October 30, 2006

Is blackface humor acceptable?

Some people think so.


Peder said...

Well at least they didn't suggest that a blond white woman would be interested in a single black man. Because that would be too much.

El Presidente said...

How about a black Republicn senatorial candidate in blackface.


Those pure democrats would never stoop to that.

Edward said...

I see no grounds to make fun of Wolf Blitzer in this particular incident. Lynne Cheney is the one who made a fool of herself, and she’s the only legitimate target for comedy here.

A person can make fun of Blitzer all they want, but it’s never going to be as funny as the post last night on Firedoglake entitled “Lynne Cheney is not a good man.”

I’ll quote from Firedoglake:

“And so, in a last-ditch effort to save her beloved Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Congress from the filthy, common hands of a passel of Damn-liberals, Lynne Cheney ripped down her mama's curtains from the front windows, put them on, and rode the coach and four to the Turner House, where she submitted to the insulting and ungentlemanly attentions of one Mr. Wolf Blitzer.”

See, the comic Firedoglake post even has an antebellum flavor to it, just like the weird Wolf Blitzer blackface parody. The Gone with the Wind reference in the Firedoglake post also makes it more sophisticated, not just funnier.

KCFleming said...

Blackface is only appropriate if you're a coalminer, on a military reconnnaisance mission, or you buy your masacara in bulk from Tammy Faye Baker.

P.S. Edward, I think you missed the point. It's not the target of the humor, it's the use of minstrel blackface. Do you think it's racist, or just, as you say, not as funny as firedog?

Anonymous said...

What sorry trash passes for humor.

Firedog has an ear so poor a penny wouldn't fit in it. Scaldedhog would be a better appelation.

I'm Full of Soup said...

I saw this last night via one of the far-left lib blogs in Philly. And I sent it off to Instapundit and Malkin to see if it would get some legs.

The answer to your question is yes but only if it's done by a liberal democrat.

And crazier still, how can you logically equate Lynn Cheyney to Jim Webb? Webb is running for the senate and the other was apperaring on CNN to promote her newest kid's book.

The netroots are just nuts and I give you Derve and Edward as evidence to support my claim. And of course, Billmon, the Philly nutroots idiot.

Edward said...

Pogo: Yes, I do consider blackface racist, but the blog that Ann linked to clearly believed that its picture of Wolf Blitzer in blackface was funny.

Ann’s title to her own post is: “Is blackface HUMOR acceptable?”

You really can’t separate the question of blackface here from the question of what’s funny and what’s not.

By the way, I assume that the site putting Wolf Blitzer in blackface was politically conservative. Do you disapprove, even when a conservative such as yourself does something like this?

Finally, although I don’t think blackface is funny (and I do consider it racist), I don’t approve removing it from older works of art where it often appears. Blackface was a very popular fact of life earlier in our country’s history, and we shouldn’t cover up that fact.

Edward said...

Oh, now I see my mistake! It was an anti-Bush site that put Blitzer in blackface.

No, I don't approve of blackface at all -- whether it's done by liberals or conservatives.

I also generally disapprove of making a big fuss over whether the mainstream media leans conservative or liberal.

KCFleming said...

Re: "I also generally disapprove of making a big fuss over whether the mainstream media leans conservative or liberal."

At least, as long as it remains reliably liberal.

Fenrisulven said...

Edward: Lynne Cheney is the one who made a fool of herself, and she’s the only legitimate target for comedy here.

Too funny. Lynne Cheney kicked Blitzer's tail, and you pretend she's the fool? I'm beginning to doubt your connection to this reality.

Here's the transcript:


And a few clips:

WB: It made it sound, and there’s been interpretation to this effect, that he was in effect confirming that the United States used this waterboarding, this technique that has been rejected by the international community, that simulates a prisoner being drowned, if you will. And he was, in effect, supposedly confirming that the United States has been using that.

LC: Wolf, that is a mighty house you’re building on top of that molehill there, a mighty mountain. You know, this is a complete distortion. He didn’t say anything of the kind.

WB: Because of the dunking, you know, using the water and the dunking…

LC: Wolf, I understand your point. It’s kind of the point of a lot of people right now, to try to distort the administration’s position. And if you really want to talk about that, I watched the program on CNN last night, which I thought, it’s your 2006 voter program, which I thought was a terrible distortion of both the President and the Vice President’s position on many issues. It seemed almost straight out of the Democratic talking points, using phrases like domestic surveillance, when it is not domestic surveillance that anyone has talked about or ever done. It’s surveillance of terrorists. It’s people who have al Qaeda connections calling into the United States. So I think we’re in the season of distortion, and this is just one more.

Paco Wové said...

I'm beginning to doubt your connection to this reality.

Edward pretty much lost me when he started seeing naked people that weren't there.

bill said...

Acceptable? Usually not, but this mostly depends on the person and the intention.

There's Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Tracey Ullman has done blackface. Billy Crystal played a number of black men; then there's his brownface Fernando Lamas. Gene Wilder in Silver Streak. Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle have both performed in white face. Can't even begin to count the number of performers that have mimic'ed other races and ethnicities without putting on the makeup. Is The Simpsons racist for letting Hank Azaria, a non-Indian, voice Apu? C Thomas Howell's Soul Man. The Black and White Minstrel Show was a BBC show that ran until 1978

Then there's the odd popularity of Shirley Q. Liquor -- a large, gay man cross-dressing and black-facing as a black woman.

Looking outside comedy, there's the controversy of Angelie Jolie playing Mariane Pearl. Both are from amazingly complex ethnicities and with a little bit of makeup, Jolie is almost identical to Pearl. Yet there are people crying blackface and pretty much insisting on octoroon laws when it comes to casting. Person in question has a drop of African blood, better find a like actor. For Pearl, better make sure she's also Cuban and Dutch, because Afro-American could be just as racist.

Is blackface humor acceptable? Usually it isn't; but I wouldn't state unequivacably "no." For an entertaining and informative read on the history of blackface and minstrelism, check out John Strausbaugh's Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture.

Edward said...

You can agree with Lynne Cheney on all the issues and still think that she made a fool of herself in that CNN interview.

The way she handled herself with Wolf Blitzer was tremendously clumsy and unlikely to persuade anyone to see things her way on the issues.

Lynne Cheney really did adopt this phony genteel put-upon attitude just like one of the white Southern ladies in Gone with the Wind. That’s why the Firedoglake parody is so brilliant.

Cheney could have defended herself in a much more credible, modern way, but instead she acted like an indignant genteel lady.

You should never forget that Lynne Cheney is a smart politician every bit as much as her husband. She served in the administration of Bush 41, for goodness sake.

Ann Althouse said...

Bill: Actors playing characters of a different race is not "blackface humor." The reference is specifically to minstrel shows. The linked thing with Wolf Blitzer is especially weird because the story that was the basis for the mockery wasn't even about race.

Maxine Weiss said...

I know I've been frequently told that, if these were Slave times, I'd have made a good Massa!

Personally, I prefer a Czarina and her Serfs.

Peace, Maxine

HaloJonesFan said...

As long as we're listing ridiculous cross-race roles, remember that time that Anthony Hopkins played a black guy?

As for blackface: One thing I'll point out is that "redneck" is the new "blackface", unless you seriously believe that Larry The Cable Guy is the reality and not an act. Cheap ethnic humor has been the staple of comedy since Year Zero; it's only very recently that we've started to think that It Is Wrong To Find That Funny.

Also, blackface performers are huge in Japan, for some reason. (There's also kogals, which is kind of a bizarre evolutionary branch of blackface.)

Finally, as for the Dem/Left: Remember that these are people who don't have a problem with calling Michelle Malkin a "bint".

Beth said...

Pogo, I really miss Tammy Faye. Remember those great "I ran into Tammy Faye at the Mall" t-shirts?

Maxine, you have been on a journey lately; I know not where it's leading you, but thanks for sending dispatches from way out there now and again.

salvage said...

Un-grip your pearls, stow the vapors and pop your monocle back in place 'kay? I know your outrage gland is on the hypersensitive but I think they have chill pills for that condition these days. You ought to ask your doctor about it.

Let me hold you hand as I walk you through what Bilmon did:

met‧a‧phor  /ˈmɛtəˌfɔr, -fər/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[met-uh-fawr, -fer] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.” Compare mixed metaphor, simile (def. 1).
2. something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.

I feel so deeply silly explaining this to someone who has far more education than I ever will.

You fill me with such wonder Ann you truly do.

Beth said...

Lynne Cheney is an acquired taste. I have a rare moment of synmpathy for poor Mary Cheney whenever I think of her mother. If my mom had written a novel complete with a heaving thighs and pulsing bosom lesbian scene, I'd probably have stayed in the closet a few more years, too. And therapy. Lots of therapy.

jimbino said...

I think that if you can't something offensive, you shouldn't say anything at all.

The best response to annoying speech is more speech.

Anonymous said...

Remember those great "I ran into Tammy Faye at the Mall" t-shirts?

LOL! I always thought those were hilarious.

garage mahal said...

Blitzer, Matthews et.al. get paid millions of dollars to cozy up to whoever is in power, have dinners/drinks with, in return for exclusives, and access. This is why Blitzer was surprised, it didn't follow the normal script.

And what the hell was she wearing anyway?? Ann?

KCFleming said...

Tammy Faye's husband was imprisoned in my town, and at the time I actually did run into her at the mall. Poor thing, she got her picture in the local paper looking at the sales racks, all smiles. I don't think she's got a mean bone in her body.

Her husband, in contrast was slimey. Little known fact: he and Lyndon LaRouche were cellmates! The blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was there at the same time, during which his lawyer, Lynne Stewart, was commitig the acts for which she was later convicted. Fun!

I have to agree about Lynne Cheney's erotica. Oy. Vey. Florence King, author and curmudgeon, wrote this about her own soft core porn, erotica, and "sweet-savage" historical novels:
"I threw the porns out years ago and kept only the contract letters. It was a matter of pride. Living alone as I do, I started to worry that if I should die suddenly and the authorities had to enter my apartment, they would find the porns and think that I read them. I don't care if people know I wrote porn, as long as they don't think I read it. "

Only a strong daughter could grow up with that novel sitting on the shelf. Yipe.

Anonymous said...

We truly have a cultural Grand Canyon whose smoggy depths are always a wonder to behold.

I know two things from reading the firedog excerpt. First, by his choice of words and diction, he's not a Southerner. Second, he's not taken the time to study Mitchell's style--that's Margaret Mitchell--so that he can effectively mimic her.

Howza 'bout dat, youz guys? If my monickah ain't Horace Debussy Jones, ain't dis a good Brook'n
axsent? Ow, ow, ow, Slip, stop moiderizing me!

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

What about Whiteface Humor?

Revenant said...

"redneck" is the new "blackface"

There's not hing "new" about redneck humor -- Americans have been poking fun at uneducated country rubes since the days of Mark Twain.

Gaius Arbo said...

Ann, Thanks very much for the link. I see at least one of your commenters thought I originated the picture. I did not. That was Billmon from Whiskey Bar. I have seen about every form of trying to justify this picture today on my comments.

This picture was not witty. This picture was not "razor sharp commentary". This picture was racist, as were the words. Blogger Prometeus 6 put it this way (paraphrasing here): if you would not walk into a room full of black people you did not know and say the words, then back away from the ketyboard.
Might want to try understanding that rather than defending the indefensible, Salvage.

Charlie Eklund said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Eklund said...

As Gaius Arbo said, the picture was racist and the verbiage was racist.

In answer to Ann's question, my response is a resounding "no".

Exclamation point!

Beth said...

Pogo, I agree; Tammy Faye is no meanie. Let's wish her well and pray she's comforted as she's being treated for cancer.

Excellent reference to Florence King: my favorite curmudgeonly, Southern, rightwing lesbian. I have a couple of her books on the shelf. What a great attitude, and how very Southern: I don't want to be thought of as reading porn, when all I do is write it!