Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Accidental Racist

Now that it's become quite obvious that The Prawn has become a small playback machine, more than ever we are watching our language. ("Melon Farmer" has become a staple word in our vocabulary.) My virtual sister-in-law even takes it upon herself to thwack my brother-in-law when he lets a choice word slip. And as for her grandfather...well we just make sure that she's too far away from him to hear what he's saying when he's in a mood.

My virtual sister and brother in law just recently purchased a Wii, which I now covet highly. We spent a lot of the weekend playing on the unique console, trying everything from tennis (which nearly resulted in broken furniture and the dog getting stepped on more than one.) to ski slalom. (which was about 10 times harder than it looked.)

Our biggest group effort was in bowling, however, and we all had a rather good time trying to thrash eachother on the virtual and scarily accurate lanes. The dog, who was recovering from tennis was obviously excited as 6 people seemed to be THROWING THINGS. IN THE HOUSE. So he bounded around, the concept of virtual reality too baffling for his tiny, doggy brain, wondering WHERE IN THE HELL ALL OF THESE THINGS WERE GOING before looking up at us ruefully as if to say, "You know, this looks like it should be fun, but it's really not."

In the Wii world, one chooses an avatar to represent you. For reasons too difficult to explain, my father-in-law's team was represented by a black "Mii" in their sporting exploits. The bowling program has an announcer who comes up from time to time if you get a strike or a spare who, rather predictably, shouts, "NICE STRIKE!" or "NICE SPARE!" The Prawn, of course, was sitting around, observing quietly (although her view of the proceedings was probably not all that different from the dog's.) and eventually toddled up to the television screen to see what all the fuss was about.

Just as father-in-law stepped up to play with his Mii of color, the Prawn happily shouted, "SPADE!"

It would have been pointless at the time to point out to my howling family that she was obviously trying to say, "spare" which had been shouted at top volume frequently over the last 10 minutes.

I've talked about how I feel about racial humor before. My feelings, in short, are that the best way to take power from something is to laugh at it. In an era where everyone lives in terror of words, racism can become stronger quietly, since everyone is afraid to talk about it for fear of using the wrong term, the wrong combination of words, the wrong tone of voice. Someday I'll have to have a conversation with the Prawn about hurtful words and I hope that while she takes my advice to heart, I also hope that there is never a combination of letters that makes her afraid.

One person who definitely ISN'T afraid to mock just about anything is Kevin Smith. In this scene from Clerks 2, terminal slacker Randall Graves makes a serious faux pas. Not in the least bit Safe For Work.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Heh heh, that reminds me of when jasper laughed at cerebral palsy.

This is a fun stage, isn't it? They can't quite say the things they're imitating - you have to listen so closely to recognise the words.

Does the prawn randomly say words perfectly once then never again? Jasper sometimes does this. He'll point to the thing and say "bus", bird", "cat", "thirsty" , "hello" or whatever clear as day and then not say it again. Very weird. It's almost like he's possessed for a moment.