Tuesday, February 13, 2007

As much as I respect Margaret Cho

sometimes her "mother" schtick makes me uncomfortable. To her credit, the time I saw her, she did the "mother" thing only on request. But why do people like to see her Korean mom act so much anyway. Generally, I'd say that it's not Asian people making the request, it's the white people. Why do they eat it up so readily? What's with the fascination with crazy Asian parents.

I bring this up, because I have noticed that many of my white friends and acquaintances quite readily think that every Asian person has "crazy Asian parents." If a parent does something weird, it must be because they are a "crazy Asian parent." Sometimes parents are crazy, not because they are Asian, but because they are just crazy.

For example, one of my white friends told me "Oh right. M, she has this crazy Asian family." Later, I find out this probably came from the story about how M's mom forbade her to eat bananas since she was a child. And also characterized them as worse than alcohol and pot. Other than that, M's family seems fairly functional. Now, I'd probably characterize the story as somewhat amusing and prejudiced against bananas, and perhaps taking the whole no banana thing a bit too far. And possibly crazy. But certainly not "crazy Asian." Hating bananas really has no relation to Asian culture, unless there was a memo and I wasn't paying attention.

And also, isn't the label "crazy" just a label for "fresh off the boat" or just "Asian"? And therefore Asian parents are crazy because Asian culture is on some level repressive and crazy? I may just be performing some faulty mental algebra, but really it's sometimes seems that way.

I'm hypothesizing here, but possibly the "Asian parent" thing is kind of exotic to people. They've read about it in the Joy Luck Club and so it's this novel experience. Also, I think it gives them the chance to laugh at Asian people through their children's eyes, so since it's being mediated through another Asian person, maybe it seems ok, than just laughing at someone's mom on the street. I'm just throwing it out there. What do you think?


exangelena said...

The crazy ethnic family isn't a cliche just for Asians, look at the whole Jewish mother meme that's been going for decades. Or the stereotype of sassy, usually southern, black women. Or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".
As for Margaret Cho, I used to like her because she's Asian, but she neither looks nor acts cute and little. But I read recently that she took up burlesque ... yeah, that's really feminist to sex yourself up like a softcore fantasy /sarcasm.

Laurel said...

I don't know, I don't have any friends who have "FOB" parents, but nearly all of my (Asian) friends from home had some batshit parents. By which I mean "batshit in a different way from my parents." Like I used to say that Hyong was "all my friends' dads" because he had that particularly Asian Male thing going on. Am I allowed to say this because so many of my friends were Asian growing up? There is something particular about Asian parents, or at least dads, that is very familiar to me. Some of those stereotypes of the really hardcore demanding parents are true. Of course, I can also freely admit that this was particular to my sample, and really all of my friends at Tuna-hole had crazy, uptight, demanding parents.

I never really enjoyed the Cho Mom stuff, but I do find myself laughing at a lot of other comedy about Asian (American) parents, because I'm like "Oh shit, that is totally Katy's dad / Emma's mom / etc."

I'd like to become a stand up comedian and talk about my parents and get rich off of it rather than have to pay for therapy.