Friday, February 7, 2003

Dame Edna... My goodness.

If I get one more email sent to me about boycotting Vanity Fair because Dame Edna made racist comments about Latinos, I think I might lose my mind! I mean, really!

First of all, it's a dipshit magazine with great photos and the occasional good article, packaged for people that think they're too good for...well, People! Second, it's obvious that anyone that forwards the email in question neither reads the magazine or has a clue who Dame Edna is.

How exactly do you boycott something you don't patronize to begin with anyway? And how do you convince those that actually DO patronize it to boycott when they know from jump that you don't what the hell you're talking about?!?!

Dame Edna, for those that don't know, writes an "advice column" for Vanity Fair. It's a completely satirical take on the genre and in the current issue - with Salma Hayek on the cover (did I mention the great photos?) - she counsels someone wondering whether they should learn Spanish by telling them: "Forget Spanish...Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?" Oh the tempest that followed!

I'm worn out debating the idiocy of it all and a much more lucid perspective on the dustup was written by Virginia Cueto of Read it and, if you forwarded the original boycott email, be sure to forward this one, too.

I find it truly ironic that this got as much attention as it did, meanwhile Kingpin, network TV's FIRST Latino drama, indulges in some of the worst stereotyping in recent memory and barely a word.

Some friends of mine have been debating the issue for the past day or two and I finally got annoyed and had to remind people that there's a war about to start that, perhaps, might be a bit more important than Dame Edna. There was an interesting moment in our debate where one friend, a white South African male, warily made a point, not sure if he was overstepping his bounds, and it made me think about my own identity.

I've never been comfortable with my Latino heritage - my father's Puerto Rican - largely because I don't speak Spanish. When my parents separated at three, my contact with my father's side of the family diminshed greatly over the years and the little bit of Spanish I knew, faded away. Running around with the last name Gonzalez made life awkward, especially considering my preference for Latinas. Girlfriends' mothers and grandmothers were always lessons in humility!

To be honest, not counting the year in Miami, I've never been made to feel NOT Latino by other Latinos. [Interestingly, it's non-Latinos that are quicker to categorize. Or DE-categorize, in my case.] If anything, that compounds my awkwardness with it all. I'm much better at confrontation than encouragement. Of course, it's not like speaking Spanish is the sole defining characteristic of being Latino, but without it, everything else feels lacking.

Anyway, I bring this up because I was surprised at my initial reluctance to get involved in the debate, for fear that I wasn't Latino enough to have an opinion - reinforced by my lack of outrage over the Dame's comments - and that it would be pointed out to dismiss my opinion. Of course, it didn't happen, at least not publicly, but I couldn't shake that feeling of...not quite belonging.

Identity is a funny thing and, lacking any deep connections to an ethnic identity, it's why I've always clung to being a New Yorker.

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