January 04, 2011

Colbert satirizes UN declaration scare

Stephen Colbert exposes Obama's latest takeover plan on the Comedy Channel's Colbert Report, 1/4/11:

Comment:  I thought this bit was cute but also stereotypical at the end. It was a good subject to satirize, but in Colbert's final speech, it wasn't clear who or what he was satirizing.

A comment on Facebook:He is playing the part of a Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. That is the point of his character. He is the modern-day Archie Bunker.Yes, we understand that. The question is whether Colbert is satirizing white men or Indians at the end. I'd say he crossed the line from one to the other.

True, it's similar to an Archie Bunker rant. But Mike Stivic or someone usually contradicted Archie's racist remarks and made him look stupid. Nothing like that happened to punctuate Colbert's remarks, which makes them a problem.

Colbert's bit really annoyed someone else:Shame on Comedy Central for choosing to take that story in the direction they did. I know that they are in the business of being funny and making light of serious topics--but the shame of it is that what could and should have been an opportunity to finally get the topic of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights in front of the general public and mass of uninformed Americans was turned into a farce---and worse, a farce that went right into the usual stereotyping and racism. Me heapum pissed off.Yeah, how are audiences supposed to take Colbert's Tonto talk? Is he talking like an ignorant Indian? Or like an ignorant white man's impression of an ignorant Indian?

Since he's supposedly directing his comments at Indians, the correct answer is the former, or both. That is, he's talking in a style intended to communicate successfully with Indians. If he's portraying himself as ignorant, he's also portraying Indians as ignorant. That's stereotypical.

If Sherman Alexie or someone came on and mocked Colbert's "ignorance" the way the Jeffersons used to mock Archie, that would be different. But nothing like that happened. Nothing told viewers that Indians are really educated and speak perfect English like everyone else.

In short, the bit was a nice try, but it failed in the end. Better luck next time, Comedy Central.

For more on the UN Declaration, see Modoc Nation Rips UN Declaration and Countdown Covers UN Declaration Scare. For more on how humor and satire work, see The Dudesons, Polish Jokes, and Minstrel Shows and Okay to Stereotype in "Satires"?


Burt said...

I thought he started off with the right angle, but then got lost in the whole routine of stereotypes.

When it comes to anything that has to do with native issues in the national spotlight or American livingrooms for that matter, I really don't think Colbert, the mainstream media, or even the American people, have even the slightest grasp for who and what indigenous people are.

The whole definition of being native or indigenous in itself has done a 360 degree turn where any American can believe wholeheartedly that Adolf Hitler was a full blooded Apache or that Glenn Becks ancestors occupied the continent 10,000 years before the Mayans or Lakota did.

As I have stated before, everything in a capitalists society is up for sale, be it the kingdom of heaven; science or whatever the popular trend of the day is and if most Americans do not know that Woodrow Wilson was a hardcore racist or that Helen Keller was a hardcore socialist, everyone is just fine sleeping with the myth that Wilson was the hero and Keller, because of her political activities, was handicapped.

In reality, Keller described Wilson as "the greatest individual disappointment the world has ever known", something I am sure every American has said about George W or Obama, depending on your politics?

If Americans do not know their own history, how can they know the original inhabitants of this continents origins.

It is easier to revise, recreate or lampoon than to accept the harsh realities of who and what we are and whether or not our brains are full, or half empty.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:


Did Colbert Bit Go Too Far?

Was the crowd laughing at Colbert-the-character’s dated, insensitive, cartoonish view of Native Americans? Or were they simply laughing at Native Americans?