Monday, 8 September 2008

a thousand apologies

a couple of things to catch up on today. first of all, i knew that nz had given it's approval to the india-US nuclear deal a few days ago, when sapna posted this on AEN. was a little horrified at the angle of the article, that US diplomacy was so powerful that it had overcome all the objections of countries like nz. felt a little better when i read no right turn's analysis of the reasons for the change in vote and the concessions gained.

another thing i totally forgot about: i was supposed to put in a plug for "a thousand apologies", having promised to do so at the diversity forum. better late than never though, and if you missed it last friday night, please do take a look this week. if you haven't heard of this new comedy show, here's a bit of detail:

The brainchild of producers Shuchi Kothari & Sarina Pearson, A Thousand Apologies is a comedy sketch series that addresses the diversity of the pan-Asian experience in contemporary New Zealand.

Edgy, irreverent, and occasionally rude, A Thousand Apologies lampoons stereotypes and situations that are familiar to many New Zealanders: from beleaguered homestay students to overqualified Indian parking wardens, possessive Indian mothers to overachieving Chinese students. It pokes fun at everyday racism. No one is immune.

Created by a group of Pan-Asian writers and directors who formed the A Thousand Apologies Collective, this series is groundbreaking comedy from an Asian New Zealander point of view. Without the straitjacket of political correctness, we’ve drawn upon our everyday experiences to explore what it’s like to be among the country’s fastest growing minority group.

Starring an ensemble cast of fresh local talent including Tarun Mohanbhai, Raj Varma, Katlyn Wong, Jamie Bowen, and Morgana O’Reilly, A Thousand Apologies features characters from all ages and all walks of life.

The time has come for Asians to stand up and be laughed with. We’re confident you’ll join us and if in the process we offend - we offer a thousand apologies!

i started to have a bit of a discussion with one of the producers about the ethics of creating a show that allowed people to laugh at ethnic minorities. this came from a comment by pio (sorry, can't remember his last name, he's the guy that does the series "some of my best friends are..." on maori television) in his address to the diversity forum on the sunday night. pio said that he never did jokes that belittled maori, because it lowered the mana of that people and gave racists more fodder. ok i'm paraphrasing, i know he said something along those lines but he said it so much better than that. basically, he was saying that he disagreed with the billy t james style of humour (though he never mentioned any names) that played on the worse stereotypes people held, and tended to embed them.

so i put this proposition to this woman, and she said, on the contrary, she believed that the only people who were allowed to poke fun at a culture were members of that particular culture. each of us got sidetracked at that point, but i would have loved to carry on that discussion. i think it's the same sort of discussion that was held in the pacific community over "bro-town".

i have to say that i can sympathise with the criticisms. i can imagine that some pacifika people would hate the portrayal of islanders all being poor, involved in crime and gangs and the like. (ok, i admit i've never seen the show, maybe it doesn't do that at all). in the same way that the african-americans used to hate the way they were portrayed by hollywood, and why "the cosby show" broke so many barriers.

on the other hand, i know how much i enjoyed "the kumars at no. 42", and how much i could identify with it even though it was more about the british experience than a kiwi one. and i don't think the kumars did anything other than to normalise british indians, and make their experience part of the mainstream. of course the characters were all stereotypical, and yet i'm sure that every british person could identify with them, not just those of indian origin. once you begin to identify with characters like that, it's much harder to hate them, or to hate the community they come from.

unfortunately, i wasn't able to watch "a thousand apologies" as we tend to have the tv off in our house over ramadan (in an effort to focus more on our spirituality). so i'm unlikely to watch the next 3 episodes either. i hope that the show will be a success, especially because it includes tarun mohanbhai, that indian guy who brought us "d'arranged marriage" and "cornershop confessions". turns out that tarun and i had very similar childhoods growing up in 1970's nz, although he was in pakuranga and i was in hamilton. we both agreed that things have much improved in this country and (sounding very much lik a couple of 90 year-olds) that kids these days just don't know how lucky they are!

and finally, i also read deborah coddington's attempt at an apology - won't link to it, but you can read russell brown's comments here, as well as a contribution in the comments section by tze ming mok. what a pathetic excuse of an apology. pretty much a "sorry to have caused offence, but did y'all have to be so mean to me?" julie talks about the gang-rape analogy (as did russell), so i won't go into it again. but this seems to be another in the vein of dr clydesdale and cameron bagrie: put out a shoddy piece of work and when critics pull apart the work on the basis of proven facts, complain about personal attacks by bullies. an apology, ms coddington, means actually being sorry for putting out incorrect facts and making unfair conclusions. when you're ready to give a real apology, let us know.

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