Thursday, March 15, 2012

Amy Chua is Yakov Smirnoff Reborn

Plenty of others have already explained how Amy Chua is wrong, an asshole, and trading in urban legends not even other Chinese people believe anymore. I won't be doing that as I'm fairly certain all right-thinking folk can dismiss the substance of her arguments. There is none. But she's got style and an all too familiar style at that...

First, let's go back to that darkest of dark ages -The 80s. Hair is big, music is stupid, and the country has so given up on even the pretense of democracy that a professional liar is president. And all across America, households of middle class goobers are laughing at the comic stylings of this guy -

"They actually paid me for this shit! What a country!"

Yakov Smirnoff! A notoriously unfunny comic whose whole bit revolved around exaggerated juxtapositions of American and Russian stereotypes. "In your country, you wait in line at bank. In my country, we wait in line for bread!"

It didn't matter that his jokes sucked because Smirnoff was perpetuating self-serving national myths. Sure the factory closed and taxes were going up - quite often into space - but look at those silly Russians! All poor and oppressive and stuff. Not like us at all.

This reflected a national attitude that, while things were kinda shitty, we were finally the winners of the world again. Fast forward about thirty years -

There is not a single picture where this woman doesn't look constipated.

And not even the frenzied escapism of the GOP primary can convince anyone that we're winning at anything. We're done, folks. And we all know China's coming to take our crown. At least we "know" in that cultural osmosis way. Like how Koreans "know" electric fans will suffocate you in your sleep.

Amy Chua is the best known spreader of this meme thanks to her book claiming that Chinese children will totally beat up your children because their mothers were heinous bitches. Then there's her latest piece of "Look at me!" bullshit, all awash in happy grrrl power rhetoric but the central point is clear - the Dragon Ladies are coming! They shall rule all! They will be as 10,000 Steve Jobs with uteri!

Except that all four relied on something outside of China to build their fortunes. Because as an export-focused economy, China just don't have a lot to offer. In fact, they've been experiencing a downturn as the rest of the world can't buy their stuff anymore. Much as Germany did when they decided to force austerity on their own client states.

Chua is just the latest half-bright opportunist to latch onto a cultural sentiment. In the 80s, it was feeling superior to Russia. In the bad crazyness of the 21st century - after a decade of Bush and bailouts wearing down the national ego - it's feeling inferior to China. It has even less to do with reality than Smirnoff's bread lines but when has the average American been all that involved with reality anyway?

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