Why did people assume the professor’s wife in funny viral BBC video was the nanny?

14th Mar 2017
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A political science professor at Pusan National University in South Korea who was answering questions live on the BBC in his capacity as an expert in South Korean politics had to face the perils of being a parent who works from home. His children gate crashed into the room, inadvertently appearing on live television globally, in a hilarious clip that has now gone viral.

While Robert Kelly was being interviewed on the BBC, his elder child came dancing into the room followed by the younger child in his walker. His wife Jung-a Kim then came skidding into the room and frantically dragged them out.

The hilarious video starts with expert Robert handling serious questions on the country's president, Park Geun-hye, being ousted from power.

After the discussion, programme host James Mernendez quipped: “There's a first time for everything. I think you've got some children who need you!” He also posted the video on Twitter with the caption: “Hard to keep a straight face.”

The nanny assumption

But in a rather unpleasant twist to the fun story, many Twitter and Facebook users assumed that Jung-a Kim was the nanny and started talking about how scared she looked since she could lose her job. Time, in an article which was later updated, described her initially as the “frenzied nanny” while a British tabloid referred to her as the “horrified nanny.” Since the professor is a white man, people were quick to assume that the Asian woman was a nanny, making obvious not just racist stereotypes of the Asian domestic help in a white household, but also the problems couples in mixed race marriages face in this day and age.

Robert had moved to Korea in 2008, and later married Jung-a Kim, a former yoga teacher who is now a stay-at-home mother to their two children, Marion and James.

Professor Robert Kelly with wife and elder child

Stereotyping can hurt

The assumption that a girl from a north-eastern state works in a beauty parlour or that a lawyer is crooked by nature might be funny in a meme but these are real people who get hurt with such stereotyping.

The only way we can stop stereotyping people based on their gender, race, and other sociocultural backgrounds is by acknowledging learned prejudices, confronting one’s own stereotypes, and changing those perceptions. Making an effort to become more aware of comments that stereotype other people and increasing exposure to people in groups who are often stereotyped also helps.

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