Rude Buddha : SNL And Orientalism

Some time ago, SNL featured a sketch called ‘The Rude Buddha‘. While I tried to find a video for you all, it was rudely interrupted by copyright and a lack of youtube availability, though you can watch it directly on the NBC website here I was unable to figure out how to embed it, so my bad on that front, guys. Anyway, the point of the sketch was to have the Buddha dispense wisdom… in the form of vague and largely pointless statements that sounded a little bit like the might have been ancient Chinese proverbs, followed up by lewd, rude commentary and derision. I had planned to write a blog post describing how this perfectly reflects the interesting phenomena of regarding the East as an enlightened and magnificent place of mysterious and ancient wisdom, and then promptly turning that stereotype on its head by portraying the Buddha as the complete opposite for the sake of easy humor. As I was looking for a clip of the skit, I came across a few interesting blog posts, including this post reflecting how Buddhism was an easy target for a sketch because it is a marginalized community in America, making the skit “funny” to the mainstream population- although she argues that it wasn’t, in fact, funny at all, because it took cheap shots at a serious religion. She also goes on to discuss other representations and references to Buddhist culture in mainstream media, including a lot of examples from Lost that I didn’t really understand because I honestly never watched the show (I must be the only person who hasn’t, right?). Still, I think the skit itself reflects interestingly on what SNL writers are assuming are mainstream American ideas of Buddhism, which are akin to what we’ve discussed in prior classes. While it may not have been funny, or may have been insensitive or in bad taste or otherwise rubbed people the wrong way, it was at the very least an interesting discourse on what stereotypes of Buddhism are present in the collective American mindset.


About mghartley

An anthropologist of religion (in the making) with a focused interest in East Asia (specifically the mudang of Korea) and an abiding love for folklore and mythology. Student of Korean (and sometimes French and Japanese) with an interest in linguistics and culture.

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