I can be notoriously out of the loop. I’ve “discovered” life-changing songs and excitedly shared them with my friends who respond, “Um, isn’t that from like 4 years ago?” That said, have you all heard about Amy Schumer? Apparently she’s been hot sh*t for at least a year now. There’s an ad for her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer with a pixelated boob hanging out of her dress all over the NYC subway system, so I thought I’d check it out. I watched two episodes shortly after reading Lesli-Ann Lewis’ excellent opinion piece on Dave Chappelle’s shrug-off of White consumption and its demands of entertainers of color.
In contrast, Amy Schumer, a blonde, blue-eyed 30-something from the suburbs of Long Island, niece of Charles Schumer, and former gentrifier of my hometown, affirmed the following things for me:
- Hipster or ironic racism is still racism. If racism is so old-school and ironic, why is it so much easier for a blonde blue-eyed WASP to get a standing show on Comedy Central than for a woman of color? And why is it okay that the only people of color on her show are props for her ironic liberal humor, whether it be a black actor cast as a mugger or sales clerks she can’t tell apart in a sketch? Schumer has likened her show to the Chappelle Show. If only.
- Amy Schumer is a racist. This is from her stand up: “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual!” Are you serious? Schumer gets a lot of cred for a sketch she did on a political-correctness training program for octogenarians, but that’s exactly it. Your white grandma calling people “colored” is kind of not as problematic as your narrative that Latinos are rapists.
- Rape is rape—not “grape”. After that racist comment, Schumer follows with, “We’ve all been a little bit raped, am I right?” and in an NPR interview , Schumer says “There’s a gray area of rape, and I call it ‘grape.'” It’s true: hetero sex with cisgender men within the rape culture that is the U.S. isn’t clear cut. Consent and power and pleasure are all contested fronts. This notion of “grape” could have been an important opening for some kind of commentary or re-framing of sexual violence. But unfortunately it didn’t happen.
- White feminism. White liberalism. Yawn. Liberal media outlets are unanimously lauding Schumer for her clever POV, stuff like a female-market version of Hooters (O’Nutters). It’s possible that what she’s doing isn’t exactly the hypersexual content that so many female, femme-presenting comedians have to do to get noticed, but it’s clear that Comedy Central and Amy Schumer have a specifically white audience in mind.
Schumer’s big selling point is that it’s mostly but not all “sex stuff” but a great deal of it is. She peddles in the novelty of being able to call herself a “slut” and a “dirtbag”, hipster-feminist rape jokes, and referential jokes about sex work and porn as a middle class White American woman. What’s novel and cute for Schumer are ascribed to the bodies of women of color every day. Not very funny.