Thursday, February 03, 2011

Tiger Woods black face skit on JP TV

Hardly a tit-for-tat, of course--but a reminder, perhaps, that insular humor, decontextualized, can be perceived as tactless, if not offensive, beyond one's shores. Explanation courtesy of Japan Probe:

On Monday night’s episode of “Sekai Maru Mie TV,” somebody thought it would be hilarious to put black paint on the face of a Japanese guy so he could apparently look like Tiger Woods.

The character called himself Taraiga Woods, a pun on the golfer’s name and the Japanese word for tub (tarai). Celebrity guests would be asked to predict what would happen next in funny home videos. If someone answered incorrectly, the blackface Taraiga would drop a tub on his/her head.

tiger woods black face [probe]


Aceface said...

"Hardly a tit-for-tat, of course--but a reminder, perhaps, that insular humor, decontextualized, can be perceived as tactless, if not offensive, beyond one's shores. "

The difference is that:
A)The J-TV is not intended to show outside of the insular nation unlike BBC.
B)There are ways for angry African community to accuse the content of TV program through BPO.

Personally,I think blackface act on Japanese TV won't give carte blanche to White guy making offensive commnetary upon Japanese.

Cancerella said...

Mr. Kelts,

I found your blog after hearing you speak on NPR this morning.

Your story re Mr. Fry was interesting and led me to watch the video clip from his show. I can see how some might have taken offense, esp. if the translation didn't take into account the subtext of the jokes, which all seemed to be aimed at the British rail system.

What pulled me in to explore your blog further was a reference you made to a skit from a Japanese TV show involving someone in blackface posing as Tiger Woods. I watched that skit, wondering why this sort of thing is funny.

As someone who straddles both American and Japanese cultures I would greatly appreciate some insight from you into this kind of unfortunate racial depiction and why it's acceptable within the confines of Japanese culture. If the skit had involved a white person would the actor have covered his face in white makeup? If not, or, if so, then why blackface?

Aceface says that "insular humor, decontextualized, can be perceived as tactless."
O.k., then could an explanation be posted that would help me understand the context? It's too easy to simply get offended (I'm Black/Native American) and just write this off as silly racism/ignorance. I'd much rather gain some insight and knowledge and understanding of why this exists and is acceptable, but I can only get that when someone who is inside the culture is willing to take a hard look and reveal something meaningful.

Thanks in advance?

Roland Kelts said...

You raise stark and sincere questions that are quite complex--and I appreciate them.
The short answer:
Most Japanese never encounter an African-American in person, thus hoary stereotypes persist and carry the most weight. It's likewise with so-called 'Caucasians,' who are shown in Japanese soap operas to be signifiers of wealth if they are bodyguards or doormen for Japanese characters.
It's an oversimplification born of isolation. This is not an excuse; it's a mere explanation.
Do you know of Bob Sapp, the African-American former NFL player who made big bucks mostly clowning around as an MMA star in Japan earlier last decade? Numerous adverts in Japan showed him playing to Beauty/Beast stereotypes, and worse--the threatening black man who nevertheless was soft at heart. He had a shrewd manager who made the most of the opportunities.

Here's but one lousy example:

This is hardly a thorough response, and I apologize for the blog-format brevity. Let's just say we all still have a long way to go.