Jewish World Review April 30, 2004 / 9 Iyar, 5764
Jerry Della Femina
Charlie Chan and the politically correct mafia
Are you as confused about being politically correct as I am?
I mean, I've got the basics straight. I read the New York Times its front page is the bible of political correctness. I know enough not to call a woman a girl. And ever since the 1970s, I don't even call baby chickens chicks. But from that point on, I'm confused. My confusion really extends to the area of racial and ethnic political correctness. And a lot of my problem is that the Politically Correct policy changes every day.
I mean, I went to sleep one day feeling confident that my friends who are black wanted to be called Blacks and when I woke up, they wanted to be called African-Americans. My older children played Cowboys and Indians. My younger children played Cowboys and Native Americans. My grandchildren think a cowboy plays football for Dallas and they think that they are native Americans.
Is there a politically correct hotline that someone like me can call every morning to stay up to date? Something like 1-800/BE-CORRECT.
And, will the voice on the other end say, "It is 9 a.m., Wednesday, April 28, 2004. Let's start with the letter A...ALBANIANS. Albanians have announced during the night that they no longer want to be called Albanians and are balking at being called Albanian-Americans. They insist that heretofore they be referred to as Balkan Americans."
"W...WELFARE. At 12 noon, it will be politically correct to be against welfare cheats who live in the suburbs but there has been no determination yet about welfare cheats who live in the inner city and are therefore, culturally deprived. Also it is no longer politically correct to call welfare cheats by that name. This group now wants to be called "Financially Challenged Maximizers" and insist that you quickly follow with the words, 'They would find work if they could get it, it's George Bush's fault.'"
I thought about Political Correctness the other night while I watched a tape of an old Charlie Chan movie. I love Charlie Chan. Poor Charlie was one of the first victims of the Politically Correct Mafia.
In case you're too young to remember, he was the jolly little round Chinese detective in those great mystery movies of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. His movies can no longer be seen on television. They're banned.
The movies are all pretty much alike. There's a murder and Charlie Chan is called in to solve it. The killer is usually a guy with a mustache. That was the formula for the B-movies of that era, FH=M (Facial Hair equals Murderer).
Charlie Chan was assisted by his Number 1 son and his driver, Birmingham Brown. Both the kid and the driver were frightened, blithering idiots. Charlie spent most of the time in the movie giving us his corny "Confucius say . . ." fortune cookie sayings that are not unlike the great philosophical insights we now see written on our bumper stickers and our T-shirts.
What I find fascinating is that you never saw a bullet hole or blood or violence in those movies. There's always a scene where someone will say, "I know who the killer is. It's . . ." Then you see a close-up of a gun. Then the lights go out and then a shot rings out. And the person who is about to give the evidence is crumbled in a heap on the floor. Charlie kneels over the body and says out loud, "He's dead. Killer is both clever and cunning. No one leave room, please."
Charlie always got his man. But then one day, Charlie Chan was murdered in cold blood. Killed by a whole new generation that decided Charlie Chan movies were not politically correct.
The Asians (they were called Orientals in those days) hated that he was a stereotypical Chinese man. He spoke with a Chinese accent. It didn't help that Charlie Chan was played by Caucasians (Sidney Toler and Roland Winters) who were pretending to be Chinese.
The PC hated that his Number 1 son was a dope and probably was the first Chinese person in history who wasn't good at math. Black groups hated the fact that he had a driver and the driver was black and was something of a boob. Holier-than-thou political groups marched against Charlie Chan. Grown men got up and made speeches against Charlie and all that he stood for.
In time, not one single television station in the country would carry these movies because no one folds faster than a broadcaster when faced with the slightest bit of pressure. Just look at the pressure that's being put on poor Howard Stern. His ratings are better than ever, but Janet Jackson showed one boob on the tube in the middle of the Super Bowl and the next thing you know the politicians have put on their KKK hoods and are burning crosses in front of every shock jock's front door. Television and radio look like they're going back to the 1950s and that's bad for all of us. Between the hell fire and brimstone nuts on the right and the knee jerk politically correct nuts on the left this country is heading for er . . . er . . . heck.
Now one of the movies they continue to show over the years is Sherlock Holmes, and as best as I can figure, the Wasps didn't picket television stations because Dr. Watson was a bit of a dope. In fact, there is no record of Wasps picketing anyone because another Wasp is portrayed as a dope. This leads me to believe that either Wasps aren't very organized, or that they feel that they have more dopes than any other group, or they've been around so long they don't give a damn what anyone thinks of them. Or, all three. Anyway, Wasps is the only group in the world who haven't protested anything since their last great success, the Boston Tea Party.
I had a long conversation about this column with my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht. She didn't think it was very politically correct for me to be doing a column about being politically correct. We talked about this while we watched a tape of Charlie Chan and the Sky Dragon. At one point I said, "Speaking as an Italian. . ."
She quickly said, "You're not an Italian."
"I'm not an Italian? Of course I'm an Italian. My mother and father were Italians."
"They may have been Italians because they were born in Italy but you're an Italian American."
"When did I become an Italian American? Who decided? Why didn't I get a chance to vote on this?" I screamed.
My screams where interrupted by gunfire. On the television screen Charlie Chan had just caught the killer. It was a fake insurance investigator. I was relieved to see he had a mustache.
It's nice to know that some things never change.
Or at least won't change until The Committee To Protest The Unfair Treatment Of Men With Mustaches is formed.
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JWR contributor Jerry Della Femina was recently named by Advertising Age as one of the 100 Most Influential Advertising People of the Century. He's perhaps the most sought-after advertising expert in the country, there is no network, no publication and no organization on which, in which, or before which Mr. Della Femina has not appeared. He is also the author of two books, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor (a best-seller), and An Italian Grows in Brooklyn (a non-seller). Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jerry Della Femina