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More Work Adventures

Yesterday a question of fairness was brought up by another editor about one of our publications. I was not part of the meeting, but what I heard of it, the complaint was severe; it was also circumstantial and, I think, uninformed. “Someone might flip through the publication and become offended if they see that title” went the line. So I was asked to explain our reasoning:

[My boss] shared with me your concern about including the titles Robot Chicken and A Day Without a Mexican in [our publication]. We have no problem removing Robot Chicken, particularly since it included in a list of other satirical television shows and cartoons and does not itself add significant value to the list.

But I hope you will reconsider your objection to A Day Without a Mexican. Had we known your objection was so strong from your previous review, we would have explained more directly why we decided to keep the text….

Given that [the publication] represents an extensive study of satires, many of the texts that are referenced are probably offensive to someone. The Colbert Report, which is named several times, has its detractors as a parody not only of newsmagazine shows, but of the right wing. Of the texts that are studied in the unit, Mark Twain’s essays excoriate everyone, and the capstone, “A Modest Proposal,” is completely offensive if taken literally. Perhaps one could say that none of these critics can be taken seriously because they are satirists; however, to say that is to dismiss the genre entirely, and not to study it. In fact, to study satires, satires must be allowed to be offensive in order to understand why satires are satires in the first place. Indeed, the unit is a particularly good engagement of the genre because it takes “taking offense” seriously. Including A Day Without a Mexican in a list of possible texts that students might reference is no exception to that rule.

More importantly, A Day Without a Mexican is a good cultural reference precisely because it expands the unit’s diversity. After all, the unit is already heavily weighted toward white, middle-class culture. The Onion, referenced frequently, is a favorite of white, educated urban professionals, as is The Simpsons and The Colbert Report. The fact that its primary texts are by Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift do not help to expand the unit’s frame of reference beyond middle-class Westerners. A Day Without a Mexican is one of the few texts that does expand that frame. Written and directed by Sergio Arau, a filmmaker from Mexico City, it begins with the absurd scenario that all the immigrant workers in California one day disappear. From that initial absurdity, it explores the question: “What would happen?” It is a satire just like “A Modest Proposal”: of course all of the Mexicans will not disappear from California just as the British will not begin roasting Irish children for breakfast.

The bigger problem with the film may be that it is Rated R, and we offer no disclaimers to that effect for it or any other text in the unit. That said… most students [who are this publication’s secondary audience] are turning 18 and have been able to get into R-rated movies for over a year. On that note, rather than excising texts that in fact broaden the scope of our instruction, it may be better to suggest a stronger disclaimer in the unit that acknowledges the potential offensiveness of satires and asserts that such offense will likely be cross-cultural. Otherwise, we weaken [the publication] in ways that are not easily recoverable.

If you still believe removing the text is the better option, then would you please suggest another (or several) in its place that both expands the unit’s frame of reference beyond the middle class?

Here is the million dollar question: why was the movie flagged?



Also: Will I hear anything in reply? (So far, nada.)

because it´s not that good of a movie?

That would be a better objection than the curt “inappropriate” that has been given. Have you seen it?

yeah. it’s broad, broad satire. and, it’s not that it’s bad… it’s just that it comes out of a very “low-brow” Mexican aesthetic tradition that is rough, unpolished, overly-melodramatic, over-acted, and has a very amateurish feel. so, as opposed to say, the big lebowski which is smart, intelligent satire, it’s much more closely related to the campiest aspects of something like animal house, but not the gross-out stuff. it’s on the lower spectrum of any of the rodney dangerfield movies… i.e. not caddyshack. though, again, without the gross-out factor.

That is about what I gathered. Is it right to say, however, that it is rather unique in its provenance—or are there other, better U.S.-directed Latino satires that I am unaware of?

It does seem that if you could find a better Latino satire to replace it with, that would probably be the best thing…And to make it clear that you’d like to replace it because this other film is better-regarded, not because “Mexican” is a dirty word, which I think is obviously what this is all about.

I haven’t seen the movie in question, but what you’re describing about the style of humor reminds me of the performance artist Carmalita Tropicana.

Another Latino directed/ written/acted satire would be Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s “Couple in the Cage.” More recorded performance art than a movie, though.

And BTW, in answer to how I found this blog. I don’t know. I began at Steamthing.com (and I don’t know how I got there) and somehow ended up here..where I was romanced by the hermit graphic…and stuck around for a while wondering “what is this blog about?”

Sorry for the doubling of my comment…Hermits is running slow…at least on my computer. I didn’t think it went through at first.

The server has been doing that all morning and off-and-on for more than a week. Stupid shared hosting.

Fiat came down from on high: “We need to take the reference out.” I want to replace it with a bunch of trashy and extremely subversive books and films, now.

7: “what is this blog about?”

That is really a very good question!

born in east L.A.

Cheech is brilliant.