Lt. Gov to SNL About Hawaii Skit: That’s Not Funny!
Travel Blog • Pam Mandel • 03.12.09 | 2:29 PM ET
According to Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, “Hawaiian Hotel,” a Saturday Night Live skit (video below) in which two grass-skirted, uke-playing, hula-dancing, minimum wage entertainers abuse guests at a hotel restaurant is not funny.
The skit “went too far in its negative depiction of Hawaii’s native people and tourism industry,” Aiona said. He added he wouldn’t let “such distortions go unchecked” when the economy is doing so poorly.
There’s more reaction in this AP article on Huffington Post.
Dig a little deeper still and you’ll find that there’s some truth in the attitudes portrayed. So much so that earlier this year, the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce held a special presentation to discuss the issue:
The Hawaiian words Hawai’i and Aloha are the two most powerful marketing brands in the world recognized by people living in the most far flung places on earth. Ho’okipa, the act of welcoming and hosting guests, is so fundamental to Hawaiian culture and routinely extended even to strangers. Why then, are Hawaiians so disdainful and distanced from Hawai’i's largest industry?—Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce
While on Moloka’i last year, I got to talking with some hospitality staffers about their jobs, the tourism industry, and what they thought about tourists. One of the guys was just happy to be working. “What else am I going to do, bag groceries at the market?” The other was more circumspect about tourists coming to Hawaii. “Depends on why they’re here,” he said. “If they want to learn about Hawaii’s people and history and culture, they’re very welcome. But if they just want to sit on the beach and drink Mai Tais, they can go to Florida.”
More from the AP’s article:
Jonathan Osorio, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s Center for Hawaiian Studies, said the skit accurately addressed how many in the islands work for low wages and how Hawaiian culture is sometimes packaged for tourist consumption without concern for its authenticity. It also accurately showed how many tourists who visit are ignorant of these realities, he said.
My reaction to the skit? Funny. Painful. And probably, like most sharp humor, based in truth. Judge for yourself: