Actor, writer, and director Danny Hoch presented some of his videos and lectured students about race and representation at CSUN’s Little Theater Tuesday.
Hoch spoke about his experiences as an activist, and the roots of activism embedded within hip-hop culture.
He said that often people “assume that race is inclusive of culture, and that’s a big mistake.”
Students asked Hoch which race he associated himself with. Hoch jovially answered, “If I want a bank loan, or if I get pulled over by police, then I’m white.”
Although Hoch used humor to illustrate the fallacies in stereotyping and generalizing, students understood his messages.
In his videos, Hoch portrayed different roles of people whom he said he had encountered throughout his life.
He also said these roles were not solely based on a single person, but instead a composite of about six different people for each character.
The roles he acted out were comedic, but the messages involved in his skits were clear.
“We are used to laughing at comedians making fun of characters, but not making fun of ourselves,” said Hoch.
His style of comedy aims to address critical issues such as AIDS and sexual health.
One of Hoch’s videos received mix feelings from students in attendance.
“I’m somewhat disappointed,” said senior screenwriting major Brendan Miller, referring to a video that Hoch co-wrote about a young white male named Flip, who lives in an all-white town and daydreams about being a rap star.
“He is making fun of a kid rapping in Montana,” said Miller. “For (kids) to embrace hip-hop in Montana is a beautiful thing.”
Miller said Hoch would be more effective if he didn’t put labels on everything, and felt “it cheapened his approach.”
But some students felt Hoch presented important ideas that have been too long ignored.
“He brings up some important issues that people don’t really think about,” said theatre arts major Kevin Jones.
“In order for blacks and whites, and every other race that’s out there to understand each other, we have to sit down and talk to each other and communicate,” said Jones.
“We (can) understand that there are different kinds of people in each race, and the media likes to portray things in a negative light so that people that are watching TV get this bad perception of a particular race,” said Jones.
Hoch said although it is not a bad idea to try submerging into other cultures, we need to realize that cultures are often misrepresented on TV.
“Often, when we delve into cultures other than our own, we do it just to consume the other, not really to understand, and not really to respect,” said Hoch, who made reference to feminist and social thinker bell hooks. He said that in this aspect, people try to consume the other culture “only because it’s tasty.”
He explained that in one-dimensional ways, his video of Flip might discourage some from exploring new cultures, but Flip helps us view how people are misinformed about cultures by media outlets.