Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I'm Not A Racist, My Best Friend Is A Stereotype

In conversation with an American friend of mine, she said that I use stereotypes on this blog a lot, particularly when it comes to Americans. In the same conversation, she also said that she only rarely reads this blog, and even then, it’s out of pity. I was surprised that a casual reader would give such a critique, as I didn’t know Americans could grasp irony…

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. Unjust, perhaps. Unrepresentative, maybe. But British people will always moan about the weather, Americans will always be fat/stupid/cultural Philistines, and the French will always be cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Of course, I jest.* Yet a lot of humour is based around the idea of stereotypes. When Omid Djalili comes out on stage and starts his comedy routine with an Iranian accent, he plays to the stereotype. The humour is found in what we recognise, or think we recognise as an Iranian. When he then breaks into his natural Home Counties accent, the joke accentuates itself, as we have to laugh to rid ourselves of discomfort at the slightly racist joke we’ve been part of.

Of course, I never set out to offend, and I often think carefully before I post something. But, as I hope you have realised over the time you’ve been reading this blog, I’m just as willing to laugh at myself, before I laugh at anyone else. However, other people’s mistakes are far funnier than mine.

I recently heard a quote from Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs (for all my lefty Jewish readers, I still think he’s a dude), which went something like this: “Righteousness always has a sense of humour. Self-righteousness never does.”

Amen to that.

*Aside from the bit about the French. That’s true. And the British. And I wouldn’t like to say about the Americans – I know some, and they own guns.**

**I am, of course, joking. Apart from the guns. That is entirely true.

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