What’s worse than getting conscripted into stuffy tours of Western European history conducted with the affected air of reverence? Having to bear witness to racist, settler colonial explications of non-Western culture. Regrettably, it’s a rite of passage to have to go through both by the end of one’s stint in the American education system — a fact of life TikToker Amalia Rubin lampoons in a series of videos, one of which has garnered over 600,000 views.
“Here, we see a perfect example of mid-second millennium European idol worship,” Rubin tells the camera with the faux earnesty of a docent while standing in a cathedral in France. “Being a largely illiterate people, the native Europeans relied on symbols in order to understand their gods. Behind me is the altar where native Europeans take part in a ritual of symbolic cannibalism,” she explains, gesturing at an ornate marble table supported by gold encrusted pillars, decorated with statues of angels.
“The Europeans are a simple people, but perhaps in this complex age we could learn something from their simplicity,” Rubin says, mocking the naivete of noble savage rhetoric that remains embarrassingly prevalent. “As an anthropologist myself, I find it sad to see these relics in such unkempt places of worship rather than in a museum where they belong,” she delivers with contrived concern.
“It’s genuinely this bad,” Rubin captions the video. Yeah, seems about right.
This isn’t the fist video Rubin’s made on this theme that has gotten traction. Rubin, a PhD student at the University of Leeds studying the Epic of King Gesar of Ling, tells Hyperallergic that the double standard of how Indigenous and Western cultures are treated has been a “running joke” in the family. “Sometimes, as a joke, we would just randomly start talking like we were in some documentary, about how the young women of the American tribe apply crushed minerals to their upper eyelids to be beautiful,” she says.
Among her other videos: she gets waterboarded by a friend under the guise of orchestrating an “infant drowning ritual” satirizing baptism ceremonies, exoticizes the 12th through 20th century “occidental” practice of consuming Egyptian mummies as medicine to the tune of a Chopin nocturne, and exposes that the real reason why the pyramids are in Egypt: because “they were too heavy to carry off to the British Museum.”