all you haters…we’re not gay were just acting as you can probably tell by how ridiclous we act.”

Jewish edition:

Black edition, featuring drug use and general criminality:

There are tons of others, but you get the point. If you watch any of these, the sidebar will have lots of other editions.

Whether or not you could use these videos in classes probably depends a lot on where you’re at and how much trust you’ve built up with your students. They might be interesting for discussions of humor–are there things that are funny when some people say them but not when others do? Does it make a difference whether a person using stereotypes is a member of the group being laughed at or not? When is humor being used to point out and undermine stereotypes, and when does it just reinforce them? Who has the authority to decide these things?

Thanks, Matt W.!

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

This bit appears on the Maxim magazine website. It uses rape, and women’s apparent attraction to men who look like rapists, in order to be humorous. I think it’s particularly interesting that it includes a jab at a Republican (or is it just “the establishment”?). If they are obviously leftist/anti-establishment, are we to believe that they must be good guys, therefore this use of rape for comedic value is okay? Or is this just another manifestation of the equal opportunity insult comedy found in products like South Park and Knocked Up? There is a lot going on here and I’m pretty sure I have yet to fully grasp it. Any thoughts?YouTube Preview Image

Here are two ads for Salesgenie. Both aired during the Super Bowl and both, for no apparent reason, used animated characters with thick accents–in the first Indian, in the second, Chinese.

NEW! (Mar. ’10): Melissa S. sent in this commercial for MetroPCS that features two men with strong accents who I believe we’re supposed to find funny looking and ridiculous:

Melissa says,

There are very few positive depictions of Indians in American entertainment and it really saddens us that this video and these images are the only images that many will see of Indians…I wonder why the commercial couldn’t simply have two men who happen to be brown touting the product? Does having an “Indian” accent automatically make this funnier?

Gwen recently pointed out to me the fact that pit bulls have replaced handguns on the covers of rap and hip hop albums. This is an excellent example of racialization: the process by which something comes to have racial meaning in a society.

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Of course, this is not just about race, it’s about gender too. Here’s Missy Elliot appropriating the masculinity attributed to the pit bull:

And you know when Weird Al does it, it’s really happening:

Here’s an essay, incidentally, that I wrote for The Huffington Post (at Gwen’s urging and with her help) about the scandal involving Michael Vick’s dog fighting, called The Secret Brotherhood Between Dog Fighting and Football.