Just a tinge of cultural cringe

15 October 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

By now its official. YouTube showed them, Twitter told them and The View sold them. We’re all a bunch of blackface-wearing, iSnack-hating, midget-riding rednecks. Never has one week shown that the cultural cringe is still very much alive and kicking in the depths of Australian media.

First there was the iSnack 2.0 debacle. Trying to explain the front page outrage to a visitor from another country would be hilarious if it weren’t so embarrassing.

Well, it goes like this: a marketing decision made by a spread company infuriated the hearts and minds of a nation. We got all hot and bothered about Vegemite and forgot about a raft of important debates which were then swept under the media rug.

But hey, doesn’t the name suck?

Obviously, our priorities are in the right place if we are spending large amounts of our time giving a tosh on Twitter about Kraft’s new cheese-flavoured spread.

What makes the whole ‘scandal’ even more shameful is the fact that the idea is most likely a clever PR con.

Then, there was last week’s infamous Jackson Jive sketch, which has since been analysed, dissected and vox popped more times than Plucka Duck has had hot dinners.

While many commentators joined Harry Connick in expressing disgust at the blackface routine, 69% of Herald Sun readers subsequently found the skit non-offensive.

This isn’t surprising. I’m willing to wager most Hun readers would be white Anglo-Saxons. This doesn’t make the skit any less offensive to people from other cultures, including African-Americans.

In fact, one Hun commenter labelled Connick “just another uptight American with no sense of humour. I would not be offended if five black men appeared on Red Faces with white paint on their faces.”

Clearly ‘Harry from Melbourne’ doesn’t understand the connotations of blackface.

However, more than being offensive, the skit was plain embarrassing. In what decade has painting your face black been funny?

That one moment showed why Hey Hey It’s Saturday is stuck in a television time warp. Hey Hey is so incredibly dated, I can’t see it holding the nostalgic interest it has already begun to wear out.

Nevertheless, a desperate Nine Network is likely to sign Somers and gang for a longer run. One that it doesn’t deserve.

Finally, there was the ‘Midget Cup’.  A ‘race’ held last weekend at the Cranbourne Cup, where dwarf jockeys rode on the backs of punters.

The race is clearly humiliating to one part of society and offensive to large parts of the rest.

Racing Minister Rob Hulls slammed Victoria Racing for staging the stunt, while Premier John Brumby called it “tacky”.

However, again many have accused the ‘PC-brigade’ for lacking a sense of humour over the incident. Jockey Damien Oliver and racing officials have come out in support of the ‘midget cup’, telling people to “lighten up”.

Of course, the footage has been uploaded to YouTube for the world to see.

Ah, the cultural cringe. Our sense of humour is on show yet again.

Tom Cowie is a final year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. This piece has also been posted on his blog, stop making sense.