Girls’ Generation’s Yuri is under fire for acting racist two years ago during an episode of KBS’s “Invincible Youth,” where she starred as one of the fixed members. During the episode, Yuri had to do an impersonation of an African American. In the video, Yuri makes various facial expressions and gestures while saying “you die.”
The clip of Yuri “acting black” has belatedly caught the eye of foreign netizens, who were already sensitive due to the recent blackface controversy on MBC’s “Sebawki.” With Hallyu gaining more foreign fans by the day, such actions by one of the most popular hallyu stars have shocked and offended netizens abroad.
Local netizens commented, “I saw the video, but I don’t know…” I understand why foreigners may be upset, but she was just trying to be funny,” “It’s harmless,” “Why is this becoming an issue now?” “I don’t think she was trying to do an impersonation of a black man,” and more.
Admittedly, I saw this clip years ago and I never thought either the black or Japanese imitations were offensive. The whole group was trying to be funny, and whether they failed or succeeded, I think they deserved that chance.
Compare that with the Jenny Hyun controversy or the blackface issue, where in both instances I instantly knew those situations were completely unacceptable and that they were going to cause problems, which is exactly why I wrote about them before anybody else.
Look, I’ve spoken out against racism on this site multiple times before, and I’m not saying this wasn’t in bad taste, especially given that they’re idols and not comedians, but I do think context is important for everything.
The word “chink” can be offensive and racist, but in certain contexts, it doesn’t have to be. For example, saying, “People who use the word ‘chink’ disgust me!”
My point being that words or actions themselves aren’t automatically terrible, it’s the context that makes them terrible.
So in my opinion, there’s a difference between using stereotypes and things of that nature in serious discourse and comedic situations. All comedians talk about stereotypes in comedy, whether it’s women or men or Asians or blacks or whites or Latinos or whatever. Like 90% of observational comedy is based on that type of stuff, and I’ll defend the right to make a joke, because if not, there would be no comedy left.
I know what you’re saying, “But weren’t the other cases just people trying to make jokes too?”
No, I don’t think so.
Jenny Hyun clearly was not joking about shit, and I don’t think putting on blackface, wearing gold chains/basketball jerseys, and acting a fool was intended as a joke either. Sorry, I just don’t see the correlation between munching on watermelon in blackface and trying to make a joke, not as much as I see it being about putting on a modern day minstrel show and just being straight up insulting racist shit.
It’s a difference between making being black THE JOKE itself, as opposed to trying to poke fun at people’s mannerisms, vocal inflection, and stereotypes to make people laugh.
Personally, I think within the context, the group were trying to make jokes, much like Brian Joo did when he was imitating his black female friend. Maybe they succeeded and maybe they failed, but the situation was that they were trying to be funny by imitating black and Japanese people, and they shouldn’t be limited within that context, because from there it’s a never ending slippery slope.
It’s a thin line, one that’s subjective, but I don’t think this incident crossed it.
I expect people will disagree with that viewpoint, but that’s where my opinion lies on the issue, and I just don’t think it’s worth making a big deal out of.