If it wasn’t okay for Mickey Rooney to portray a Japanese stereotype in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, why is it okay for Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen to do so in a “Harajuku Girls” skit for “Portlandia”?
The skit, featured below, involves two supposedly Japanese tourists, in Harajuku regalia, wreaking hyper-manic (read: girlish) havoc in a coffee shop.
Not only is this skit rather dull, it’s truly disturbing, especially coming from a show that pokes fun at leftists who can’t recognize their own silliness and hypocrisy. Also, for what it’s worth, the Japanese tourist stereotype is just plain boring. If I have to see another white person imitate a Japanese tourist wielding a camera, I won’t forget to mention the time we put Japanese Americans in internment camps. Where are the cameras for that?
Now. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Dear Libra, since when do you take the time to critique all the racism and other -isms in television? This is Famous For Bad Reasons, not Bitch Magazine.”
This, however, is important to me. As a huge Sleater-Kinney fan, I’m feeling shocked and disappointed that Carrie Brownstein would take part in something so boring and downright racist. If they’d just hired Japanese girls to portray the stereotypes, I could maybe get behind another boring jab at satire. However, both Brownstein and Armisen decorated themselves to mimic Japanese girls. It wasn’t self-reflexive enough or transparent enough to indicate to the viewers that yes, they were mimicking white Americans mimicking a Japanese sub-culture.
If you’re going to be an asshole, be transparent about it. Not everything is excused or made socially progressive by simply labeling it “satire.”