July 08, 2010

Devil's advocate defends Saginaw Grant

Wrapping up (?) a debate on the Dudesons I never completed, here's Michael Cooke's defense of Saginaw Grant:Well in my case it comes down to agreeing to disagree as Rob is unable to persuade me and I'm unable to persuade Rob.

In the case of the Dudesons, I've only seen part of one episode online and not the offending one. But I've seen enough to know it's 'jackass' style antics, which is white frat boy kind of idiocy in my opinion, with minority players, mostly Hispanic.

Rob's upset at the indulgence of racial stereotypes of native Americans in the Dudesons is complicated by the fact that the idiocy of the characters does little to suggest legitimacy or credibility to any stereotypes they exploit, and is further complicated by the fact that the show does use an authentic Native American actor represented by Native American management.

The stereotype is certainly not good, but the damage caused is up for debate. And that the show is hiring authentic Native American talent with native American representation, that's a very positive thing.

So investing all of your energy into attacking not just the stereotype, but the show, the actor and the actor's management--of course there's going to be conflict, anger and personal attacks.

On Comedy Central, Flavor Flav the former Public Enemy rapper, participated in a 'celebrity roast' that was so mover the top racist, one of the African American comedians really felt shitty about it. That comedian talked about this on his comedy special, and he explained that when he asked Flavor Flav how he felt about it, Flav answered "Hey, I got PAID!"

There's all kinds of ways to look at things. But the bottom line might be surviving and getting paid. Of course if there's alternative offers paying as much, that Native American may never associate himself with Dudesons. But it was the best job he could get. In this economy I can't damn him for doing his job as well as he can.
I can damn him. There's zero evidence that he tried to ameliorate the stereotypes during filming. It's one thing to take the job because you need it--a situation that no one has confirmed, by the way. It's another thing to take the job happily and dismiss the results as harmless.

If you sincerely understand what the issues are, what many Natives are complaining about, then apologize. Don't defend and justify your actions and then expect a free pass from criticism. "I was just doing my job" went out with the Nuremberg Trials, in case you hadn't heard. It's no longer a valid excuse if it ever was.

"Agree to disagree" = Indians win

By "agree to disagree," you mean I've posted a dozen arguments against Dudesons-style minstrel shows that no one has touched. You "disagree" with these arguments without contradicting them or offering an equivalent set of counterarguments. So noted.

You can label that a stalemate, but I label it a win for our side. You know, the side that includes all the Natives whom the Dudesons offended? It's a win for them first and for me a distant and inconsequential second.While with Dudesons the stereotypes cannot be justified as a good thing, it's that the harm of the stereotype in that instance is debatable if not dubious and certainly not quantifiable.

The problem you have is when your condemnation of the program extends to the actors and their management. There are not enough job opportunities for Native American actors, and the opportunities that do exist may be inferior or involve stereotypes. The actors and their management are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
Repeat: I generally don't blame the actor or his agent when they take a questionable job. But when the pay and opportunity are small and the offense is huge, the equation shifts. No way do we literally excuse everything because "it's just a job."

At this point a woman named Gina who knows Grant personally chimed in:‎@ Micheal Cooke....If you had listened to Brenda Golden's interview w/ Saginaw you will hear Saginaw state in his own words that he has a great pension and is doing just fine! So pu-lease don't tell me that this was done for economic reasons. He makes no apologies for this role whatsoever. Like you say he is laughing all the way to the bank to cash that small check! And listen carefully to that interview...if you're not enrolled or Indian enough...according to his own words you don't seem to matter....Right. Your "he needed the job" argument works in the abstract, Mike, but not in this situation. Try again.

Indians can poke fun at Indians?

Mike continues:I just play devil's advocate till the end. lol.

I am clearly working with a disadvantage. I have no interest in watching the offending show to begin with.

But explain this: A comedian of color always has license to poke fun at his own people in such a way that would be intolerably racist coming from a White comedian.

Why does the Indian actor in Dudesons, playing a theatrically ridiculous and idiotic role, have less license than the comedian?

What is clear, is that the Indian actor didn't believe there's anything wrong with his performance, perhaps he's clear that he's a comedian?

And the role on Dudesons is television exposure, it may well pay off handsomely in future television contracts, especially as it's know now he doesn't take himself too seriously and is open to slapstick.
Another commenter put Mike in his place:lol, I can imagine your jaw flapping Michael....You haven't even SEEN the show and you have so much to say about it, please don't tell me you know what it is to be a Native American next or I will bust my gut laughing at you....More answers for Mike:

Saginaw Grant wasn't doing any of the poking fun himself. He was standing by to lend legitimacy to the white Dudesons and their antics. The proper term for his actions is Uncle Tom-ming:

Uncle TomUncle Tom is a term for a black person who behaves in a subservient manner to white.Comedy justifies stereotypes?

I've refuted the "comedy justifies stereotypes" argument half a dozen times already. Read and debate these arguments if you wish, but don't pretend you've come up with an explanation we somehow missed. We're way ahead of you on that score.

As a rationale, "paying off handsomely in future television contracts" is even further from the "he needed the job" excuse. Which I notice you failed to defend. When Gina cut off one explanation, you smoothly shifted to another, eh? Nice trick if you can get away with it.

If Grant is a selfish bastard who cares only about his career...then great, he should say so. But don't give us any crap about how the harm and offense don't matter. "I don't care about your feelings" is one thing and "you're wrong to feel insulted" is another.

As Gina said, you don't go on the radio and question the "Indianness" of your critics. You might as well say, "You're right, but I'm questioning your legitimacy because I've got no other defense." You're big on avoiding personal attacks, so why are you excusing this obnoxious behavior?

Grant didn't need the job and he doesn't have an intellectual argument for taking it. Neither do you, but you're too invested in your "stereotypes disappear organically" fallacy to realize it. Thus you end up offering a scattershot of unrelated excuses, including a defense of his personal attacks.

When someone writes Grant's legacy, it won't be "he was open to slapstick." It'll be "his long career was marred a controversy over a TV show deemed racist by critics." If he's okay with that, so are we.

For the final word, here's a statement on Facebook from Native actor Aldred Montoya:I am amazed by how many "Native Sell-Outs" there are. Since my letter to MTV, I have seen how many "warriors" there ARE NOT. Many of you on FB know them. It is sad that I can only call them "Fat Takers." "YOU FTs," know what I mean.

"You Hollywood Injuns" should be ashamed that you are so easily afraid of "Money," or the lack thereof. "YOU" need to become a newborn native soul. That is all I have to say.

For more on the subject, see AIM Threatens to Sue MTV, Ethnic Humor Suggestions for MTV, and Whites Fighting Racism Is Racist?!

Below:  "You do whatever you want, son. No one will criticize you with a real Indian on the show."

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