#Opinion

Laughing At Whose Expense? The Toxic Culture Of Unfunny ‘Funny’ Vlogs

sambhavna seth adivasi worker, sambhavna seth controversy, Sambhavna Seth Mocks Domestic Worker

Sambhavna Seth Adivasi worker outrage: Discussions on casual racism and elitism are refusing to die down on social media even days after actor Sambhavna Seth and her husband apologised for an offensive vlog they posted in which they appeared to poke fun at their Adivasi domestic worker.

Ye humlog ka bhasha hai,” the couple’s domestic worker reiterated through the video as Seth’s partner Avinash continued to record, insisting she explain the meaning of a native phrase he overheard her say when she was on the phone. Here’s what happened.

A previous post I penned on the issue of calling out celebrities invited questions that fell loosely in the ambit of ‘why make a mountain of a molehill?’ and ‘why berate them after they have apologised?’ The language used was, of course, not as civil but you get the gist. This was the underlying essence of several netizens’ arguments in support of the couple.

But I ask still: Is an apology enough in cases that further age-old oppression, whether in ignorance or intentionally?

Can celebrities wash their hands off so easily after flaunting mistreatment on a medium that spawns hatred at Bolt-speed? Should a celebrity’s formulaic response to such offence be immunised from well-deserved public criticism? Who in 2021 with ample privilege and resources can claim to be uninformed of social hierarchies and how they have organised systemic abuse?

Even without that knowledge, can mocking another’s tongue ever be justified? These are basics.

From Yuvika Chaudhary Vlog To Sambhavna Seth Adivasi Controversy: An Ugly Social Media Contest

The number of persons coming to Seth and her husband’s defence draws attention to perhaps the bigger concern of just how sought-after this kind of content is on the internet, where laughing at the expense of another has become disturbingly commonplace.

Several enjoyed Gauravzone‘s horrific vlog of flying his pet dog with balloons before he was arrested for animal cruelty. Many found no wrong in either Munmun Dutta or Yuvika Chaudhary‘s casual use of caste slurs on social media videos. Yet others thought it was wrong to hold actor Randeep Hooda accountable now for his “dirty joke” on former UP Chief Minister from years ago.

Another Instagram influencer was recently called out by netizens for making a ‘comic’ reel on the alleged disbalance caste reservations create.

Creating, engaging in or encouraging humour that punches down or uses the downtrodden as props should have been diminished in this age of collective social consciousness. But it only seems to be getting more aggressive. Controversies like that involving Seth or other actors only exposes that social oppression is very much alive and kicking even today, aggravated in part by social media, where validating content through likes and public approval is the norm.

Standing in defence of persons of privilege – like celebrities – at moments that should enrage one towards the blatant display of class and cultural subjugation is a stance that seems redundant. They will put out their apologies anyway. But we have to continue calling them out. It has objective towards the purpose of greater equality.

Views expressed are the author’s own.