|Dame Edna Insults Hispanics in Vanity Fair|
Email example contributed by R. Acevedo, 31 January 2003:
Subject: Petition to Vanity Fair to retract racist comment
This petition is to request a formal apology from Vanity Fair and Dame Edna for the offensive article regarding Latinos and the Spanish language which appears in the February 2003 issue of Vanity Fair. In the meantime, please boycott Vanity Fair magazine, and urge others to do the same.
If you are offended by the word-for-word transcription below, please copy (rather than forward) this email in a new message, sign it at the end of the list, and send it to all of the people whom you know. If you receive this list with 100 names signed, please send it to the Editor at email@example.com and copy firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you!
Dear Dame Edna,
I would very much like to learn a foreign language, preferably French or Italian, but every time I mention this, people tell me to learn Spanish instead. They say, "Everyone is going to be speaking Spanish in 10 years. George W. Bush speaks Spanish." Could this be true? Are we all going to have to speak Spanish?
Torn Romantic, Palm Beach
Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that. There was a poet named Garcia Lorca, but I'd leave him on the intellectual back burner if I were you. As for everyone's speaking it, what twaddle! Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower? Study French or German, where there are a t least a few books worth reading, or, if you're American, try English.
I was infuriated at Dame Edna's response to Torn Romantic,, Palm Beach (Vanity Fair, February 2003). Dame Edna could have chosen any number of amusing responses; however, she responded using cheap, two-dimensional stereotypes of Latinos and Latin Americans, revealing not only her racism but also her profound ignorance of who we are.
We are not just 'the help' and the 'leaf blowers'. We are architects and activists, journalists and doctors, governors and athletes, scientists and business people. We are Nobel Prize Winners and Rhodes Scholars. We speak Spanish, but we also speak fluent English, and many of us speak other languages as well. As of last week, we are officially the largest minority population in the United States at 37 million and 13% of the population. Without us, the economy o f this nation and the Americas, and consequently the world, would come to a complete standstill.
If Dame Edna were even remotely cultured or educated, she would have read and lost herself in the exquisite writings of Nobel prize winners Octavio Paz, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and Pablo Neruda. She would know that Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz was one of the first feminists and poets in the Americas. She would admire Isabel Allende and Sandra Cisneros for their passionate prose and vibrant spirits.
And of course, if it had not been for us, the world would not know chocolate! And everyone knows life would not be worth living without chocolate.
Finally, I would like to point out that Dame Edna would have NEVER written such blatantly offensive material about African-Americans or Jews, for obvious reasons. It seems that Dame Edna AND the Editors of Vanity Fair believe that Latinos and Latin Americans cannot read, and even if we could, we would never be Vanity Fair readers. For the life of me, I still cannot figure out why you chose to feature Salma Hayek on the cover and in an article celebrating her success immediately following such an offensive piece.
I demand an apology in print in the next issue of Vanity Fair from the Editors and from Dame Edna. In the meantime, I will be mobilizing everyone I know to boycott and protest Vanity Fair.
By the way, I am a 31-year old Mexican-American woman, with three Ivy League degrees, working in New York City at a major firm. I sure as hell am NOT the leaf blower or the help, and I think all of you need to go to college.
Comments: The above-quoted excerpt from "Ask Dame Edna" did appear, word-for-word, in the February 2003 issue of Vanity Fair. Wendy Maldonado's angry email urging a boycott of the magazine for ethnic insensitivity went into circulation soon after it hit newsstands in late January.
Maldonado says she has been "deluged" with responses and copies of the petition bearing hundreds of signatures. "The vast majority of letters are supportive, ranging from 'You go, sister!' to simply 'Thank you for doing something,' she told me. "A couple of letters have been angry, calling me an idiot, telling me to 'get over it' and a few other things. Pretty few, actually, considering."
To date she has not received direct acknowledgement from either Vanity Fair or Barry Humphries, the Australian comedian who plays Dame Edna on stage and screen, and who presumably writes the monthly column himself. "I think Barry Humphries should apologize," Maldonado says.
That's an accurate description of Humphries' stage persona, that of a feisty, fuchsia-haired matron who affects an air of upper-crust sophistication, haughtily deprecating everything and everyone in sight. In fairness, the ultimate target of Humphries' deadpan humor is Dame Edna herself and, by extension, every real-world specimen of her ilk folks who fancy themselves well-bred and intelligent but who prove by every crass statement that escapes their mouths that they are anything but.
The premise is not lost on Maldonado, who says she has seen Humphries' act and laughed, "as I have laughed at Archie Bunker. However, this type of satire has its place on a stage, not in a print medium, where it can have a different effect. Dame Edna is an equal opportunity insulter, but here I think both Dame Edna and the editors at Vanity Fair exhibited poor judgment and bad taste."
Last updated: 02/06/03
Sources and further reading:
Hispanics Not Laughing at Humor Column
San Antonio Express-News, 7 February 2003
NAHJ Criticizes Dame Edna, Vanity Fair
Letter from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Barry Humphries, the Man Behind Dame Edna
Star Tribune, 3 Nov 2002
Dame Edna Everage - The Official Website
"Dame Edna Everage is probably the most popular and gifted woman in the world today."