Professor Jigna Desai spoke at the final colloquium of the semester about post-9/11 media and film, particularly focusing on the Harold and Kumar series. Spurred by the murder of Balbir Singh, Desai addressed the media's role in producing biopolitical racial formations, delineating (and teaching how to distinguish) between the 'good' immigrant/person of color, and the 'bad'.
In the first of the series, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Desai argued that the film made a critique of white heteromasculinity, making it 'disgusting', while also attempting to show both Harold and Kumar as 'good' racial citizens, creating a queer American Dream that critiques American consumption-as-identity. In the second film, in which they escape from Guantanamo Bay, Kumar becomes the central character, and the two again must prove their 'goodness' as racial citizens.
While Desai argued that satirizing and parodying terrorism lead to a catharsis for the viewer - finally, we can laugh again, therefore we are secure - m y question is about such laughter and what it might do for the viewer. For me it seems that laughter can mean a great many things for an audience, and indeed not everyone will laugh at the same things and for the same reasons. But in this case laughter about prison rape, for example, is to me a de-ethicizing move. Does laughter de-ethicize or absolve the viewer of responsibility? What does it mean when a viewer laughs at a situation that cannot but call to mind the many abuses occurring in Guantanamo, not least the horrifying abuses of Abu Ghraib? I would have liked to hear more discussion about the work that laughter and satire of such terrible conditions does, and what laughter and satire do in relation to ethics.