Last semester I did service with EBLO, Education Based Latino Outreach. During this service learning, you are able to choose which age group you want to work with, each time you come in. Being that I was comfortable with working with the third graders (I choose to work with them everyday) I decided to try the fifth graders.
So I began my day at EBLO by going outside, where the fifth graders meet. As soon as I get there I quickly introduce myself to the group and their aid. As I learn some of the student’s names. As soon as I asked one of them for their names, they thought it would be funny to mess around with the white girl, and whispered to each other to make up fake names. Their names were of famous people, cartoons, and one of the boys was supposedly Britney Spears. So I played around and told them that my name was Hannah Montana. Later on they told me their names, but since thought it was hilarious that I played with them, and they quickly welcomed me into their group.
In that instant I remembered what it was like to be a kid, and to have the craving of belonging, and to me I feel that humor allows children to let loose while they come to turns with who they are while also having that ability to hurt someone’s feelings. Later on that week, the kids gave me a nick-name, cupcake, because I was vanilla. I related this back to how Madea allowed me to grasp the concept that color and race is not as clear cut as it may seem. There are overlapping areas, and the concept behind defining race and ethnicity depends on the situation that you were brought up in.
Perry uses Madea as a porthole into the inner beings of a black woman with no filter or fear following the harsh truth and hilarious events. This quality resembles Shakespeare’s fool, in the ability to comment on everything with no true consequences (because Madea is fictional and her perspective doesn’t reflect Perry’s). I also feel that children have the same ability to truly just state how they feel, no filter, no shame.
For example, one of my fellow service learners last semester told me that one of the kids thought she was pregnant, and by no means was she remotely pregnant or even overweight for that matter. When she told me about this situation I laughed, because number one, I know she’s not pregnant and she later told me it was because she was wearing an oversized sweatshirt. The humor may seem harsh, but children have no clue how much their opinions effect people, this brutally honest attribute of children is one of my favorite aspects of working with them.
This characteristic of having no filter and being able to say what you want, within itself is humorous, because people don’t expect it. Again, the theme of expectations coming into play, people expect kids to be like little people, and when they throw the one liner (ones they didn’t even expect to get a reaction out of—like my experience at EBLO) they go against the odds of what would be expected of them, creating a funny situation.
With that being said, it can be easily see that Madea is a figure of power and respect, her advice is taken seriously because the humor serves as a tool into recognizing the difference between the ridiculous and the wisdom and that area in between, where one can recognize wisdom through the ridiculousness of a situation. Just like Madea, children hold that same quality of having no filter. This overall blending of the ridiculous with wisdom demonstrates a way in which humor can educated. I kind of saw Perry’s novel as a self help book. Although it is very funny, I feel that some of the messages that Perry slides in between the lines, are important to recognize, especially in today’s society.