New Year’s Eve personality Kathy Griffin has a message for Donald Trump: she wants to hold his bloody severed head in her hands.
Griffin’s hyperviolent “art” photography holding the simulated Trump head will rightfully put a spotlight on the culture of violence leftists have cultivated in America follow the President’s electoral victory. But it should also serve as a reminder that Griffin is not alone on Hollywood’s female comedy A-list in feeling comfortable using the suffering of non-white people around the world to make money and generate headlines. Too many of Hollywood’s liberal white female comedians see their suffering as joke fodder for new movies, sketches, or stand-up routines.
Griffin’s “beheading” photo plagiarizes an aesthetic popularized by the Islamic State, in which jihadis hold up photos of severed heads and smile into the camera, beaming with their trophies. Toddlers in terrorist training camps start off with dolls or teddy bears before graduating to human heads. The most aggressive jihadi teachers have their children holding up bloody heads before age 10.
These children are taught that beheadings are proper punishment for kuffar (unbelievers) and Muslim traitors who do not adhere to the Islamic State’s version of Sunni Islam. Christians, Jews, Shiite Muslims, and anyone believed to have violated Sharia law, often on video as a threat to the rest of the world. The Islamic State has singled out President Donald Trump for such a fate, but most of its actual victims are not American. They are Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan, Jordanian, Afghan, Pakistani, Nigerian, Bengali, Filipino, and Kurdish of all nationalities – citizens of the countries where ISIS has established a presence.
Whether Griffin meant to elicit laughs with her cultural appropriation of Islamic State-style beheading propaganda remains unclear. On Twitter Tuesday, she alleged she was attempting to “mock” Trump. What she clearly did not intend was to highlight the suffering of the victims of this sort of violence with any dignity, earning this episode a place in the greater narrative affirmed by the likes of Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer, and Tina Fey that the very real violence people of color face around the world is fertile ground for new material.
Handler, for instance, has notched several offenses against Africans and black Americans under her belt. In a book and subsequent television special, titled Uganda Be Kidding Me, she jokes that she and a friend believed simply being in Africa would lead to her rape. The analysis of Uganda does not go much deeper than that – the modern history of the nation’s fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, becomes a throwaway rape joke to sell to American audiences (no thanks to the American liberals who raised money off of his name, Uganda gave up its search for Kony in April despite the terrorist’s unknown whereabouts).
During the promotional period for that special, Handler used slavery and rampant violence in eastern Africa to generate joke tweets insulting, among others, Angelina Jolie and Lupita N’yongo. While Handler has dismissed all criticism of her racial invective by claiming to be open to romantic relationships with black men, her tweets branded her a false liberal in the eyes of leftist outlets like Salon.
Actors like Amy Schumer and Tina Fey have, in much more egregious fashion, rewritten the suffering of thousands as profitable comedies. In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Fey took on the true story of journalist Kim Barker, on assigning in Afghanistan to cover the Taliban. Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle, on which the film is based, is written with the suffering of the subjects in mind, while also acknowledging the dark humor of taking on as dangerous a job as a war correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As Barker herself notes in an interview, the film “Hollywoodizes” her story, adding a romantic side plot, and stripping it of the foreign policy depth her book provides (Barker says in the interview she was comfortable with this). As one review observes, the film rapidly gets glib:
A joke about Afghan men thinking that Kim “would make a handsome boy.” A joke about burqas. (Donning one for the first time, Kim exclaims, “It’s so pretty I don’t even want to vote!”) A joke about the many challenges and ironies of a Western woman navigating a Muslim country.
Another review identifies the film as outright racist, depending on “the buffoonery of Afghans” for many of its jokes.
While Whiskey Tango Foxtrot at least boasted the endorsement of the book’s author and, one could argue, was an attempt at a heartfelt statement on the absurdities of war, Amy Schumer’s recent FARC parody Snatched clearly makes no attempt to identify with the hundreds of thousands of victims of South America’s most formidable terrorist organization, the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – guilty of innumerable kidnappings, rapes, forced abortions, and murders. In the film, Schumer convinces her worrywart mother, played by Goldie Hawn, to travel to Ecuador, where they are soon abducted by a guerrilla and whisked into the jungles of Colombia.
Despite the liberal hero status Schumer brings to the film, critics pilloried it as racist, milking the outrageous stereotypes Colombians have been striving to shake off for the past 30 years for laughs. While Schumer did not write the film, her presence in it – as a comedian who has gone on the record calling Latin American men rapists – only exacerbates the outrage of mocking as delicate a situation as the 50+-year-old FARC conflict. The timing of the film, in the middle of Colombian leftists imposing on their people a peace deal that will turn the FARC into the wealthiest political party in Latin America, didn’t help, either.
In every one of these cases, the stars in question proceeded under the assumption that their status as feminist heroes would shield the American public from the racist opportunism present in their work. Though some leftists did condemn these works, showing ideological consistency, none of these women saw their profiles in Hollywood shrink because of their work. No mainstream director, studio, or artist has refused to work with them until they cease exploiting the suffering of non-white people to line their pockets.