Friday, 9 October 2009

Blackface comedy. I hope I am not offending anyone here. If so, apologies in advance.

Recently, on a Hey Hey it's Saturday sketch, a group calling themselves the Jackson Jive got verbally stoned by Harry Connick Jr for being racist because they used blackface comedy. The host Daryl Somers, apologised for any offence caused, and I too, would like to apologise for any offence I may cause in discussing this obviously sensitive issue.

This meant in the sketch, five of them turned up using black face paint (representing themselves as "Afro-Americans", also known by some people as "blacks", I hope that's not too racist. Another appeared wearing white makeup, satirising Michael Jackson who was an Afro-American who bleached his skin so it looked more of the pallour of those who are "Anglo-Saxon" or "Caucasian" or otherwise known as "white", hopefully that isn't offensive. Michael Jackson also recently "passed away", that is also otherwise known as "died". I hope that isn't too offensive either.

Now, I'm not "black" nor "white", not that it would matter if I was either. So I guess I don't really understand the fuss about blackface comedy, and whether it is the blackfacedness or the comedy bit that is really tasteless, or is it the combination?

Is it just plain offensive to make fun of blacks, or Afro-Americans, because it's racist? Because there goes the comedy material for about a third of those big budget Hollywood movies that are in production right this second.

Or is it smearing black face paint on that's just disgusting? Personally I don't like the look myself, I've usually thought the shoe grease should stay on the shoe though I haven't always been that successful. But what about all those disgusting, non-really-black actors who were trying to play Othello? Hung, drawn and quartered, ought they be?

A clue might lie in this where a guy says that blacks do not have pitch black skin, and that is why they are offended by that sketch. It is an interesting objection - one of the devices used by comedy is exaggeration - which is why clowns and mimes trying to hide behind a blank face use white makeup and exaggerated red lipstick which doesn't look anything like a real white human being. Hold the golliwogs!

To be perfectly accurate, most blacks aren't black, they're more browny, most whites aren't white either, they're kinda pinky-creamy-light-brown and I'll be damned if yellow skinned people look that yellow to me.

And anyway, why stop at racism? What I want to know is if black people can get on their high horses about blackface comedy, why should women stand for this crap either? Some idiots dress up INACCURATELY and EXAGGERATEDLY trying to imitate a DOWNTRODDEN group in the name of humour ...

I really don't know why we put up with Barry Humphries, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, or John Travolta at all, who've all exploited women and dressed up in drag and put on caked up makeup in stupid looking outfits that look nothing like what I'd wear - I don't know anyone who acts or looks like Dame Edna Everage - just for satire. It's insulting, it's sexist, and I think I give them a zero. What's more, they degrade women's plight further by going on to earn a fortune out of their huge man-in-women's boobs act than many women who have real or at least only slightly modified by a very discreet surgeon's boobs, make because their own boobs have hit the glass ceiling!

I think all women should stand on their high heels, jump on top of their 'Tootsie' and 'Mrs Doubtfire' DVDs and make it clear that if Mr Harry Connick Jr can get the weight of America behind him, we should at least get a portion of it too!

Unfortunately, I feel that no matter how much I jump up and down, the race issue will always propel American s far more than the gender one. After all, they voted in Obama, and not Hillary Clinton.


Maria said...

I read this as part of a (sarcastic) comment on one of the noticeboards re: Hey Hey!:

"i initially took offense to this skit, i'm glad that the 'overwhelming' amount of australians have helped convince me that i am wrong to have such feelings. Being a black man i must have no idea what it is like to be black, but thanks to the majority for explaining how we feel...appreciated ..."

Basically I would just like to point out that, well in my opinion, just as everyone finds different things funny, everyone does find different things offensive/annoying/frightening blah blah.

In my opinion this is not the point of the fuss about Hey Hey! You can be offended if someone wears a green T-shirt on TV because you personally don't think it goes with their purple shoes.

The more important points here is:

a) Is it a point of racial offensiveness in the context in which it was portrayed?
b) Did the show/group deserve harsh criticism for airing/trying the skit?

There is a difference whether some people are offended, whether the show intended to offend, whether the intended audience was offended, and whether the show should reasonably have known better - and also whether they acted appropriately when they were notiified. It's all worth considering, but often people only consider "was I offended - well if I was it must be offensive - if I wasn't it must be inoffensive!" and more or less leave it at that.

By the way, I'm offended by the fact that this guy wrote "amount of Australians" instead of "number of Australians". That one ALWAYS gets me!

Anonymous said...

It's all about the Jim Crow segregation laws before the Civil Rights movements in the United States. I know, it's stupid the way people make a mountain out of a molehill about it.

I think people should lighten up. It's not like they went on stage and sang "Mammie! Mammie!"

Maria said...

On Saturday I watched a rerun of this Hey Hey It's Saturday episode and they CUT the blackface skit!


As if that's not what people had been watching and waiting up for!

They went straight from Act 2 to Act 4 of Red Faces (with a telling comment after Act 4 from Daryl, asking Harry Connick if this act 'put him in a better mood')

What a disappointment!

Anonymous said...

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but whites in black face was NEVER meant to flatter this way, it was/is meant to inflict pain, to insult and to demonize black people, as yellow face is meant to attack Asians, Arab face to attack Arabs, and red face to attack Native Americans.

Black face done by whites is never a nice thing to do and is ALWAYS racist.