11 March 2009

the Rock and the Hawaiian Hotel

SNL and the Rock performed a great skit that made light of the stark contrasts of tourism in Hawai'i. (The Rock is still very handsome just much much skinnier than I remember). Aiona being the monkey that Rock apes in the skip, went on the offensive to make sure everyone knew he was offended. Marsha Wienert, as white as they come, says that the skit was tasteless to "our culture, the Hawaiian culture." Ironically, Marsha and her rich haole elite class are not represented in the skit. Her presence is only felt indirectly where the Rock expresses his impotent rage at the system Marsha and "her culture" subject the working class to.

The Rock could have encouraged the use of a hapa haole song that used correct Hawaiian language -- but as many are unaware, from the turn of the century to the 1940s, Tin Pan Alley produced scores of "Hawaiian" songs that mimicked the Hawaiian language making it up as the writer went along. While it is unlikely to experience this in Hawai'i hotels today, it doesn't matter non-Native speakers who are tourists can't tell the difference and are not looking for an authentic ethnographic encounter with Hawaiian culture. They are looking for exotic looking (and perhaps sounding) servants that as happy-go-luckies, fit into their projected fantasy of how easy life is away from home.

Anyone that seriously criticizes this skit for its inaccurate representations of Hawai'i or Hawaiian culture is in denial about the social costs of tourism and lying to themselves about the level of need, presenting "authentic" Hawaiian culture is to people who have a wholly inadequate basis to perceive and judge it, is bestowed on tourist's recognition.

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