Day 37. 94 pages, 42,839 words.
Here’s something interesting I’ve found in my week or two on Vine.
Okay, first of all, they’re kids. They’re all kids. Oh, there are a couple of old farts but the majority – and I have to say the funniest and the most joyous – are kids. At first I thought they were just making a lot of jokes about parents and schoolwork, but it seems they’re just actually teenagers. And bless them, they’re wonderful and give me hope for the future of our species. This is a perfect example of a generation raised with the Internet and mobile phone technology, acting completely at-ease with their environment. They’re just moving around in a world to which they are native, and it’s amazing and humbling to see what they do with it. It makes me realise just how little anyone over the age of about 25 is really ‘immersed’ in the worldwide web. We’re just floating around on the surface like carcasses, some of us trailing appendages or shedding extremities into the water.
But I digress.
Next up, though, a slightly more difficult thing for me to see. Vine’s comedy category (admittedly the only one I really watch) heavily features groups of African American kids doing jokes about watermelon and fried chicken.
Now, already I can see myself walking into trouble with this.
I get that, as dumb-to-the-point-of-surreality as I think they are, these are negative stereotypes intended to mock and belittle and categorise a whole group of people. I get that it’s probably one of those “only a ginger can call another ginger ‘ginger’” things, and that even so these videos I’m seeing are perpetuating an abusive generalisation. And yes, of course, a lot of these videos are just going for cheap laughs or reversals. Because-we-can meets taking-it-back, I guess.
First of all, I’ve never understood this slur. Watermelon is delicious and refreshing even though I’m not a huge fan, and fried chicken? Frying is the best thing humanity has ever done to an animal, and chicken is the best animal we have ever done it to. It’s fucking fantastic.
Secondly, I’m not seeing a perpetuation of a negative here. Nor am I seeing a disregard for historical injustices and bigotries that will lead to history repeating itself. I’m seeing – or perhaps I’m choosing to see – a celebration of legacy weirdness that means the next generation rejects this stupidity entirely. Their friends are their friends and what they do for fun and fellowship has nothing to do with outmoded social caste systems.
I’m seeing a conscious acting-out, a desire to put hatred and prejudice behind us, and do so in the only healthy way we can: pull it out from under the bed and hurl it under the hot, bright lights, naked and blinking and hissing, and giving it the laugh-and-point it deserves.
Some of it’s not so touchy, it’s just straight-up satire. Assorted collaborative Vine feeds include groups of assorted different “races” (oh boy, I’ve struck quotey marks), busting open stereotypes and basically being glorious, that’s fantastic. And they make fun of all the stereotypes, which to my mind makes it fair game:
Why my instinctive reaction to the black-guys-be-all jokes?
Is it still bad? Do I get to say whether this issue is all settled and we can now comfortably laugh at it?
I guess not. I guess I get to say whether I personally find it funny (I do) or offensive (I don’t). But do I get to say whether that attitude is right or wrong?
I feel, obscurely, that it’s wrong. See? Call it liberal guilt, call it what you like. I don’t want to make any declaration on this score. “I’m not a racist, but the guys on Vine making videos about racist stereotypes make me laugh.” If that makes me racist, then I’m racist. Everyone’s racist. We’re humans.
Yes, Vine is weird and attention-deficit-suffering and agonisingly random. These kids are just kids, doing what kids have always done: confounding the older generation and rejecting the bullshit of their forefathers. Is there automatic, inherent value in all of it? Probably not. I don’t think anyone would argue that.
And the ridiculous nature of bigoted attitudes in general:
And they do amazing, wonderful things for no reason:
And they exist in a better world than the one that really exists around them, the world their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents have left them like some clapped-out piece of stained furniture:
And they’re fantastically funny:
And just generally beautiful:
And good for them. They’ve got this.