Two very recent examples of people who let their mouths get them into trouble, and why the uproar over both -- the two being vastly different forms of expression -- is a little silly.
One of my favorite stories at the moment -- meaning it's one that just makes me shake my head at the absurdity of every facet of it -- involves the "anti-Asian rant" that a UCLA student shot and posted to YouTube. If you haven't seen it yet, it's an instant classic -- the kind of thing that was destined for viral transmission, followed by mass-media pick-up, followed by the inevitable contrived controversy and shouts of righteous indignation (and eventually ending with a Web Redemption segment on Tosh).
Basically it goes like this: a girl named Alexandra Wallace was apparently so miffed at the fact that UCLA is overflowing with Asian students and their idiosyncrasies that she -- wait for it -- took to the internet to bitch about it. Her three-minute tirade is mildly offensive to say nothing of unbelievably dumb, but it's not like she's the Secretary of State and it's not like she set a Korean grocer on fire or something. She's a stupid kid whose shitty judgment should preclude her from graduating college long before her skewed belief system does.
But needless to say, there are already those out there demanding that she be expelled. Not because she's an idiot, but because she said something that offended them.
The great irony of this, of course, is that Alexandra Wallace is herself a walking stereotype. In fact, she's got the ditzy, stacked Southern Cali blond thing down so flawlessly that I almost thought the video had to be some sort of parody. When I lived in L.A. I was generally more irritated by people like Alexandra than I was by the city's considerable Asian population. In fact, quite a few of my very close friends were Asian-American; I can't say I ever wanted to spend even a minute of my time with girls like Bryttnee from Brentwood here.
But regardless of what I think of her statements about the student demographic which seems to be ruining her collegiate experience, she has a right to speak what little exists of her mind and not fear official reprisal. As Wallace reminds everyone ad nauseam in the clip, this is actually America -- and while, no, it doesn't mean that blonds have more claim to it than anyone else, it does mean that even a stupid opinion can be aired freely.
And what about that opinion? Well, it's just that: an opinion. By its very nature that means that it's one person's view and you don't necessarily have to like it.
Apparently Alexandra has had issues with Asian students that she feels create a situation that's statistically significant enough for her to complain about those interactions and imply that they're part of a bigger picture. Not saying it's right -- although I'm of the mind that stereotypes exist for a reason; not everyone in a particular group will live up to a cookie-cutter image but apparently enough people have to create that stereotype in the first place -- but once again, it's her view and hers alone.
Are there a lot of Asians at UCLA? Oh, hell yes. In fact, one of my best friends in the world, who's of Vietnamese descent, graduated from there and used to rattle off the familiar joke that UCLA stood for "University of Caucasians Lost Among Asians." (For those keeping score, USC was "University of Spoiled Children.") Do Asian students tend to have certain cultural quirks? Of course they do. Would these quirks irritate you if you didn't grow up with them in your own household and now had to deal with them almost 24/7? Depends on who you are, but it's certainly possible.
So should Alexandra Wallace be punished in some way for complaining about her experiences with Asian students? No, actually. She's entitled to believe what she believes and to voice those beliefs.
Just like all the Asian and Asian-American kids who'll make response videos mercilessly mocking stupid, overly bubbly California bleach-blonds with big boobs will be entitled to that.
Besides, at the rate things are going, the Chinese students will eventually own Alexandra's rear-end anyway.
You're not gonna believe this but Gilbert Gottfried said something completely inappropriate.
I know, right?
Now I'm not talking about the time a few weeks after 9/11 when he said that he couldn't get a direct flight into New York City because all the planes were scheduled to connect at the Empire State Building. Or his infamously horrific telling of the legendary Aristocrats joke that followed it. Or that time during the roast of George Takei that he got up in front of a standing-room-only crowd and did ten minutes of cracks about "faggots."
No, I'm talking about just a couple of days ago when he rattled off a series of jokes about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on Twitter that included: "I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, they'll be another one floating by any minute now," "I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said 'is there a school in this area.' She said 'not now, but just wait'"; and "I fucked a girl in Japan. She screamed 'I feel the earth move and I'm getting wet.'"
What makes this last infraction against civil and polite society stand out is that it just got him fired from his job as the voice of the Aflac insurance duck. If you follow the logic, it goes something like this: Aflac hired one of the most gleefully loutish and obscene comics on earth -- a guy who's made a career out of defying good taste and who'll go to any length to offend and instigate -- then suddenly grew a conscience and cut him loose only when the people he was threatening to piss off happened to be valued customers (since Aflac does a lot of business in Japan). It almost goes without saying that while it's absolutely the company's decision who it wants to be associated with, it's interesting that Aflac apparently never concerned itself with whether Gottfried's material throughout the years might be offensive to its gay, black, Hispanic -- basically anybody he's ever mercilessly ribbed at one time or another -- clientele.
Aflac should've known what it was getting into when it decided to make Gilbert Gottfried the voice of its corporate mascot -- reacting with righteous indignation now is either disingenuous or ridiculously ignorant.
By the way, Gottfried's jokes -- while tasteless -- were pretty damn funny. And that's what a good comic is supposed to do: make us laugh, even through our pain.