If you did a search for "happy ending" on Twitter as news broke Tuesday night that eight people were killed, including six women of Asian descent, at massage parlors in the Atlanta area, you would've encountered many of the same lame jokes. "Over and over and over again, people responded to the news of Asian women dying with a joke about their pain," says Caroline Framke. "This response is horrendous, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Reducing Asians to flat, heavily accented caricatures is a favorite pastime in this country, and has been for decades. Mocking Asian men as weak and effeminate is so common that it’s become white noise for too many who hear it; Asian women have long been reduced to dehumanizing stereotypes, whether meek and speechless or aggressively sexual robots whose only purpose seems to be servicing white American men." As Framke points out, "comedy in particular leans into letting 'Asian' be a punchline in and of itself, and if you don’t like it, then you’re the problem for not getting the joke." Framke points to "a Family Guy episode I was unlucky enough to pass by on cable recently, in which a dozen Asian women spill frantically out of Quagmire’s trunk and garage, running away in their underwear; Quagmire only calms down once he reminds himself that 'they’re tagged.'... Every single genre — whether comedy, drama, or police procedural — leans on the shock value of dead or endangered sex workers, many of them anonymous Asian women who are rarely afforded more nuance or humanity than that basic description." Framke also points to Dave Chappelle jokingly expressing admiration in his SNL monologue last fall for then-President Trump using the wordplay "kung flu" amid the pandemic. “I’m supposed to say that, not you,” Chappelle, whose wife and kids are of Asian descent, said directly to Trump. Framke adds that Chappelle "went on to insist that 'it’s wrong when you say it,' therefore staking his claim as the comedian who can say the racist thing as long as it’s got the cadence of a joke. He did not, it seems, pause to consider that it might just be wrong no matter who says it. The end result is the same, giving racism an out just because they found a way to make it catchy. So no: It isn’t especially shocking to glance beneath a news story about murdered Asian women and see a slew of responses snickering about whether or not their lives had a happy ending. It’s appalling, but an undeniably typical display of the kind of casual disdain that leads to such senseless violence every day. Just because a punchline is expected doesn’t mean that it isn’t vile, and it shouldn’t just be on Asian Americans to say as much, whether to friends, co-workers, or Hollywood as a whole. And no: Refusing to indulge racist jokes isn’t suppressing free speech, but pointing out hate for what it is."
TOPICS: Asian Americans and TV, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Family Guy, Saturday Night Live, Ashley Park, Dave Chappelle, Atlanta Spa Massacre