Monday, September 19, 2011

logs, eyes, and fangs


Bernie Mac (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008)

Guess Who is not just any old desert island dvd, it is my current ‘when I’m doing the ironing’ movie.
  • Far less cringeworthy than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • Humour evokes a visceral response
  • “Fangs retracted”
  • Playing nice
  • “Prejudice and bias there for all to see and deal with one way or another”
In my short career as a blogger I have been lucky enough to find some friends who happily exchange ideas in a tolerant and civilised fashion. Words cannot express what this means to me.

On the other hand, many of the comments on YouTube in relation to contentious issues – especially those from Australians – are hideous. I can only assert they do not represent the Australian population at large.

Dina’s discussion of my previous blog had me laughing in parts. [She has a very understated sense of humour]. She talks about “…one of Australian’s and American’s favourite game to play with each other… You’re More Racist Than We Are!...”
“We should put together a game show. Australians against Americans. You try to prove we’re racist and we’ll try to prove you’re more racist.”
[Such a show would possibly be more to my own personal taste than watching Pauline Hanson on Dancing With the Stars. Of course, this might just be because shows like Dancing with the Stars are not my cappuccino anyway.]

Dina’s blog contained a link to other blog posts dating back to the original Hey Hey Blackface Disgrace era.
A lot of the discussion threads contained some interesting points, some of which might help shine a light on this whole competition to see who is more racist. Later.
I must confess I was quite deliberate in my choice of the clip about The View panel commenting on the Hey Hey scandal.
In part it has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the two panel members who simply annoy the tripe out of me.
[What a weird expression! No one would ever get tripe into me let alone have to work for its extraction. Gross.]
Where was I? Oh yeah.

Ignoring rude Australian comments on YouTube, the reaction of Joy Behar and a lot of other news pundits about the Hey Hey thing explains a great deal of the Aussie response of “take the log out of your own eye”. What compounded the problem was that the story went viral.

I guess it went viral because HC Jr does deserve respect for speaking up. He did acknowledge that there was nothing malicious behind it, but his explanation of why Americans would find it offensive was lost on Australians because we really had no idea what he was talking about – especially at the time.

It’s not that we think one country is more or less racist than another so much as that many of the comments on the Hey Hey thing were so bloody smug and self-righteous. Few comments stuck to the issue of the day; instead they were used as some kind of poor excuse to judge the entire [non-indigenous?] population of Australia:

Joy Behar, for example: “We’re in what people like to call post-racial America right now, with Obama in office…”
Whoopi: “Is that what this is???”
Joy Behar: “Well I mean I’m not saying that it’s gone, but we’re trying to grow as a country; and that’s kind of a demeaning sketch that we would never do here any more.”

Sorry Joy. We are trying to grow too. Credit where it is due, please. And seriously, I’ll forgive you for laughing at Edna’s “click click click” if you’ll forgive us for laughing at it too.

As I said, HC Jr acknowledged that there was no malicious intent. At this point, we have an opportunity to learn, but we are not going to learn from being written off as a lost cause.
Dina raises the reasonable question a lot of us have already raised, which is how come it is okay for thin people to dress as fat, or men to dress as women etc etc but suddenly it’s not okay for non-African-Americans to cross-dress?

The problem, according to some, was that the Jackson Jive’s get up constituted blackface. I beg to differ.
  • the make up and the costumes did not conform to minstrel styles [e.g. white mouths, straw hats, big fuzzy coat buttons etc]
  • no one was portraying any kind of demeaning, Jim Crow character
This was not a skit intended to win a 5 million dollar prize at the end of a series, the competition is meant to be stupid and fun and the prize is a token gesture. Black boot polish and some reject store acrylic wigs were about the appropriate level of expense in dressing the parts.

If – and I’m not convinced – we ought to never again dress as people of the genetically African type because we might offend, why was The Other able to watch this on TCM about two months ago? 

[Embedding disabled, please use link]
Personally, I would hate to see films like this withdrawn from circulation, because that would amount to censorship of history. But given that this minstrel stuff is still everywhere, how on earth were we to understand its true significance?
Next time; australian blackface, and kamahl


  1. The View women annoy me too. I try to avoid watching that show.

    They've offended me in the past...stuff about homeschooling.

    It's funny when Americans think we're not racist anymore because of Obama.

    After we have the who's the least racist game show, we can have the who's the most in denial? game show.

  2. Offended seems quite a good word to use in the context of The View. To be fair, I like WG's attitudes and her brutal honesty, and I believe Sherri Shepherd has a genuinely good heart.
    But not a talk show so much as a shout over the top of everyone else to silence them show. Duh.
    Besides which, very little of substance [except for treats like Dame Edna].

    Game show proposal # 3 - which country has the best press? No, that would be cheating. If we don't have a News of the World or National Enquirer equivalent is it because Australians have more taste... or because we lack imagination?