Friday, July 21, 2017

The Benefits of Stereotypes

There was a recent article that spouted on the unfortunate implications of Asian Stereotypes as portrayed in the most cringeworthy parts of American Born Chinese.  For those not in the know, it’s equivalent to those Mickey Rooney parts in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  It also went into quite a bit about Asian self-hatred, which completely went over my head, but was point on for those in the know.  All in a calculated way to perpetrate the lie that Asian men aren’t inherently sexy as a way of demasculating them.

Lately, I’ve been going through a large influx of Daily Newspaper comics that I read as a kid, the majority of which have never been seen before or since.  Turns out there’s a reason for that - loads of them are rather tame and forgettable, and going through hundreds of miniature disconnected stories with sometimes baffling punchlines requires a certain Zen-like mentality.  The addition of Calvin & Hobbes on the page helps to alleviate the dull pain somewhat.  Indeed, it was their presence that seemed to elevate the quality of the remainder of the comics page.

One such instance was the addition of the Asian Corporal in Beetle Bailey, which was a way of trying to stay relevant in it’s Army-but-not-really-an-army setting, twenty years after it introduced its first Black minority, Lt. Jackson Flap, whose presence made newspaper carriers nervous.  Less glamorous was Louise Lugg, the Female Sergeant who seemed more interested in getting Sarge’s attention than proving her worth.  And Chip Gizmo, the technical guy introduced in the late 90s is even less memorable.

A large number of Corporal Yo's appearances are ruined by the implementation of Japanese obsessiveness with buying up property, which have not exactly aged well with time.

Equally troubling were the allusions to historical allegations.
Problems that were pointed out in an article a few months after his appearance.  Though as mentioned by the creator, Mort Walker, All of the people of Camp Swampy are broad stereotypes.  The easier to make dumb jokes about whatever combination he manages to conjure up.  (Preferably with smoking hottie Miss Buxley, despite Insensitivity Training years after the fact)
But what stuck with me more than anything was his work ethic, a desire to constantly strive towards his intended goal, even in the face of his actions driving people above him nuts.

Considering Sarge’s plateau for reaching a Zeno-esque line of perfection, when in the presence of someone who was actually capable of reaching (and even surpassing) said implausible line, his irritation was somewhat confusing to me.  His only other frame of reference being the childish bootlicking status-approval seeking Lieutenant Fuzz.

This is pretty much me, paying so much attention to the bigger picture
that I lose sight of the smaller pictures out there.
As such, I saw Corporal Yo’s actions something to emulate and be proud of, not being under the stigmata of having to live a life under perfection, but as an ideal to appreciate and look up to.  For a long time, my philosophy has always been, “If it’s not perfect, then it HAS to be imperfect.”  In many ways, it still is.

Another thing that I looked up to from my brief early glimpses of the encroaching Japanese influence was the concept of Karoshi - overworking oneself to the point of exhaustion.  At the time, I thought this was something to be admired, but later instances pointed out the importance of rest and breaks in between long intervals of labor.  Even so, once I get going into a task, it's difficult for me to stop.  Probably because getting started can be just as problematic, given my procrastination.  Unless I have a deadline, I don't feel motivated enough to do what should be an easy job.

In many ways, Corporal Yo is essentially the Anti-Beetle Bailey.  So it surprised me that even the model of hard work & efficiency had a few moments of weaknesses of wanting to fit in by emulating the figurehead of laziness around the camp.

And, for all his typical Asian stereotypes, there are rare instances where he doesn't always conform to expectations:

Dedicated to the indefatigable guys out there who continue to produce contributions to the world from some unnamed compulsion they're unaware of.

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