Laissez-Faire | In Love & Free Trade

White man pretending to be black pretending not to be white
August 15, 2008, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

tropic thunder

Courtesy of Beyond Hollywood


Not to mention that it’s Robert Downey, Jr. sporting blackface in the controversial ‘Nam satire, “Tropic Thunder”. In his defense, Esquire recently published an article explaining why Downey, Jr. (and only Downey, Jr.) can pull off blackface.

How does Downey pull it off? Singular talent. The Oscar-nominated actor has spent his career perfecting humor and pathos in equal measure. Which means that when, in Tropic Thunder, he plays a dead-serious Australian Method actor who insists on taking a role originally written for a black man, what ends up parodied is the self-seriousness of Method acting and the Vietnam-movie trope of the chitlins-chewing Negro grunt. Blackface isn’t the subject; it’s the vessel.

Speaking of blackface, I once teasingly asked one of my girlfriends, who is Jamaican, about the extent to which blackface is really offensive. The running analogy goes – if you’re impersonating MC Hammer for Halloween, impersonate the pants NOT the skin color. “But why not?” I ask. “What about accuracy?” I persist. To which my friend responds, “How would you feel if someone went around and made Asian eye-slit jokes?” Enough said. Still, I’d be curious to see someone impersonate my almond eyes – like the wartime comic strips about China. Technically, it would be Thailand in this case. But, like, who cares ’cause we know all Asians look the same.


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so i was hanging out in Edinburgh at a Halloweem party and yaknow, the normal costumes…sexy nurses, Amy Winehouses, etc. Then, I met someone dressed as MC Hammer! He had these Aladdin pants on and with black face. Sarah has photos she can show you…but MAN, i was just blown away that this sort of thing flies here. My first thought was, “this sort of thing would never happen in NY cos he would get his ass beat.”

my thought is that people are still hyper-sensitive about race here…even if they don’t mean it in an offensive way. there are a few icons and images that have become associated with racism and those are obvious triggers—Fu Man Chu, Long Duck Dong, Blackface, swastikas…just to name a few. Look at the recent Argentina National Basketball Team…they got hit hard with negative press about their chinky-eye tribute to China. they did not have bad intentions apparently, but damn…that was a terrible idea. REALLY terrible.

Comment by ray

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