Marcelo Tinelli’s TV Program, Showmatch, has repeatedly come under fire for, um, let’s say, pushing the envelope when it comes to social issues. His penchant for cutting the skirts off of female participants seems out of step with a society that brought us the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) movement against gender violence, for example. Now, the show’s parody last week of President Mauricio Macri’s G20 Summit visit, and the way it has failed to garner any sort of outrage, clearly illustrates just how casual racism can often be in Argentina.
By all account, the G20 Summit was a huge success for Macri, who was highly praised during the meeting of world leaders for his move toward more market-friendly policies. And “Macri” (Freddy Villarreal in heavy prosthetics) gave the Showmatch audience a taste of the Orient when he showed up in in Eastern garb that looked like he had gotten it out of the set closet of a Rush Hour film, complete with a posse of Chinese nationals. The whole picture resembled any Hollywood poster featuring a white guy with an exotic backdrop and some locals thrown in for good measure.
Some brilliant “cultural highlights” from “Macri’s visit” to China included:
- The odd costumes that are supposed to be traditional Chinese clothing, the opening music, the Asian stand-ins in the background that look like they may or may not have been there against their will.
- “I talked with Xi Jinping (The president of China). At first I didn’t understand him very much. A half-hour later I didn’t understand anything.”
- Chinese names sound like “throwing four [paint] cans down the stairs, chang, cling…”
- “The Chinese talk like minions.” (“It’s true!” An announcer yells.)
- “In Argentina there are a lot of Chinese supermarkets. Over there, there are more and they give you money back in candy. It’s crazy …”
- He also handed out some type of hybrid between an Empanada and Fortune cookie that “like magic” could tell you your future. Best of all? There was a joke about how someone from China would pronounce the host’s name as “Malce” because, you know, Chinese people can pronounce R’s. Hahahahaha. So funny.
Other than the fact that this whole act was incredibly offensive, perhaps the most telling part was how it managed to use people as props simply because of their ethnicity. Even though Argentina has an active, and large, Asian community, this was a great example of how, for Argentine media, they’re usually nothing more than an exotic background rather than an integral part of the storyline. The G20 Summit was a crucial moment in Argentine politics, because it illustrated how Argentina is supposed to be moving forward under the new Macri government.
And this is far from the first instance of people in power turning racism into a joke that we’re all supposed to laugh about. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for example, used twitter to make a “joke” after meeting with Chinese President (While still in China, may we add), changing several letters within a sentence to evoke a Chinese accent and again making fun of the way that they supposedly can’t pronounce R’s. Seems that joke is quite popular.
Más de 1.000 asistentes al evento… ¿Serán todos de “La Cámpola” y vinieron sólo por el aloz y el petlóleo? …
— Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) February 4, 2015
“More than 1,000 attendants at the event… Did they only come for ‘lice and petloleum’ (instead of rice and petroleum).”
Even though it’s obviously worse when a president does it, the very casual nature of the way a comedian could just blurt out stereotype after stereotype with no consequence shows how so much of this racism is ingrained into every day life. After all, the “obsession” with putting labels on people that describe them based on the most flimsy, superficial characteristics seems particularly prevalent in Argentina.
A clear example of this is how people associate all people who may appear to have Asiatic looks with the word “China.” Case in point, a Korean friend regularly gets labelled that on a night out in Palermo, usually by guys trying to compliment her “exotic appearance.”
“It’s not like they’re saying a bad thing,” she said recently. “It would be like calling an Argentine a Chilean. What’s the big difference?”