Thursday, 13 Dec 2018

“The ball in the stomach, I did not dare to tell my children in front of the skit ‘The Chinese’ “

In December 2016, comedians Kev Adams and Gad Elmaleh broadcast at prime time on M6, their sketch “The Chinese”. There they climbed the Asians, mocking their accents, their facies and portraying them as “dog-eaters”. In response, a number of people felt hurt, offended and shared it, including the DJ Louise Chen and Anthony Cheylan , the editor-in-chief of Clique TV. In return: nothing, not an ounce of regret or excuses. Worse still: in 2018, in teasing of the replay of the sketch on W9, channel M6, Gad Elmaleh launched a campaign on networks, in which he openly provoked the two authors of the galleries who dared to denounce the racist content of the skit.

What is their attitude of indifference first, and provocative then said of these two comedians? Beyond the content of the sketch, the question is not whether we can laugh at everything, but the way they handle the controversy, their reactions to the testimony of an injured community, challenges us and it is it that we are questioning today.

Does their celebrity and notoriety force them, in fact, to remain indifferent to people who tell them “we are hurt”? To ignore our emotion, is it not an implicit guarantee given to all the little “bullies” of schoolyard and social networks? To what extent do they promote or condone denigration, mockery and harassment?

Far be it from us to play the censors or the politically correct brigade. It is necessary, as Pierre Desproges says, to continue, on the contrary, to dare to laugh at everything. We often forget, however, that humor is not the only business of the artist, his creativity, even his talent. In fact, the humor engages the one who makes laugh as much as the one who is moved in front of him, ie who laughs or does not laugh.

We are not critical of jokes, we can not say in the place of an artist the limits of mockery, bad jokes or very good. Some jokes make some people laugh, and some do not.

But we know how we feel.

But how to react with dignity when you answer (not a person, but thousands of people) to your mockery by saying “we are injured, we felt offended”? What differentiates a thick brute from a cynical acerb, what makes a comedian different from the cultural traits of a group or community of a so-called comic racist? What distinguishes a great artist from a loser who refuses to acknowledge his wrongs?

It is the ability to recognize the emotion aroused in others that recognizes the dignity of a being. What a strange thing to have to claim a universal right: to be affected, to be hurt. This right we do not ask because it does not give, each of us, we have it. And that’s what we write.

Why ? The question is legitimate because the “but oh, it’s a joke” that often means: it’s wrong what you feel, you have no humor, it was not my intention, it’s you who are susceptible etc. The funniest jokes are precisely because they sound true. Besides, we laugh because there is a lot of truth behind it.

The truth that Gad Elmaleh and Kev Adams have staged, indeed it exists, and they have nothing to do with it, but they caricature it: behind the clichés, the jokes, they evoke for us the truth of our parents, of our grandparents, our uncles and aunts, our brothers and sisters.

Stewart Chau My parents arrived in France in January 1981, fleeing the ruins of Khmer Rouge capitalism in Cambodia. Their accent, their facies, is that truth that you denigrate. You take away the right to be proud of what I am, a part of here and there, and what my parents are, you are weakening me … I’m here, with you, where you tell me stranger and laughable according to your terms.

Since it’s funny, it’s not hurtful? Often, we find ourselves in the situation to have to justify being the only one (e) not to find that funny. In a society of “denigers” and “stalkers”, the law of the one who finds this funny takes precedence over that of the one who does not find it funny. In this society, it is up to the injured person to legitimize his feelings.

Mai Lam : when I watched in 2016 the sketch “The Chinese” with my children, because we worship Gad Elmaleh, I felt a huge ball in the stomach, between embarrassment and shame. I did not dare to express it to my children, and self-censored. It was only by reading the platform of Anthony Cheylan that I understood that I was not alone in feeling this, and especially, that I did not have to feel guilty of this feeling provoked by this offensive skit.

Humor can not be the absolute argument, it can not exonerate recognized and respected artists to listen to those who tell them: by force I have pain, I am ashamed. Otherwise it’s no longer humor and there, indeed, it’s no longer humor. It is denigrating, dominating and even excluding. For it is to forbid the other to feel what he feels, maintaining the idea that mockery is banal and necessary. Finally, it is to refuse the idea that there may be funny things that hurt, and we know, often the same. In this game, let’s face it, we all do not play on equal terms: there are the stalkers and the harassed.

We do not want to censor your talents as artists, it’s not about you as humblers, but what you are, what it says about you: what it does to us, some Asians of France whose use and practice would like us to be silent.

Your celebrity requires you. Your talent should lead you to believe that this hurt humor is a form of incentive for children to make fun of their classmates, their parents, their facies. Beyond Asians, you feed this sad but real feeling of shame, shame and why not shame his parents. It is not worthy of you, nor of the French society that we build.

This refusal of the humiliations of the everyday life is the necessary and saving act for every citizen who wrestles with the notion of civility. The real question is that of “we” as singular and plural individuals proud of what we are collectively because proud of it we can be individually.

Mai Lam Nguyen Conan, author of “The Ethnic Market, an Integration Model?” and “French, I loved you so much, the impossible integration?” Michalon Editions

Stewart Chau, sociologist, research on Franco-Khmer memory.

Mai Lam Nguyen Conan and Stewart Chau

Mai Lam Nguyen Conan and Stewart Chau

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