Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Harry and Paul Skit: A closer look

After the indignation comes the introspection*. For the first time, I watched "Harry and Paul" on BBC 2 nights ago to see what the show was all about. I appreciate British humor most of the time but "Harry and Paul", I found very difficult to get.

I caught a skit about an old American couple in a restaurant talking with a group of Japanese tourists. The Americans were behaving how you would expect Americans to behave --- chatty, lively, and showing pictures. The Japanese tourists were also behaving like how you would expect Japanese tourists to behave -- smiling, nodding their heads and taking a lot of pictures. The next skit was about a man with an strong accent and who was acting like a brute. I didn't get that one at all, perhaps because I have no idea of what stereotype he is portraying.

I realized that "Harry and Paul" uses stereotypes to generate comedy. That bothered me a lot. That meant that they used the British stereotype of Filipina maids for their skit. The skit was funny to the British because they see in that maid their own Filipina maid. Get it? It is an absurd extraggeration of some truth like how the Japanese tourists in their other skit would take pictures of everything. In Europe, that's really how people see the Japanese---as camera clicking smiling people. Which lead me to ask myself, are Filipina maids and Filipinas in general really seen by the world merely as gyrating sex toys?

I think we can protest our lungs out about skits like this or about the word Filipina defined as a domestic helper in the dictionary all we want but it won't change anything. Protesting will not change our image as gyrating domestic helpers. The only thing that will change our image is if we manage to create enough jobs in our country so that we can stop sending our women to be commanded to gyrate abroad.

How can we protest when the truth is Filipina domestic helpers are our best export product? Isn't it true that there are millions of Filipina domestic workers? I met a British woman in the Englishforum a few years ago and upon learning that I was Filipina she immediately asked if I could work for her. She had a Filipina maid in London and was so pleased with her. Unfortunately, I am not very domestic so I declined the offer.

If the British government and the BBC defend the skit as an "absurd comedy" that shouldn't be taken seriously then they should ponder why they find the exploitation of Filipina women funny because I will never ever --absurdly exagerated or not-- find the exploitation of hard working Filipinas funny.

*I am at home sick with the flu so I have a lot of time for introspection.


Joe said...

Somebody at pex commented about this issue and he was like "galit na galit tayo pag tayo ang kinukutya pero pag tayo ang nagnungutya tuwang tuwa tayo,". Offending nga siguro yung skit especially kasi merong halong idea ng sex objects but just like yuo say, hindi maso-solve ng pagproprotesta ang ga bagay na ito. There should be a really strong stimuli that would drive an impression make-over for us Filipinos. AS I see it, it wouldn't happen overnight. Matagal tagal pa siguro ang iintayin natin bago mabago tingin nila sa mga Filipina at Filipino. Sad reality pero ganun eh. Developed sila, thrid world tayo. You do the math...

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you have seen the whole Harry and Paul show or episodes before it but I have. I've seen quite a few and I found them funny. It is actually a social commentary on the idiot rich rather than the Filipina maid.

Remember, "Abangan ang susunod na kabanata? and how funny we found it and how Carmi Martin portrayed a stupid promdi as a sexual object wearing short skirts and tight clothes. Very similar to that.

Also, until that big sorry story about David Blunkett helping get a Filipina Nanny her British passport quickly, Filipinos in the UK are not seen as domestic helpers but professionals. Believe me, all the British people I met here in the UK have so much respect for the Filipino and how caring they, not that they are better than other nationalities but they bring warmth and respect to their patients.

In the UK, we are known as good professional health workers and not domestic workers.

Cathy said...

Hi Jowell- I agree with you.

Hi anonymous- I hope you are right. I don't live in the UK. I visited the UK once and have met a few British people. So, I guess you have more experience with the British than me. You are right about "Harry and Paul" being a social commentary but I think it attacks not only the idiot rich but also the Filipino maid.

As for the Carmi Martin's role in Abangan, even that is not quite right because it stereotypes beautiful women to be idiots. Not all beautiful women who wears short skirts are idiots.

Thanks for the comment!

e-souled said...

What makes me mad about this controversy is the Philippine Government wants BBC apology for wrong reason!!! It was revolting. It was a disgusting and an insensitive statement from our government!

Anonymous said...

Most people from the UK I met on youtube defended this skit to be "poking fun at the Northeners", but why do they have to use a Filipina maid gyrating like that? A Scottish guy I came upon the forums in Youtube says that "The joke doesn't poke on Filipinas. It won't make a difference if the maid would be Filipina, French, Chinese or any nationalitly, it mostly targets the people up North of the UK." Would you agree to that?

Cathy said...


Maybe...but then if it doesn't matter, why did they have to specify that the maid was Filipina. I read somewhere that the actress was actually vietnamese (or something like that), then why make it a point to say that she was Filipina? They can make fun of themselves all they want like we make fun of ourselves but then they should leave us out of it.


Anonymous said...

hi sweety
Love reading your blogs.
I have seen the Harry & Paul skit with the Filipino maid and It was hillarious. British people have a good dry sense of humour, i love the sarcastic way with the way they joke. And i have to say the skit was to make fun of the British and not directly about us Filipinos.

What about Ting Tong? That is probably more offensive to Thai ladies and people but i think Thai people have handled it really well & have just laughed about it. It is a media propaganda but sometimes you can see the benefit is it puts the country in the map & makes it famous. At the end it might be good for the economy. I mean look at what Borat the movie that to me is more hhmmm...offensive but it did put Khazakstan in the map.