USC Digital Folklore Archives / Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Arab/Muslim Stereotype

Main Piece: “Every Arab who is a Muslim and is a male is either named Mohamed, Ali, or Yousef” Context:  On April 7, 2018 I called an Uber to go to a party. When the driver arrived I said “Hi, how are you doing today? My name is Jaeson. Nice to meet you”. He replied “ I am doing great. Yousef nice to meet you to. He then said “Yup… another Yousef”.  He then said “Every Arab who is a Muslim and is a male is either named Mohamed, Ali, or Yousef”. I said I am sorry can you repeat that. He said ok and repeated it. I asked him if I could write it down as a collection of folklore and he said yes. Background: Yousef is a 27 year old Uber driver who drives a red Camry. He is Arab and he is also a Muslim.  Analysis: I was intrigued to learn this stereotype about Arabs and Muslim from an Arab. I went to a high school that had a large population of Arabs and there was a large portion with the name Mohamed, Ali, and Yousef. However, it is not true that everyone single Arab has one of those three names. It surprises me how people could generalize a population with no evidence.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Cultural Joke

Interviewer: Do you know any folklore based on stereotypes or any jokes based on communities?

 

Informant: I know some jokes that I learned from my family.  I think one that would fit is a joke I heard from my mom.

 

Interviewer: How does it go?

 

Informant: Why do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?

 

Interviewer: I don’t know, why?

 

Informant: So they can have something to unwrap.

 

Interviewer: That is actually really funny, I don’t think it would have the same meaning if I wasn’t Mexican.

 

Informant: Yeah I think it’s more relatable because my family has tamales for Christmas and it’s a big part of our celebration.

 

Interviewer: Yeah it was actually really funny and the first thing I thought about was how excited my dad gets around Christmas because he could honestly care less about the presents but loves tamales.

 

Informant: Yeah exactly.  If you weren’t Mexican it would be more like you thought it was funny because it fulfilled a stereotype but not because you actually understood the customs or the culture.

 

Interviewer: That’s so true! Thanks for sharing.

 

Background: The informant is a Junior at USC studying Non-Governmental Organizations and Social Change.  She is Mexican American and comes from a large family and extended family based in the greater Los Angeles area.  The informant is also the roommate of the interviewer and a close friend who shares many cultural traditions.

 

Context: This interview occurred during a lunch meal with friends where we discussed similar cultural practices.  The informant first heard this joke when at home with her family and then shared it with me.  She said her mother was the one to share the folklore and that she had heard it before from another within her community.

 

Analysis: At first this joke was really funny to me but then I thought about the cultural implications that went into creating the stereotype.  It was weird to see how other people thought about a given culture.  And it was interesting to analyze why it was funny to those within the group, and to me it was that people within the group are able to laugh because they are acknowledging but also counter acting the stereotype.

 

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Iranian “Turk” Jokes

  1. The main piece: Iranian “Turk” Jokes

“We have a lot of racist jokes. You know how some American jokes start with “a guy walks into a bar.” A lot of our jokes start with “what did the turk say” or “why did the Turk do this.” So there’s a region in Tehran, Tabriz, where there’s a lot of Turkish people, and they have a certain accent. So whenever we tell the Turk jokes, there’s a certain accent we use.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? The context of the performance?

“I mean, this is kind of embarrassing because it’s not the best portrayal of us. But it’s not like we really think this about Turks anymore, it’s just what the jokes have become and been for so long. Like dumb blonde jokes are still funny, even though we know blondes aren’t dumb. I’ve heard different family members and family friends tell these jokes at parties… I mean, they’re funny and remind me of jokes that people from my culture make.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This piece is a clear example of stereotyping and Blason Populaire in jokes. It utilizes a common cultural bias or stereotype about a group of people who are not originally from the area, showing that they are being jested at because they are “different” and they are the minority. Stereotype and Blason Populaire jokes, when not utilizing stereotypes about a group to itself (i.e. Turkish people telling Turk jokes) alienate the group of people being made fun of in the jokes, and perpetuate the cultural differences between the two groups.

       4. Informant Details

The informant is an 18-year old Iranian-Canadian female. She was born in Iran but moved to Canada as a young child, then moved again to southern California as a teenager. Learning about her parents’ Iranian culture helped her feel a sense of continuity throughout the different moving experiences she had. They also helped her feel more rooted and attached to her place of birth.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

A Mexican Runs Into a Wall…

Item (direct transcription):

A Mexican with an erection runs into a wall. What does he break?

His lawnmower.

Background Information:

The informant read the joke on 9GAG, an online social media site.

Contextual Information:

The informant made it very clear that he would only tell the joke to someone he knew very well and was confident wouldn’t be offended.

Analysis:

This joke is a clear example of blason populaire, playing on the stereotype that all Mexicans are gardeners.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Lithuanian Wedding Pranks

Collection/Background: Lithuanian Wedding tradition: songbook/singing/dancing/pranks

A: “Are there any certain traditions within Lithuanian weddings? Like are there any pranks or things of that sort?”

B: “Oh yeah! So pranks…I guess at each table you have to have a songbook that has a bunch of songs, and one of the events throughout the wedding is that people can choose a song and like during the meal, they can go up to the bride and groom and sing it to them. You usually get a lot of drunk renditions of songs *laughs* but like groups will come up or solos. And there’s also… um this wedding dance that’s done where the bride and groom sit in the middle while the wedding party dance around them with um… with these woven like pieces of fabric — I have one in my room — that they hold and wrap their arms around while dancing so at the end of the dance, the bride and groom are like completely wrapped in these things, and it’s supposed to showcase their unity.”

A: “Oooh!”

B: “We should go to a Lithuanian wedding! Maybe I’ll take you to the next one. Also, another prank is that when the bride and groom, before they walk into the venue and then to the tables, all of the wedding party sit in bride and groom’s seats with these hats on. And they pretend to be these random people that took over the wedding basically, and then the bride and groom have to sing to them to get them to move, which is kind of weird.”

A: “Interesting!”

B: “So they do that, and the name is like “Čigonai” because I guess in the olden days, they were taken over by the country and so that’s like the group that you kind of make fun of, which sounds kind of bad. *laughs* It’s like the people from the countryside or something.”

Context: It is apparent that music plays a strong role in Lithuanian culture holistically with song and dance frequently included. Further, some of these wedding traditions seem to stem from historical context including submission to another nation. Such references can be found in the attire worn by and actions performed by those who prank the couple. For example, the hat serves as a symbol to indicate the resemblance to the other foreign group. Further, the woven fabric, another folk object, takes on the symbolic meaning of unity.

Interpretation: Practical jokes are common in weddings throughout many cultures. Often, the individual at the expense of the joke is going through a rite of passage. In this case, marriage is the rite of passage, in which the couple is progressing to something greater. Further, the hats worn by the prankers may be an example of “blason populaire” as it draws from a stereotype.

 

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Joke: How To Get A Drummer Off Your Porch

For our discussion section, we were required to meet up with a fellow student and collect folklore from each other. LA is the person I collected from, PH is myself. Our conversation is as follows:

LA: I have jokes, if you want those.
PH: Oh, yeah.
LA: My childhood friend’s dad is this older Jewish punk dude and he had a lot of good jokes.

(pause)

Alright, so I have two drummer jokes which are frequently passed around for people in bands because we love to make jokes about drummers.

Number one: told to me a long time ago by a family friend who was in a punk band in the ‘90s.

What do you do to get a drummer off your porch?

PH: What?

LA: Offer to pay for the pizza.

The second joke collected is documented in its own post.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Joke: How You Know A Drummer’s At Your Door

For our discussion section, we were required to meet up with a fellow student and collect folklore from each other. LA is the person I collected from, PH is myself. Our conversation began like this:

LA: I have jokes, if you want those.
PH: Oh, yeah.
LA: My childhood friend’s dad is this older Jewish punk dude and he had a lot of good jokes.
(pause)
Alright, so I have two drummer jokes which are frequently passed around for people in bands because we love to make jokes about drummers.

Then, the informant told me the first joke which is documented in a different post. Here is the second joke:

LA: Drummer joke number 2: told to me by my friend’s dad, he was also in a punk band in high school.
How do you know when a drummer’s at your door?

PH: How?
LA: ‘Cause the knocking speeds up and he doesn’t know when to come in.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Grateful Dead Joke

A Grateful Dead song started playing in the car while my dad was driving. The informant (my dad) is WB, I am PH.

WB: Ugh, the Grateful Dead

PH: Want me to skip it?

WB: No, that’s okay. Did I ever tell you my joke about the Grateful Dead?

PH: I think so, but tell me again

WB: What’d the Grateful Dead fan say when he got out of rehab?

PH: What?

WB: [said in a lower, “hippie” voice that my dad uses when imitating his hippie, drug addict cousin] “What’s this terrible noise stuck in my head, man?”

Gestures
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Red Lady

Title: The Red Lady

Category: Folk Object

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

The “Red Lady” is a large red bong used by a select group of the theatre community at Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth Texas. None of the students know the exact origin of the object, they believe that it was purchased by the school’s theatre department for use in one of their shows many years ago. The “Red Lady” has been passed down from senior to senior in the theatre department as the years have gone by. The “Red Lady” is given to a trusted member of the group and it’s their responsibility to care for and keep the secret of the object— While still maintaining its hiding place on school property.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller was fortunate enough to have earned the “Red Lady” her senior year of High School and was abel to share this story with me. She said she earned it because she was known for smoking marijuana and for being an excellent “chill” actress of her senior class. When it cam time for her to graduate, she then passed the bong down to a rising upperclassman.

 

Personal Thoughts:

We had something similar at my high school on the cheerleading team. The senior captain was in charge of the “spirit stick” all throughout the year and for maintaining the level of excellence that our team had achieved that previous year. I wound’t say a “sprit stick” and a bong are extremely similar, but they could be used as motifs to describe the same sort of seniority earned possession.

Legends
Narrative
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Hell’s Half Acre

Title: Hell’s Half Acre

Category: Legend

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

Back when the Southern cattle drive was still active in the Central/Northern region of Texas, the end of the Chisholm Trail could be found at the end of town in Forth Worth Texas known as Hell’s Half Acre. The reason for the name is due to the activity that took place on this strip of land.

After a long and difficult cattle drive, cowboys used to bring their lives stock back into town right down the middle of Hells’ Half Acre. Exhausted from their journey but craving the company of women, these cowboys would hire prostitutes along the strip and eat, drink, gamble, and whore their way through town until they ran out of money.

Upon loosing the money that they’ve just earned, these cowboys would then be forced into going on the cattle drive again from where the train lets off. The land was nick named Hell’s Half Acre after all the misfortunes men had had on that very spot.

Context/Significance:

As the importance of Fort Worth as a crossroads and cowtown grew, so did Hell’s Half Acre. It was originally limited to the lower end of Rusk Street (renamed Commerce Street in 1917) but spread out in all directions until by 1881 the Fort Worth Democrat was complaining that it covered 2½ acres.

More than any other factor, urban growth began to improve the image of the Acre, as new businesses and homes moved into the south end of town.

Personal Thoughts:

At this point in time, Hell’s Half Acre is more full of hipster bars and coffee shops than cock fighting or bawdy halls. Tailored boutiques and tourist shops line a well kept and preserved cobblestone street, littered with the tattered remains of history. The cartel drive is still somewhat active and every morning and afternoon, specific time is set aside for when the cattle cross pastures through the street.

For a town once built by livestock, it’s not surprising that much of the area’s pride comes from it’s seedy past in the cattle drive industry. The town conspires together to maintain its fame and even labels it’s self as “Cow Town USA.” Whether it’s entirely true or not, the county sells and maintains its tourist industry under that marketable phrase.

[geolocation]