From Archie Bunker to Hypersensitivity

By:  Rachel Marsden

Seeing Halloween costumes in the stores reminds me of my own childhood trick-or-treating outfit: The button-up shirt big enough to accommodate an entire pillow; the skirt made from a tablecloth; the red do-rag wrapped around my head; and the makeup, consisting of a burnt cork rubbed onto my face.

I was Aunt Jemima, the smiling black lady on the pancake box. (Boy, did I love pancakes!)

Nowadays, if you wore a costume like that to a Halloween party, you'd be voted "Most Likely To Be Hauled Up On Hate Crime Charges" -- particularly if your Aunt Jemima years intersect with the white-bedsheet "ghost" costume phase of the other neighbourhood kids, as mine did.

We have somehow vaulted from Archie Bunker straight into this current era of hypersensitivity. Consider a few examples from the past week:

* The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that opposes anti-Semitism, issued a press release criticizing the hysterically funny new movie, Borat, featuring British (and Jewish) comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

The ADL is concerned about "the character's notoriously boastful expressions of anti-Semitism".

Another ADL press release cites a Borat TV segment in which he asks patrons of an American country-western bar to sing a ditty from his homeland, called "Throw The Jew Down The Well" (incredibly, several sing along). The ADL says viewers found the segment "distasteful, and even dangerous."

Dangerous? Where was the ADL when Schindler's List came out? Have they seen what happens to Jews in that movie? It makes being thrown down a well seem like a ride at Disneyland.

"We are concerned that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke," they say. Look, should some dolt fail to "get the joke," society has built-in safety mechanisms to discourage men from imitating Borat. They're called women.

Guys like Borat who look for dates with "plough experience," have a degree in "English and plague research" and whose hobbies include "disco dance and shoot dog" likely won't be getting too many chicks.

* London police are no longer allowed to refer to young troublemakers as "yobs" in their reports. As the assistant commissioner says, "We have to be careful because of the need to engage with young people." Presumably, calling the thug who just stole your car a "yob" might impede your otherwise bonding repartee.

* An ad featuring King Kamehameha's famous outstretched arm sent some Hawaiian groups crying to their lawyers, and landed the marketing department for Celebrity Cruise Lines in sensitivity training.

Did these ads show the king's arm getting a workout on the slot machines in the ship's casino? Or administering a Homeland Security style pat-down to ensure safe sailing? No, the king was simply holding a champagne glass.

* In Spain, villages celebrating "Reconquista," marking the country's historic reclamation by Christians after centuries of Islamic rule -- are dropping their long-held tradition of exploding Mohammed dolls. I'm guessing Muslims might find the explosions offensive.

But what would I know? I skipped out of sensitivity training to watch another Borat episode.