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The #CancelColbert Controversy and the Castigation of Suey Park

 

On Mar. 27, political satire show “The Colbert Report” came under fire after a quote from the Mar. 26 episode was published on the show’s Twitter feed. The tweet, since deleted, read, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Self-described activist and writer Suey Park, whose online name is actually an adoption of the Chinese dish chop suey in a presumed effort to parody Asian stereotypes, responded to the show’s tweet with the hashtag #CancelColbert and the urge to trend it.

Out of context, the quote is an alarmingly ignorant slew of epithets. Of course, we are discussing a show in which Stephen Colbert assumes a hyperbolically conservative American persona in order to parody the tripe that often comes from that sect of society. Thus, it makes sense that the quote was actually mock praise of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.” Snyder’s steadfast commitment to keeping the pejorative name “Redskins” for the football team has long been controversial, and maintaining “Redskins” in the name of a foundation supposedly benefiting Native Americans is absurd. Colbert’s joke was highlighting this absurdity. It’s unclear whether or not Park realized the tweet was meant to be satire upon first viewing it, but she has maintained in interviews about the incident that the satire was nonetheless racist and therefore not funny.

One such interview was her appearance on a “HuffPost Live” segment with Josh Zepps, seen here.

While I have to agree that Suey Park’s attack on Colbert’s joke seems misguided and her defense of the #CancelColbert hashtag has been inconsistent and hypocritical—she uses satire within her own online persona with the name Suey, she changes her answers to each publication on her motivations in the Twitter campaign—Zepp’s treatment of her in this interview deeply bothered me (read: bugged the shit out of me.) Indeed, this segment was more a public reprimanding than an interview. Zepps engages in civil interviews with his guests on “HuffPost Live” regularly, so the assholery in his approach with Park is off-putting. While the interview begins with cordiality, it quickly devolves into Zepps condescension of Park and her immediate assumption of a defensive position. Asking her questions like, “Do you understand satire?,” speaking over her and calling her opinion “stupid” is just bad journalism. The interviewer’s opinion is never more important than the interview subject’s opinion, but Zepps seems to think he is an exception to that rule.

Park’s assertion that Zepps cannot understand the argument from a person-of-color (POC) perspective as a white man and that he feels entitled to speak over her for this reason may seem petty, but with the storied history of suppressing female and POC perspectives, I don’t know that you can necessarily blame Park for being under that impression. Regardless of whether or not his condescension was gender or racially motivated, his treatment of Park was disrespectful and dismissive.

Colbert responded to the controversy with—what else?—more satire on his Mar. 31 episode, but he also urged viewers to halt their attacks on Park. You can see the segment here:  http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/full-episodes/u4jfik/march-31–2014—biz-stone

Courtney Hamilton is an English major, Literary Journalism Minor and Art History Minor at UC Irvine. She is a Her Campus Editor, Editor in Chief of UC Irvine's alternative magazine Incite, a writer for 7 Deadly Magazine, and an editorial intern at OC Weekly.
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