January 26, 2007
Reality TV Conducts a Seminar on RacismBy Christopher Chantrill
In this age of situational ethics and values clarification how do you know when you cross the line?
(I am assuming that you are a member of a traditionally marginalized "community." For conservatives, of course the answer is: "Don't. Even Think About It.") Suppose you are a celebrity performer on a reality TV show, for instance Britain's "Celebrity Big Brother House UK?" Presumably a certain coarseness and edginess is expected. It does wonders for the ratings.
Last week South London celebrity Jade Goody found out that there is a limit to coarseness and edginess. She called Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty by the less than complimentary sobriquet "Shilpa Poppadom" and all hell broke loose. It was racism, you see, and any British TV viewer who had ever shed a tear for Princess Diana knew it.
I know what you are thinking.
If we submit the case of Jade Goody to the justice of the Court of Oppression we surely must judge her as a victim. Goody's father, a Jamaican, "left home when she was two. He died of a heroin overdose." Goody was raised in a chaotic home "by a lesbian mother, for whom she rolled cannabis cigarettes from the age of four." Then there was her deficient government education.
As everyone knows, there are certain classes of people who cannot commit a racist act. It's been drummed into us in countless diversity seminars that black people, for example, cannot commit racism because of their history of oppression. Here's Jade Goody, with unimpeachable victim credentials, an underclass childhood and her father a deceased black heroin addict. How could she be a racist?
Shilpa Shetty, the alleged victim, seems by comparison to have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She went to private school and college in India and speaks ten languages. Shetty made her "big screen debut in 1993 at the age of 18 in Baazigar, alongside Shahrukh Khan, a true Bollywood megastar."
Shahrukh Khan! You mean the star of the unforgettable Kuch Kuch Hota Hai?
Talk about starting at the top!
Be warned, though: "As a raunchy dresser - by Indian standards at least - Shetty is adored by millions of teenage Indian boys."
You can see what is going on. This is not a case of racism. It is "lookism," plain and simple. A comparison of Goody and Shetty is unequivocal, as commentator Simon Heffer points out. Goody is a "Bermondsey bigmouth" while the gorgeous Shetty is "vastly more articulate, experienced and thoughtful... successful, more talented, better brought-up and far better-looking." Need I say more?
Of course the British lefties just don't get it. "It's not Big Brother's Fault," opines the lefty Observer.
Oh, please, Mr. Lefty! Young women like Jade Goody are the poster children of the welfare state, the consequence of people responding to the incentives carefully laid down by a century of your progressive politics. Their coarseness is designed in, a logical consequence of the moral hazard in a system that rewards pathological behavior with government benefits and subsidies.
Perhaps, though, Jade Goody really does deserve the criticism. For the truth is that she is not really a victim. Despite her chaotic childhood, Goody progressed from rolling cannabis cigarettes at four to become, at the age of 21, a dental nurse. And she has earned millions as a celebrity since her first reality TV appearance.
Everyone knows that if you are no longer a helpless victim you no longer get a pass for bad behavior. So that's why British TV viewers sensibly drew the line on her coarseness and voted her off the show as an offensive racist. And how come that a woman who thinks that Sherlock Holmes invented the toilet knows that "poppadom" is an ornament of Indian cuisine?
Now the Indian Tourist Board is cashing in on the incident. It took out ads late last week in the British newspapers inviting Ms. Goody to visit India.
"Dear Jade Goody," read the ad, "Once your current commitments are over may we invite you to experience the healing nature of India."
Whatever next? Will the market-leading poppadom processor hire Shilpa Shetty as their celebrity spokesperson?
It's all so confusing. Perhaps we conservatives just don't possess the intellect to understand the sophistication of progressive politics and the nuances of its "rational ethics."