Thursday, August 26, 2010

My latest post on Change.org: What's so funny about Antoine Dodson?

One night, an intruder broke into the Huntsville, Alabama, home of Kelly Dodson and attempted to rape her. Her screams alerted her brother Antoine, who came to the rescue. The intruder escaped and in local news coverage of the incident, Antoine Dodson expressed his anger and issued a warning to the community. The resulting video of a young man frustrated by the violence in his community and his sister's near assault has reportedly generated more than 2 million hits, a Facebook page and a remix by Autotune the News seen below and available on iTunes.

I can't help thinking that Dodson's new-found popularity is not about shared frustration over crime or violence against women. On threads around the 'net, Dodson is branded "hilarious." But what is so funny about Antoine Dodson? Part of the Dodson meme is, I fear, about laughing at mannerisms that the mainstream associates with blackness, gayness and poverty. There is nothing amusing about a young woman assaulted in her home. And so, I worry that people are laughing at Antoine: his flamboyance and perceived gayness; his use of black colloquialisms, like "run tell dat," his grammar and accent.

I agree with Baratunde Thurston of The Onion and Jack and Jill Politics, who is quoted in a recent NPR report: "As the remix took off, I became increasingly uncomfortable with its separation from the underlying situation. A woman was sexually assaulted and her brother was rightfully upset. People online seemed to be laughing at him and not with him (because he wasn't laughing), as Dodson fulfilled multiple stereotypes in one short news segment. Watching the wider Web jump on this meme, all but forgetting why Dodson was upset, seemed like a form of ‘class tourism.’ Folks with no exposure to the projects could dip their toes into YouTube and get a taste."

I say it is cultural tourism.

7 comments:

J'Abena said...

Tami, I posted this on my FB. I can't even tell you how many status updates there were of the viral remix. Thank you for highlighting the real issue.

Roschelle said...

I read your article at change.org. it was eye opening to say the least.

thank you for sharing a rational perspective on the issue

Kit Whitfield said...

Who here thinks that if Antoine Dodson was white, suburban and "straight"-acting, people would be caling for him to get a medal? I mean for goodness sake, the guy's all about protecting his family. Give him a different face and people would think he was the archetype of manly virtue.

I wonder how much of the laughter is people feeling threatened at the idea of a man who has the virtues but doesn't have the look? If you laugh at him, you don't have to admire what he did - but if you do admire what he did, you might have to change a whole lot of your ideas.

Anastasia said...

I have been avoiding watching that video. So I actually had no idea what it was about, but now that you told me I am actually appalled.

Cynthia said...

I'm so glad you posted this. A few of my FB friends shared the video and got a few lol's. I'm so ashamed of them.
It's not funny. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so!

Anonymous said...

I see a theme here. Morality trumps everything - art, humor, etc.

I see you falling into the same trap again, trying to make your conscious self the boss of the parts of humans that will NEVER be controllable.

Look, humor is involuntary; a good comedian is one that you just laugh at. You can't will that.

Our sense of beauty is the same. You just get struck by someone or thing and you appreciate it.

But, I think you take yourself WAY too seriously, and you take your progressive ethos and try to legislate the rest of your experience by its mandates.

Yikes.

Go ahead if you wish, but better to acknowledge that evil can be beautiful, or that it can be darkly, wickedly beautiful, than trying to play Puritan.

Your Puritanical need to be 'appropriate' is very reminiscent of Right Wingers who also don't want to laugh at anything inappropriate.

I think there are many people like you, that are fundamentally Puritans at heart. Oh, I know, you probably see yourself as hip and chilled out and cool and sophisticated, etc.

But Lefty Puritans aren't too much different than the Righty Puritans in many ways.

To war, then!

For me, I felt this: kick that bastar*'s ass who broke in, revel in the fact that they found his shirt, probably got his prints.

Then, I chuckled at how ridiculous that brother sounded, and I felt myself like him at the same time for his defiance and obvious sense of victory over the intruder.

That was my immediate reaction. I didn't pretend to police my own feelings about the brother as 'insensitive.'

Guess what? The world is a litany of horrors, it's just awful how much misery there is. It does nobody any good at all to put on a sad face and then scold and wag the finger:"HOW COULD YOU! How could you laugh at this when a woman was attempted to be raped!"

Eh, sorry. If you can't handle THIS - then I have news, you can't choose to laugh at this or that.

Life is a fast and deep and in motion.

You can't have it both ways - you can't pretend that life is in motion and that when we're down, we need to stop and smell the roses, smile, and so forth -

and then simultaneously say that those spontaneous responses should be bottled up. It's just not how the world works. It's not how people work.

Let your experiences come, and then go, and stop policing them. You don't have to ACT on your feelings by raping or hitting.

But, sheezus, let people laugh a little. Time to grow up. Your earnestness is so Dorm Room Appropriate, you know?

Grownups have complex feelings. Back off, comedy cop. But self-righteousness is the ultimate high, and I don't think you can let your need for it go. Or can you? Chill.

Anonymous said...

...sadly, even Antoine Dodson lost sight of his message by allowing himself to appear on BET.

...sadly it's been reported that the youtube viral song has found itself in rotation in clubs where folks are dancing to the voice of an upset but protective brother.

...sad.

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