Warning: Graeme Swann May Be An Annoying Idiot

Until this series, I only knew Graeme Swann for his bowling. The guy was the best spinner in the world; he had run through the Aussies at home; old people started talking about some guy called Fred Titmus.

But now, I find Swann may also be a really, really annoying idiot, and that too a racially insensitive one. Read Andy Bull’s profile in The Guardian for details on the first charge; the guy’s dressing room antics (and his recent drunk driving) put me in mind of the stupid jocks who weren’t supposed to find refuge in a game like cricket. (Sigh.)

What’s worse, Swann indulges in a dash of racial humor. Take a look at his “Behind The Ashes” video series; I followed a flattering link that said it offered an “irreverent” (meaning: funny) look at life on tour. It does that, and most of it is actually quite funny, until you get to the part in Episode 3 where Swann basically makes fun of coach Mushtaq Ahmed’s accent and inability to speak English well to his face for a good minute. (See below at 2:30.)

Now, it’s possible “doing the Indian accent” bit is funny in England because of its much higher Asian population (so accepted is the accent, it is akin to making fun of any regional — read: Yorkshire — accent, for e.g.).  Generally, though, it’s not a kosher thing to do in America, where it’s seen as needlessly picking on a very, very small percentage of the population. Not that it’s not done; God knows I’ve had to answer thousands of questions on why I don’t sound like Apu from The Simpsons. (I also absolutely despise having to listen to someone do the accent with the expectation that I laugh at it, as if I’m part of the joke. Swann does this to Mushtaq in the video, and you can tell he thinks Swann is laughing at him, not with him.)

I might be making a mountain out of a mole here. But just take a look at the video. Mushtaq seems like such a nice guy; I almost feel sorry he has to spend his days surrounded, almost universally, by white people. Time to break out the diversity sessions, ECB.

Like I said, the rest of the video is fairly funny (esp. the sprinkler dance bit at the end). But wasn’t the Ahmed moment so, so awkward? Back me up, NRIs — how many times have you gone through this exchange?



13 thoughts on “Warning: Graeme Swann May Be An Annoying Idiot

  1. Mahek says:

    I heard the accent a couple of times when I was working but never felt they were laughing at me. Maybe cus they didn’t have a problem when I made fun of them being Yanks. I found most Indians to be a lot more sensitive about these things than Americans who generally laughed with you when you made a joke about them.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Well, it depends. I’m American, but of Indian origin, so when someone introduces the accent, it’s as if to emphasize my other-ness and the sense I don’t belong here. Which sucks, and, quite frankly, I don’t see why I needn’t be sensitive to it.

      But, honestly, even if the banter is part of a wider multicultural dialogue, it still annoys me. There are a lot of things to poke fun at about Indian culture, and some comedians do it really well (see: early Russell Peters, for instance, that is, before he devolved into what I’m criticizing here). Accents just don’t seem all that humorous and intelligent to me, especially given the history of race relations in this country.

      • achettup says:

        Before I launch into how people always take offense when its their demographic that is poked fun off, let me just add to what Mahek said. My best friend at grad school used to tease me all the time with that accent and there were more than a few ways to tease him back, and it was all in good fun, nobody took it any of it personally. When he met me a year later in California and put it on it was his friends who felt awkward which was probably more annoying to me. Accents are characteristic that point to where people are from and if you’re not comfortable with you’re from then I guess you would feel uncomfortable with them (thats just my opinion, I could completely off here). In America people tend to be a lot more sensitive to these jokes which in England and especially Australia are taken as banter. Recall Sol Trujillo’s comments about Australia being racist and backward compared to what he was used to in America. A relative of mine who is a British citizen of Indian origin, but moved here several years ago gets teased by her brothers and their children (who still live there) and it really annoys her, so maybe you share the same feelings as she does.
        Here is where I disagree with Mahek, its not just Indians who are uber sensitive. Its funny because during the 2008 tour of Australia, I recall Harsha in the commentary box mock the Australian accent, and he was probably doing it innocently and thought it was funny, to which Ian Chappell shot back “I thought you were above poking fun at the Australian accent?” and an uncomfortable silence ensued, even though Ian probably having his own bit of fun but getting the point across too. I think it can be a bit shallow and not too far off the “your mom” jokes and so I stay away from them. I recall the Chinese grad students association protesting a stand-up comedy act because they thought the guy was being racist. They were flamed incessantly by everybody else on the bb for not taking a joke in the right spirit. It all takes me to Dilbert’s line (as mentioned above) about how people always react when their demographic gets picked on and the best way to respond is to say the people who complain are being too sensitive while not being sensitive to your needs to crack a joke of that nature.
        To the video, I didn’t think Mushtaq took it badly or felt uncomfortable until he was unable to come up a reply, and that reflected his weakness in the language. Note also that the Indian accent wasn’t the only one Swann poked fun off in the video. I found his tweets slightly annoying on twitter initially, but I think he’s got a good sense of humor and he doesn’t mean to be maliciously, which at the end of the day is where the fine line between outright racism and celebrating our differences is drawn.

  2. golandaaz says:

    I have never had an American suddenly put on an Indian accent while talking to me. I think it was certainly awkward when Swann did it to Mushtaq. I don’t know how I would react. Probably the way Mushtaq did, it did seem a bit out off but did not show it.

  3. Iron_Monkey says:

    I am an Indian, living in the US for 5 years now. Never had any trouble with people mimicking Indian accents for fun – it always seems a good laugh.

    Swann was just having good-natured fun, IMHO. He also later says that Broad and Anderson wear mascarra – would you consider that discrimation against trans-sexuals?

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Iron_Monkey, thanks for the comment. The mascara comment, actually, isn’t a jibe against transsexuals. In the context of what he’s saying, Swann is making fun of Broad and Anderson, who are supposedly considered the most handsome in the squad (if you count the number of covers they’ve been on), but who were also too shy to break out the sprinkler dance. It’s more about their personalities, not whether or not they put on make up.

      • Iron_Monkey says:

        My point about the mascarra is that there is an obvious implication that if you wear mascarra then you are not “man” enough.

        Anyways, it seems like getting riled up about Swann having a bit of fun seems a little childish to me.

  4. reina says:

    I’m inclined to not think too much of it because Swann has repeatedly said how much he likes and respects Mushtaq. Ill-advised, maybe, but it might be banter too – Mushtaq didn’t seem all that offended, to be honest.

  5. I think racism is a very strong word to use and should be used very carefully to annotate a situation. In this context, I don’t see it even a bit racist because Swann is not being intolerant or has an malicious intent towards Mushtaq. He’s just making fun of his accent, which is perfectly fine.

    DB, from your comment I see that you probably see some of Russell’s jokes as not funny as well. I don’t perceive any of his jokes in a racist way because of the eventual intent of it.

    And I agree with achettup on the sensitive part as well. Blanket statements like Indians are more sensitive are far from the truth. The sensitive nature of any person may not have anything to do with the demographic, it could just be his/her personality.

    • ElegantStroke, thanks for the comment. I didn’t call Swann a racist; I’m only taking aim at people who think “doing accents” is funny. I just don’t, and I think in certain contexts, it borders on racially insensitive (whatever the intention).

      As for Russell Peters, I will say this: initially, I thought his comedy extremely funny. In a way, his dialogue helps break down barriers and, for me, the best part was his talking about experiences that I know very well (having Indian parents, growing up as an immigrant, etc.). Where I stopped linking Russell was when his comedy basically devolved into, “Do we have any Chinese people here? [Insert very silly Chinese ethnic joke.] Do we have any Arabs here? [Insert very silly Arab ethnic joke here.]”

      Now, this is a professional comedian, so the discourse and expectations are different. All I’m saying is this: if an employee of mine, no matter how much we get on otherwise, came up to me and asked me questions in an Indian accent, I’d say, “You may well be an annoying idiot.”

  6. Nadeem Ahmad says:

    Humour is very contextual and culture specific, as @Swannyg66 himself will tell you from the numerous ill advised comments he gets to his tweets from the majority of the population unfamiliar with English context. In those comments, he has been labelled as racist, hypocrite, football fanatic etc…to a complete loony; all to his amusement I might add.

    The point is that the guy has a good heart, a good nature and a good sense of humour which he brandishes openly and frankly. He has been seen to be making fun of/ laughing at/ laughing with many of his team mates at the expense of all their nuances and antics. Now, if they all to start taking offence to all of it, he would have no one talking to him and would probably be subjected to disciplinary action (and be labelled as racist if we are to take the author’s point of view here).

    Give the guy some slack. He is the best thing that has happened to English cricket for a long time, and has been the linchpin of England’s revival in international cricket.

    His talismanic character has been acknowledged by the Aussies too as they go looking to create their own version of Swanny – http://www.espncricinfo.com/the-ashes-2010-11/content/current/story/492037.html

  7. aden fletcher says:

    u fukin twat, seriously hes just having a laugh with his mates. i beleive you are the racist because you are highlighting it only because hes pakistani. its called banter, having a sense of humour, god.. learn to laugh at yourselfs you needless tosser.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Thanks for the message, Aden! You’re right; given the excellent record of the English on race relations, I should give Graeme Swann the benefit of the doubt.

      I’d have more of a reaction about your comment if it didn’t include cute words like “twat” and “tosser.” Wonderful brand of English you speak across the pond. Please, do keep commenting!

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