From “Tutsi Crush” to “FWP”

Satire, Sentiment, and Rights in African Texts and Contexts

Authored by: Madelaine Hron

The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415736411
eBook ISBN: 9781315778372
Adobe ISBN: 9781317696285


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Can human rights be humorous? In 2014, during the twentieth commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda, the recurring question about the value of humor in human rights discourses resurfaced when a particularly repugnant joke went viral online. In the offensive clip, a French talk show shockingly compared the Tutsi genocide to Candy Crush: “Tutsi Crush,” or “the genocide in Rwanda finally adapted for your smartphone,” featured skulls to crush as candy. Guest singer GiedRé blithely explained that “I’m not really into video games, but I’d play this. It looks like fun [rigolo]” (Tutsi Crush 2014). The clip provoked outrage from Rwandans, activists, and casual browsers alike, and confirmed that indignation, gravitas, and pathos may be the only possible ethical responses to heinous rights violations. The show’s supporters argued that global audiences were not grasping the French sense of humor, here possibly “cynical humor,” or “a general expression of moral alienation from the political order” (Speier [1975] 1998: 1358). However, their lame defenses only emphasized the need to distinguish between “jokes of triumph … from above” and “jokes of resistance … from below,” or between humor that disempowers the weak and vulnerable, and humor that empowers them (Speier [1975] 1998: 1353). As Alison Brysk reminds us in her study of human rights rhetoric, “human rights satire is written for citizens and against leaders or elites. It must mock domination but not suffering” (2013: 122). Ironically, when reappropriated as resistance from below, this joke turned out to be most effective in engaging human rights issues. Circulated as “outrage porn” (Holiday 2014), it prompted activism on a number of levels: it reiterated the horror of genocide, recalled France’s complicity in 1994 events, and engaged the participation and imagination of people who had forgotten about the commemoration.

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