Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Black Face and Red Herrings

Stereotypes embodied in white actors with painted black faces, thick lips and wooly hair play a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide. Downey's character in "Tropic Thunder" is cause for controversy.

I could care less what the plot of the movie is. No, I haven't "even" seen it. I haven't the slightest clue about it's premise. And just because the movie has a black co-lead, that doesn't make it less racially insensitive. I don't have to watch it to know that soon, I'm going to have to explain to my 3 year old daughter why being black in America is so laughable.

What boils my blood even more than this anesthetization of racial stereotypes are the very arguments which defend them. If I hear one more person justify simple one dimensional portrayals of black people with ignorant arguments like:
  • No one complained when the Wayans brothers went undercover as white women in “White Chicks”.
, or
  • Did anyone complain about male actors losing out on a role when Julie Andrews did “Victor Victoria”?
, or
  • It's just as funny as when Eddie Murphy wore white make-up and white features and then acted like a nerdy white guy in society.
, and one of my personal favorites
  • It's comedy. Nothing is sacred in comedy.

then I might just have to turn into that neck snapping, finger popping, eye rolling, drama filled sister girl that is propagated in so many of our media outlets.

As my mother would say, "Two wrongs don't make a right", and while these arguments may be valid (maybe no one complained when the Wayans brother went undercover as white women), they are, at best, irrelevant and they in no way address the issue.

Look, I get that Stiller is making fun of self-important actors, but it is never funny to depict black face actors--even ironically. What is it that moves white actors to mimic groups which they've historically held down and the people who defend these actors! Have we learned nothing from the painful depictions of blacks in America's history!

And for those of you who preach about diversity, yet support movies like this one.., well, I believe it was James Brown who hit the nail right on the head with his "Talking Loud and Ain't Saying Nothing" song lyrics: you just a dull knife, Jack; just ain't cutting. You're phony, you're phony!

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