Posted by Brian Taylor Carlson
And not in a good way.
On April 9, Moos showcased a story about a visit by Prince William and his family to New Zealand. They were greeted by the Maori people in an elaborate welcome ceremony.
I have to admit: this feature started out funny. Moos made a reference to a Maori warrior in traditional garb – with tattooed buttocks exposed – as a “royal bummer.”
Then, it started becoming stereotypical and uncomfortable. Moos equated a Maori welcoming dance as “a cross between a Chippendale lap dance and the mating dance of an emu.”
After a few more lines, it went horribly, miserably south. Moos referred to previous royal visits as “going native.”
I had to go back several times and make sure I heard correctly.
Face, meet palm. What happened, exactly?
I’ll be the first to tell you. Cliché happened. Cultural insensitivity happened. Racism happened.
Inappropriateness also happened. Oh, and did I mention the lack of taste?
Esther Bergdahl from PolicyMic writes, “Because if there’s anything Americans are good at, it’s finding new and horrible ways to make honoring indigenous traditions – and experiencing other cultures – about weird dances, things that baffle white people and butts.”
Jean Melesaine, a journalist who uses her blog to highlight issues concerning the Pacific Islander community wrote an open letter to Jeanne Moos. Melesaine sarcastically apologized on behalf of the Maori, and all Pacific Islander peoples, simply for being themselves.
A petition calling for Moos to apologize was posted on Change.org by Jayden Èvett, 18, of Wellington, New Zealand.
Moos responded with a most unapologetic apology: “Duly noted. I do humor and satire, and I am truly sorry if the tone of my story offended anyone.”
To me, this comes off as saying, “This is what I do. if you don’t like it, tough.”
When do humor and satire cross the line of cultural and ethnic insensitivity? How could this feature have been presented in a better way? Do you think the apology could have been more genuine? As journalists, what are ways to avoid stereotypes of this nature?