So I actually had no idea that Weird Al Yankovic was still doing his, er, particular brand of music. (Singular, one might say.) I actually thought it stopped a long while ago, not long after the Thriller parodies. Well, not long ago he did a video/song called “White and Nerdy”. I looked at it*, and so can you, on Myspace video (wow, I had no idea they had a video service). Here is the link.
Among the things featured in the video’s visuals are Schrodinger’s equation, Stephen Hawking’s BHOT, M C Escher (It’s a rap video, so…) Here are some stills (click for larger):
I laughed, I’ll admit. I find his fresh-faced and cheerful style quite funny at times. But then I got thinking. I can’t decide whether I should be depressed at the potency of the stereotypes he is playing with, or just carry on giggling. For example, why did the guys who were representing the complete opposite of being nerdy (and into science, reading, and the like) have to be cast as black? Worse than that (or at least equally as bad) is that fact that not one of his friends (on the chess team, or at the Renaissance fair, or other apparently nerdy activities, is black). In fact, the only thing that the white people and the black people in the video have in common is bowling, apparently. This really does not help at all, but he’s not to shoulder the whole blame of course – he’s merely reflecting the prevailing biases of the culture at large. Images all around implicitly and sometimes explicitly tell young black kids that science is not for them. Either because they supposedly can’t do it very well, or because it is not part of their “culture”, or because it is just not “cool” (I’ve blogged about this before. See here and here for example, and the discussion threads that followed). So Al and his people toed the line in trying to make a funny video. Nobody is going to laugh as much if the main “cool” guys were white, or if the principal “nerd” was black. They’d just think it was unrealistic. But did it have to be so completely polarized? Could there not be one “cool” guy who was white, and one “nerd” who was black? Just in the background somewhere? Would it really have reduced the impact of the joke so much? Sigh.
Anyway, putting my access-to-science-for-all part of my brain aside for a bit (actually, it is impossible to do), it does raise a few good giggles…
[Update: There's also a copy on YouTube (of course), and currently 2436 comments on it - a lot from self-confessed nerds of course. (Among my favourites: "What codec is this?? its such good quality..")]
(* Thanks Nick!)