Truth Said In Jest

7 Comments

Avenue Q


Things to Keep In Mind When Attending a Movie / Play:
1. Please turn off your cell phone when you come in the theater. I mean, as soon as. Especially if you know you have one of those annoying ringtones of some random celebrity telling you to pick up the phone. Morons who violate will tempt this young man to dropkick your piece of technological annoyance.

2. Shut up. I mean, really, shut up. It’d be one thing if you’re supposed to interact with the film, but this is not Blue’s Clues; it’s Definitely, Maybe, and I don’t need you to tell the whole movie theatre how corny a romantic comedy is! The absolute gall! The audacity! Go home now, ladies! The Knicks are only a couple of blocks away; you can make all the noise you want over there.

3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you can’t, then you skipped 1st grade. Please take a refresher course. When I’m watching a musical like Avenue Q, I don’t need you spreading your disgusting viruses all over the back of my head and neck, you leprous sore. I never had to take a shower so badly after that.

Speaking of which, my girl and I saw Avenue Q, a great musical using Jim Henson-type puppets. I hear it’s popular, and even won a Tony. The premise of the whole musical is that … well, people may not necessarily have a purpose, even with all the college degrees and jobs we accumulate. We all have some redeeming qualities that will somehow lead us to a happy ending. Overall, I found it fun and well put-together. At some point, we all forgot that there were humans actually controlling the puppets and doing their voices.

One part of the musical that bothered the both of us to some extent was the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” I knew they were going to be raunchy, and offensive, so I didn’t mind the humor much. But my girl kinda stayed silent while the rest of the predominantly White crowd (and I) laughed, especially when one of the actors quipped “Mexican busboys should learn to speak English!”

She wondered, “Are all these people laughing because they’re uncomfortable, or because they really hold these views about us? Some of the people in the audience, you can tell, really believe what they were saying.”

I laughed a little, because the leper behind me, with his venomous racket in back of me, definitely believed it, laughing so hard, he might have come all over himself. I suspect that others at the show, though, might not necessarily be racists, but products of racial prejudice, and thus act out in ways they might not even be conscious of. For instance, you ever notice how many people take everything Dave Chappelle says seriously and ignore everything Cornell West says? Yes, it’s two different ways of delivering the same message, but they’re both critical of the establishment in their own ways. Many people don’t know how to handle issues except if there’s that giveback of entertainment. “Yes, I’ll talk about how prejudice I am, but only if you promise to make me laugh or at least attempt to.”

Maybe that’s the point of the song, anyways. They wanted to show people just how racist they could be, and prove it by making them laugh at racist ideas. And what’s worse is that, during the jokes, I laughed at the apparent racism, from the Gary Coleman shtick to Christmas Eve (your average Asian-American lady stereotype). Not because I believed them, but because when people make such egregiously ignorant comments like the one above, I can’t help but laugh. Kinda like watching the Faux News Network.

what do you think?

jose, who will definitely write tomorrow to make up for my missing Monday …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonTruth Said In Jest

Comments 7

  1. Post
    Author
  2. pissedoffteacher

    I know I laughed at those parts but my laughter was addressed to the bigots, not the people speaking with the accents. Sometimes the best way to point out bigotry is through humor.

    I know how your girl feels. I just saw The Ritz and was very offended by the portrayal of gays and have been offended in the past by the way gays, race, religion, nationality, etc are portrayed. I also get offended when I hear comedians pretending to be Indian when they work in 7 -11’s or put on turbans to pretend to be taxi drivers. I guess there is a very fine line between racism and sarcasm.

    I loved the liberal politics in this play, as well as everything else about it. I don’t think it was intended to hurt or ridicule anyone (I hope I am not mistaken about that.)

  3. talda

    maybe it’s the belief that if you say things with the right amount of humor, you can say whatever you want? they exaggerated stereotypes because, like you said, it’s easier to face issues when you can laugh at it.

    that said, i loved the show [does that make me racist? who knows...], especially the bad idea bears.

  4. e

    oh now i wanna see the show.

    and you’re right about people only wanting to discuss difficult topics in humor. but hey, even dave chappelle had his breaking point…

    e.

  5. angelamichelle

    since i haven’t seen the play i can’t necessarily comment on it’s direct intent or content, but i can agree with the title of the song, at least in a certain context. we all have our prejudices, whether we want to admit them or not. i would assume the purpose of the song/part of the presentation, was to point that out. we all have our biases, and yet it’s hilarious to see how offended we get when certain biases are focused on “us”. perception, which is, at best 93.458% of reality (exaggerated, of course, since i don’t “do” the number thing very well), shows us what whatever it is we “want” to see… a wonder-filled social psychology trick of dispositional attribution. i would suspect “we” laugh at such “slight” offenses because, as your title states, the truth is often said in jest… we just twist the interpretation to the ideals of an external source rather than believe we truly subscribe some of the views presented in media/entertainment/educational mediums.

    just my buck fiddy…

  6. luzmaria3

    We all have some form of prejudice or biases. I think the song spoke about a truth that does exist but rarely gets addressed because it is an uncomfortable issue. I thought the musical was fantastic because it addressed various issues pertaining to our society. The many wonderings many of us have when we realize that life can be quite a handful at times. We have those people around us that actually add to our lives and then we have the “friends” which are only for a moment or an ocassion. Reality sets in and then we have to grow up, or we hope that we do. Many of us are searching for a purpose in life, which will either motivate us or guide us. Sometimes it takes us longer to find it or we have various purposes to fulfill.

    But I wonder what does it say about us, as educators for example, if we laugh with our friends when we hear a joke which can be offensive and/or denegrates a group of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, or sexuality and then in the classroom we tell our kids to be respectful towards other. It is something I have struggled with when I am in a room or a setting in which comments are made which I sometimes find offensive. Do I speak up and ruin the mood of the present company? Do I laugh and follow along? Or do I simply stay still and have no reaction to THAT paricular moment? I then wonder if I have become too sensitive or am I reacting to the social and political climate of the country.

Leave a Reply