Lilly Singh’s comedy in her YouTube videos is overly theatrical for my taste.
However, there is no denying her accomplishments as an Indian and openly bisexual woman in the media. In an article from The Globe and Mail, Singh is praised for redefining late-night TV on NBC. Hosting her own show, “A Little Late with Lilly,” an accomplishment traditionally dominated by white men, is impressive, to say the least.
Furthermore, Singh’s jokes are not without their share of controversy, and criticism. Some ever took their disapproval to online platforms.
“The Curious Case of Lilly Singh,” a YouTube video by user j aubrey, nitpicks Singh down to her core. It should be noted that j aubrey is male and, well, white. He has been critical of many other large YouTubers such as Lele Pons and Tana Mongeau. In December 2018, Forbes released a list of the most successful YouTubers. No women were mentioned on this list, so Singh took to social media to voice her disapproval. “If you already have more success than you know what to do with, nobody wants to hear you complain about representation,” j aubrey said. The YouTuber criticizes her for “playing the victim” despite her financial success.
In her late-night show, Singh often uses white people as the focus of her jokes. What is wrong with this exactly? Well, nothing in my opinion, but j aubrey seems to think that if she wants to make jokes about race, she should do so in a creative manner.
He focuses on her “racism” towards white people with her punching-up humour. “It’s the way she shoves her identity down her audiences throat,” he said. This is hardly a step in the right direction. Singh’s punching-up humour is not racist towards white people. You cannot be racist towards a group of oppressors, sorry, j aubrey.
This is a dangerous mindset to have when it comes to race, feminism and the representation we see in the media. This is not where growth occurs, but rather where it remains stagnant. Singh is an oppressed minority, and painting her as some kind of bitter feminist for voicing that recognition in the workplace is still very much unequal, is another gripe in an unfair, white male power balance. We have been able to make small steps of progress in regards to discrimination, but these small steps have only occurred from speaking out. Prejudice is rooted in the framework of society. Having these discussions is vital in the fight for equality.
While the comments Singh has received from j aubrey are neither here nor there, she has been the topic of legitimate criticism from the Black community. McKensie Mack wrote a viral essay in 2017 on modern day blackface. Mack states that Singh also steps in and out of blackness, like many white people. That she performs “a stereotyped version of Black culture and identity.” Singh has dressed in chains, rapped on a basketball court and worn cornrows for her YouTube videos. However, while on the cover of magazines, Singh’s chains are nowhere in sight. Mack criticized Singh for using Blackness as a costume, “she puts on Blackness in the morning and takes it off at night.” She has also made jokes at the expense of the Punjabi community on air. Singh told Jessica Alba while interviewing her on her show, that her children wrapping towels around their heads would look like her Punjabi friends. She later took to social media to apologize for the joke. Singh has failed to acknowledge how her comedy has been seen as offensive to the Black community. It would be worth acknowledging her mistakes with appropriation.
Though, as far as I’m concerned, if you are offended by Singh’s punching-up humour, then in the words of comedian Stephen Fry, “well, so what?”
Graphic by Victoria Blair.