Over the weekend, Saturday Night Live aired one bit that might be a little too clever for its good. The perennial TV sketch comedy show's final episode of 2014 included a fake commercial for "Asian American Doll," The Doll That's Asian American -- and that's it. The joke: the marketing purposely excludes all other possible details about the doll, in quivering, paralyzed fear of being accused of racial or cultural insensitivity.
I've seen a lot of divergent reactions to the sketch. Some are hailing it as clever commentary on well-meaning-but-clueless white people who have no idea what they're doing when it comes to dealing with race. Others are calling it a jab at hypersensitive consumers and activists. It's either a quiet middle finger or an embarrassed "sorrrreeeeeee" shrug to Asian Americans. I don't know, I'm thinking it's actually both.
Take a look:
I think the key line is, "We made her from a place of fear."
Saturday Night Live is regularly dogged by criticisms about its paltry lack of diversity. Hell, I've taken aim at the show several times just in the past year for its shitty representation of Asians, from its consistent use of yellowface to the show's four-decade failure to hire an Asian American cast member.
By the way, while we're at it, the correct answer to "Where is Asian American doll from? What country?" is not necessarily "Asia." Asian American Doll can also originate from right here in the United States of America. Ah, dammit. You got me again, SNL. I have become the joke.
That's actually kind of what makes this funny. As one of the voices you can often count among the critics, I did laugh because I get it -- we can be pretty fcking annoying sometimes. But does that make our community's criticism -- about SNL, or another TV show, or a doll, or any other freaking thing -- any less valid?
I actually say all of this as a longtime fan of Saturday Night Live.
It does suck to create something from a place of fear, whether it's sketch comedy or any other damn endeavor. Is this SNL's way of acknowledging that they've sucked at doing the Asian stuff? Great, now how about making fewer excuses and trying a little bit harder? It feels like a sheepish shrug from the previously mentioned well-meaning-but-clueless white people... just before the show went on to feature Bobby Moynihan yet again as Kim Jong-Un later in the episode. This casting continues to be awkward as ass.
By the way, if Saturday Night Live is looking for a funny actor who can play a North Korean dictator, I know a hugely talented guy who played Kim Jong-Un in a major motion picture that no one's allowed to see.