35 Responses

  1. topboy
    topboy December 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm |

    I seem to remember Andy doing impersonations first, it’s just that Novak was better. And it’s not like Novak never got heat for his.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 13, 2012 at 2:00 am |

      Good point, topboy. People seem to forget that Roddick was the king of impersonations until Djokovic came along. And yes, Djokovic got quite a bit of heat over them. So

  2. Melissa
    Melissa December 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

    There’s a difference between impersonation (an art, and not derogatory) and caricature (mockery and definitely derogatory). Tennis players are not, to my knowledge, theatre majors. And making fun of anyone’s body is a stupid, hurtful thing; it’s emphatically not funny.

    In fact, the only safe subject to make fun of is: Yourself.

    Yes, Novak and Andy have done it for years. And you know what? Some of us have always hated it. It’s time now for the tour to learn from this put a stop to the parodies/imitations/caricatures. Please. Just Say No.

    1. Amy
      Amy December 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm |

      Well said, Melissa. I’ve always hated it too. Make it stop.

    2. Sabertooth
      Sabertooth December 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

      I am surprised that more people haven’t made this point. People’s bodies are absolutely off-limits when it comes to caricatures.

      Besides, when impressions are done of other players, the focus is typically on their mannerisms–tucking hair behind ear, walk to chair, chagrin after a netball. Not their bodies.

      There is, also, a history of ridiculing black women’s bodies. Stories about Sarah Baartman and others provide a chilling example of just how far such ridicule can go.

      There are numerous up and coming black women tennis players from the USA and other countries, including the number one junior in the world. I have a feeling we are going to hear more such stories in the future.

  3. TJC
    TJC December 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm |

    Spot on arguments. Lindsey makes a good point, as I too have always had hard time telling others whether or not to be offended by something. Also, it seems to be writers/sites that do not typically write about tennis that seem to bring these “scandals” up (similar thing happened re: Serena after winning Olympics, and I think this story was first on Huffington Post), and the whole issue feels a little forced. It’s not as if a reporter asked Serena, “did you feel that was inappropriate?” and she voiced her concern at that point, instead someone far removed from the situation is making assumptions–which isn’t fair to anyone, and comes across as a ploy to get clicks as opposed to creating a dialogue regarding actual concern about racial issues.

  4. Manixdk
    Manixdk December 12, 2012 at 6:42 am |

    She did it in Brazil for heaven’s sake in front of a typical Brazilian VERY mixed-race audience. There was nothing negative in the Brazilian press. Serena was in the crowd. They laughed about it afterwards. Why is it that 95% of the noise about this is from Americans? Serena makes fun of her own large breasts and buttocks constantly.

    1. AmyLu
      AmyLu December 12, 2012 at 11:06 am |

      I’m not so sure that I’d use the Brazilian press as an arbiter of whether or not something is “racist.” My students this semester read the book “Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazi” by Edward Telles, and it is beyond thorough in documenting all of the racial inequality and racial stratification within Brazil. Part of the analysis focuses on how there is so much racial inequality — and one of the identified culprits is the media. (Sorry the sociology professor in me had to comment. And I do highly recommend the book if anyone is interested in reading and learning more about Brazil and race.)

      With that being said, I would really hesitate to label this incident as racist. I don’t find it humorous at all, and I’m very much in agreement with what Amy, Lindsay, and Juan Jose said.

  5. Karen
    Karen December 12, 2012 at 7:20 am |

    I think it was Australia in 2007 when Serena went in carrying a few extra ounces. There were pundits in the media who criticised her body and said that she was fat. I think one of the main offenders was Pat Cash. At her press conference after getting to the final, Serena said that we live in a Mary Kate Olsen world. She said that she had a big ass and big tits but she is fit. She went on to prove it to the world by losing 3 games in the final.

    As a black woman who is full figured, I get people looking at me in wonderment all the time, especially when I am on a tennis court or taking part in any kind of physical activity. I wear 5″ heels and I dance in them. People are amazed at my athletic ability. The lawyers in my office sometimes are amazed at how fast I move in those high heels in the office.

    I don’t think Caroline was racially biased in her imitation of Serena. It was, as many others have said, just not funny. It was also not funny when Djokovic was doing his impressions. For some reason though when Roddick does these impressions they are funny. One of the reasons why I am never really offended by Roddick’s imitations is because I know of the friendship that exists between Andy and Serena and the respect that he has for her. In addition, Roddick’s imitations does not seem as if he is trying very hard. They come natural, while Caroline seems forced.

    I don’t see anything racist about it. In any event the imitations needs to stop. They are unprofessional, and you have to be really good at improv to pull it off and Caroline is just not good at humour (see kangaroo story for evidence).

  6. Henk
    Henk December 12, 2012 at 9:42 am |

    It is not racist to impersonate someone and exaggerate their body type.

    It *IS* racist, however, to pretend that an exaggeration of body type of one person pertains to all people of a certain race.

    1. Sabertooth
      Sabertooth December 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |


      I disagree. Attempting to refute an accusation of racism by calling the accuser “racist”, is little more than a silencing technique designed to forestall discussion of the issue. That won’t work.

      There are over 7 billion people in the world; is it not to be expected that they will see things differently?

      There is room for many different perspectives on this issue, including those who believe her act was racially motivated, and those who don’t.

      1. Henk
        Henk December 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

        I apologize if I came off crass. Allow me to explain.

        My point of view is that impersonating someone is not racist, even if they are part of a minority. To me racism is making value judgements about or having predjudice against a population as a whole, not a certain member.

        I do have a problem with someone then taking that impersonation and applying it to the population as a whole.

        Here’s a strained example:

        In my opinion, you can impersonate Bob the Japanese man and pretend to be good at math, and not be racist.

        If you instead impersonate *a random Japanese man* and pretend to be good at math, that would be racist.

        Do you see what I mean?

        1. Henk
          Henk December 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

          I can’t edit, but here’s an important addendum: I assume that Bob is good at math to begin with. Otherwise it would be racist.

  7. Deborah Taylor
    Deborah Taylor December 12, 2012 at 10:03 am |

    I highly recommend this blog entry on the topic.

    Serena Williams Is Not A Costume: By Guest Contributor Jessica Luther, cross-posted from Speaker’s Corner in the… http://bit.ly/U73s75

  8. Manixdk
    Manixdk December 12, 2012 at 10:09 am |

    All I can do is shake my head. People on my twitter timeline from South Africa to Sénégal to Australia to the UK think her imitation was funny. And spot on. Seems that Americans have a somewhat different sense of humour than others. The same thing happened with the kangaroo story at the Australian Open. American commentators thought it was “misplaced”, “unfunny” while almost all commentators in the Aussie papers that it ranged from “funny” to “hysterically funny”. Shrug.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 13, 2012 at 2:11 am |

      Just to set things right, Manixdk: I’m not American. I’ve only lived in this country for over 5 years, and lived the rest of my life in Latin America, where I’m from.

      I can speak for the countries where I lived in Latin America when I say that race relations are FAR from smooth. About as far as we are from the sun. Which is terribly sad.

      If anything, moving to the US has made me realize just how bad the situation is back home, and how much us Latin Americans have to work on in terms of race relations.

      Also, the least surprising aspect of this whole saga is that nobody in Latin America made a huge fuss about it. But don’t go on believing that it didn’t happen because my native region is some sort of magical post-racial haven. Quite the opposite, really.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 13, 2012 at 2:12 am |

      See my comment above, regarding the Brazilian press. And this: http://www.economist.com/node/21543494

  9. laissez-faire
    laissez-faire December 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

    Looking in as a non-American, the US media tend to blow these events out of proportion. It’s strange watching you guys try to be overtly PC about everything, but then are rather hypocritically OK with race stereotypes in standout comedy. Personally, this is all pretty funny.

    I think there might be some underlying social complex you guys (pardon the generalisation) have with race portrayal, because a) it’s still a relatively “unresolved” issue there, and b) your history with racism precedes you. It’s rather bizarre, particularly when you guys get inanely offended on behalf of other people.

    Also, when did one ethnicity become the end to for big breasts and big booties anyway?

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 13, 2012 at 2:16 am |

      laissez-faire, I’d love to know the wonderful, post-racial world you’re writing us from. The way I see it, the entire planet has problems dealing with diversity – the difference is some countries try to do something to make things better, and others do very little or nothing at all. The country I live in (US) is an example of the former, and the country I was born in, (Ecuador) is an example of the latter.

  10. Aube
    Aube December 13, 2012 at 8:45 am |

    I’m really really really stunned that this is actually a debatable “story”,nothing against various opinions but I guess I’m shocked because I did not see this one coming,besides I would so love it if Serena would say something and make it clear to people that she is not offended,so why should we?
    it’s one thing to find it not funny,it’s another to pin it on RACISM and believe me I call out any racist attempt every time I see it,this time I’m afraid it’s not there for me to see,nothing racist about this,nothing!

    Also people please remember Caroline was the only tennis player who went and visit Serena when she was sick,now that is not a racist move,no it’s not!

    1. Master Ace
      Master Ace December 13, 2012 at 8:57 am |

      Good point about Wozniacki when she was the only player to visit S Williams when S Williams had life issues in 2011. Glad that S Williams is not commenting on Wozniacki’s imitation.

    2. Juan José
      Juan José December 16, 2012 at 4:55 am |

      Thanks for that, Aube. And I think we all echoed your sentiment about this story, mainly: it was irresponsible to label Wozniacki as racist, and it was weird that nothing happened when others performed the same “impersonation” in the past year.

      There was absolutely no malicious intent on Wozniacki at all, and like you and Master Ace say, they’re on friendly terms. I’m sure that if Serena has a problem with the imitation she’ll let Wozniacki know in public, and things will be settled then.

  11. harini
    harini December 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    I didn’t see Caro’s impersonations of Serena, so I can’t comment on that. But I don’t understand why anyone thinks impersonating another player is funny. It was funny ONCE. Now, it’s dull and seemingly overdone. (I do fault Nole for that, and it was hilarious the first time, and then…).

    The other thing is, why people think it’s funny to impersonate a player’s physique. Serena doesn’t have the “generic” WTA physique, but that’s what makes her Serena.

    I’ll just say one thing about the race arguments. Like JJ and others have said, it’s not that race relations in other parts of the world are “better” than the U.S. I’ve lived in America for most of my life now, but I spent my childhood in India. I saw it then (maybe not as much) and it’s more apparent now how there is a difference between how people are treated in India because of their skin colour, whether you’re Indian or from abroad. There is a HUGE discordance there and I’ll bet the media in India is probably not making a big deal about these Serena impressions. Hell, it’s not like they really support their own tennis players that well though…

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 16, 2012 at 5:03 am |

      I actually disagree with you here, harini. I think a good impersonation will always be funny, but you have to have certain conditions to make that happen in the best possible way. But aside from those, the impersonation has to be GOOD. There’s a certain talent that’s needed, and not one that everybody has. I also think that unless you’re a professional comedian, it helps if the subject of the impersonation is present and consents to the show. Then, it’s all about focusing on mannerisms. Add talent, and you get this:

      Which I thought was absolutely hilarious. Subject loved it, crowd loved it, and it was perfectly executed.

      The problem with Wozniacki is that while she’s an incredibly talented human being, she doesn’t have the skill for impressions. Stuffing towels in your dress is almost the definition of bad comedy.

      About the race stuff, we talked about it on Twitter, but I completely agree. It’s the same in Ecuador. Sometimes one has to leave the country to fully understand certain things that you just don’t see when you’re there.

  12. Aube
    Aube December 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm |

    Now I would like to know who decides what’s funny for people,quite frankly I like it when Roddick did it I like it when Caro did it,what’s the offense,actually I’m thinking it’s the people who think something is wrong with it who do actually see a problem with Serena’s physique,cause personally I don’t,people come to this world in different shapes and builds and quite frankly I do not think deciding what the standard should be for human being as far as looks are concerned for a group of individuals to decide…

    It should be whatever you are or look like if you feel good being it,so be it!!!

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 16, 2012 at 5:10 am |

      Thankfully for all of us, nobody gets to decide what’s funny or not (unless you live under a totalitarian regime, where comedy is sometimes viewed as subversive). If you found Wozniacki’s impersonation funny – all power to you, Aube.

      But I do disagree with your later point, that if I find the impersonation unfunny it’s because I have a problem with Serena’s physique. First, amusement at something is purely instinctive at first. It’s not like you go through a completely rational process when you laugh. You just see something that triggers it inside you. This is why people find some TV shows hilarious, and others find those same TV shows terribly boring.

      Sometimes one just doesn’t find a rational explanation for why something wasn’t funny. But sometimes one can articulate why that is. I just think Wozniacki’s “impression” was just lazy. There were no mannerisms, or anything. Just towels stuffed in a dress. That’s a hack job.

      But that’s just me.

  13. Aube
    Aube December 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

    sorry,have to correct the last sentence:

    -I do not think deciding what the standard should be for human being as far as looks are concerned is the job of a given group of individuals-

    there, better,ouf,english as a second langage:0

  14. manixdk
    manixdk December 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm |

    You’re plucking low hanging fruit. How about discussing the fact that Serena and Venus earn a fraction of the endorsement money Maria S or Caro do. That’s meaty. Or the sexism of the WTA’s “Strong is Beautiful” campaign.

    1. Master Ace
      Master Ace December 14, 2012 at 9:44 am |

      Williams Sisters earning less endorsement than Sharapova and/or Wozniacki discussion can be talked about for days even though Williams Sisters are more accomplished on the court.

      1. manixdk
        manixdk December 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

        Exactly. Low hanging fruit. And it doesn’t surprise me that Americans have no idea why many people resent being lectured to by Americans. 🙂

    2. Juan José
      Juan José December 16, 2012 at 5:17 am |

      manixdk, I had no idea you had become our Managing Editor! And you have terrific ideas about “meaty” pieces. What a great hire! I must have missed that email from Amy and Lindsay.

      I just want to refer you to a few things:

      – The title of this post reads “Quick Take”. As in, abbreviated opinion. About what? Well, the rest of the subject might indicate the answer to that question. The event itself happened within 24 hours of our publishing of this piece.

      – I find it fascinating that you’re throwing such a fuss here when neither Amy, Lindsay or myself thought what Wozniacki did was racist. I was enraged that the racist label was thrown around like that, too. It was irresponsible and thoughtless to attach it to someone who performed an act without an ounce of malice.

      – Is it so terribly difficult to accept that 3 people (and many more judging by the comments here) found the “impression” unfunny? I like Djokovic and can’t claim to find everything he does hilarious. Sometimes, it happens. Wozniacki failing to pop a balloon behind Sharapova? Absolutely hilarious. I even thought the kangaroo thing in Australia was funny. But this “imitation”? It was just lazy. I think Wozniacki’s talent for laughs lies elsewhere – and I do think she can be funny. Her mock-interview to Djokovic at Wimbledon was one of those cases.

  15. Fernando
    Fernando December 15, 2012 at 10:44 am |

    Fernando says we have taught The Humble Bull to respect others and not try to be funny at another person’s expense. The cheap laughs are not worth potentially offending the sensibilities of another person. Especially in public. You have and will never see Rafa do this.

    And a reminder to all. We are not doing the Samba or eating cheese. We are practicing and training. Hard. You will all see the results.

    I am Fernando @vivafernando

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 16, 2012 at 5:19 am |

      One can always trust the Great Fernando to provide a great comment about this issue. I will only add that I don’t think The Humble Bull has the talent for impressions – he is at his most hilarious when he’s not even trying to be funny.

      As for the practice…I can’t wait to see the results! 12 more days, no?

      1. Master Ace
        Master Ace December 19, 2012 at 10:46 am |

        Agreed at Abu Dhabi, no. Playing against Murray or Tipsarevic, no.

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