There seems to have become a gold rush of sorts to mine the comedic wealth of the unsuspecting elderly. An Old Rush, if you will. The old axiom “kids say the darnedest things” has been flipped on its head as the younger generations now exploit the ignorance and intolerance of their elders for comedic gain. Blogs and Twitter feeds such as Shit My Dad Says and Waterboarding Grandpa have already proven the innate hilarity of older generations’ antiquated opinions.
Keeping with the time-honored tradition of laughing at the elderly, My Racist Grandma is a blog by writer Kip Daly chronicling (surprise, surprise) the bigoted quips of his only grandmother. It collects the various texts, tweets, and other musings of eighty-year-old “Grandma Esther” as she goes through life spewing nonsensical pejoratives and derogatory tirades.
Exploding into popularity only twenty minutes after its launch, the website has taken the internet by storm. The blog boasts over three million followers, has spawned countless internet memes, several book deals, and is even being turned into a sitcom with talks of Betty White or Helen Mirren in the starring role.
The blog also finds itself in the ongoing war of The Elderly vs. Technology. Half the fun of Grandma Esther’s tirades is in her misunderstanding of what the particular device or service she is using actually does. For instance, Esther seems to be unable to grasp the concept of a search engine. According to Daly,
“She thinks Google is a wish-fulfillment service. When she goes to search something, she actually believes that she’s issuing it a command. To her, the Results page shows the real-life outcome of what she told the search engine to do. So she’ll type in stuff like ‘stop the immigrants’ and then on the results page there will be things like ‘Lawmakers Working Together to Stop Immigration Reform’ and she thinks she caused that. And she’s just overjoyed. It really is the cutest thing.”
In a similar example, here she is trying to enlist iPhone app Siri’s help.
To be fair she does manage pretty well for an eighty-year-old. As a regular reader, I’ve found that one of the most endearing aspects of the blog is seeing Esther’s gradual acclimation to the technology she uses. It used to be that Daly would just put his grandmother’s quotations on Twitter, but now she posts them herself. It gives the feed an even greater sense of authenticity, as her unfiltered thoughts now come directly from the source.
What really gives My Racist Grandma its charm is its sincerity. Despite the (what we perceive as) horrible comments that Grandma Esther makes, she still manages to be endearing.
Now look, regular readers will know that I am not a happy person by nature, but when I see a new post on My Racist Grandma, I feel myself getting that old tinge of joy that I miss so much. Of course the things she says are awful. Of course they’re insensitive. But there’s something about Esther, something about her stout conviction that seems to resonate with people. She breaks up the monotony of everyday life. She reminds us of the need for eccentrics and individuals. We as a people get too bogged down these days by our desire for cohesion and uniformity. We try to fit everybody else into categories, as a way of making our lives easier. When someone comes along who rejects those paradigms, we try to turn away, to block them out. But doing so ends up being a detriment to ourselves. However negative people like Esther may be, they are still part of the human experience. We cannot just tune that out. We do not grow by ignoring negativity. We grow by observing it, studying it, learning from it. Facing the crazier parts of ourselves helps us grow stronger. Diversity, whether good or bad, ultimately brings us closer together. In spite of it all, Esther’s words make us feel, in some weird way, a little more appreciative of the rest of the human race.