Saturday Night Live pokes fun at Hawaiian tourism: Some thoughts

Back when Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show poked fun at Butte, Montana because of the Berkeley Pit, the shut-down copper mine that’s almost filled to the brim with toxic water, and is a tourist site anyway, I felt bad. I love Butte, Montana and visit every summer. It was one of my budget travel options back in January. The Daily Show’s version of Butte did not do it justice.

Now Hawaii is in the fray of popular culture tomfoolery. Saturday Night Live poked fun at Hawaiian tourism last week with a skit of fake hula dancers in a restaurant filled with tourists. Within the skit, issues of authenticity, lack of a working wage by those working in the tourist industry, race and other issues that highlight the clash between those looking for a dream vacation and those hired to make the dream happen were mixed together.

Linda Lingle, the governor of Hawaii, is mad about the skit because she feels that it sheds an unfair light on an industry upon which Hawaii depends to a large degree. Because of the economy, Hawaiian tourism is suffering. Bad publicity could do more damage. I’m not too sure about that — particularly if Hawaii uses the skit as a stepping off point to show just how much Hawaii has to offer besides hula dancers. [Saturday Night video after the jump.]

Before I went to Hawaii several years ago, I had Tiki statues and big wooden fork and spoon wall hanging sets in mind. What I found is a lush, culturally rich, gorgeous place that I was enthralled by. We didn’t stay in Waikiki, but with relatives who live on the other side of Oahu. What the governor needs to do is point out how Hawaii is a fascinating state with a history unlike any other.

I’m always amazed when I find out that people went there without going to The Bishop Museum or the Mission Houses Museum or the palace. The role of Hawaii during World War II is also important. A trip to Pearl Harbor and the Punch Bowl shows that. As part of our trip, we went to the Big Island where at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park learned more about volcanoes and Hawaii’s geological make up. These are just a few places that highlight Hawaii’s uniqueness.

I think what the skit did is point out the dissonance between people who head to a place with an idea in their minds about what the location is about without considering the darker side. Any place that tries to bring in tourist dollars could do a similar skit. Saturday Night Live just happened to pick Hawaii. So what if paradise has a darker side? Isn’t that true about anything? It’s the ying and the yang.

On the other side of the dark side is the light which is the reason why Hawaii is such a great place to go on a vacation–just don’t stop at the hula skirts. Have fun with the schlock, notice the disparity, but get out of the places that are geared for the cliche and explore. See what else Hawaii has to offer. It’s plenty, and these days Hawaii is a terrific vacation value.

Admittedly, I think the Saturday Night Live skit is funny. I didn’t watch the episode, but I headed to You Tube as soon as I read about the controversy. The reason I think it’s funny is because I loved watching Dwayne Johnson hula dance. His legs and arm movements just cracked me up. Plus, he looked like he was having a great time.

In case you didn’t see it, here it is. The copy isn’t the best, but you’ll get the idea.