What a great piece
What a great piece
Really interesting article about how race plays into the Hollywood casting process
I wrote pre-emptively about how I’m scared that “Girls” aka “THE DEFINITION OF YOUNG WOMEN IN THIS GENERATION” or some shit is actually just another white bougie redux show that writes out women of color and other social strata aka DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE (YET)!
Great. A must-read. “Most of all, I’m afraid that “Girls” will be a “Sex and the City” redux, racially speaking: that its portrayal of New York City, the most ethnically diverse metropolis in the nation, will reduce its vast swathes of residents of color to background noise, to bit parts, to token roles in the lives of its privileged white main characters. The trailers depict as much, but for a token voice of wisdom in the form of a gynecologist, and I fear that this show will be another in a string that minimizes its own whiteness by touting its “liberalness.” In her New York Magazine rave, Emily Nussbaum calls “Girls” “FUBU: for us by us,” and yet I’m worried that a lot of “us” aren’t going to recognize ourselves in this so-hailed feminist milestone of a show.”
QUICK: REPLACE ONE OF THE MAIN GIRLS WITH ZOE KRAVITZ. SHE’S BLACK BUT ALSO HAS FAMOUS PARENTS.
Girls is a priority for us at FF! Hopefully we can get our hands on it before long!
I just watched the first episode and it’s so good, but yeah there were like two people of colour who had lines, both were bit parts and one of them was a homeless man. I feel like this wouldn’t be a problem if there were shows that were equally complex and sharp and funny and ugly and relatable about non-white, non-middle class, non-straight, non-cis girls. But there are reasons that Lena Dunham’s the young woman who gets into the Criterion Collection and gets her own show on HBO. (It’s still really good though, I don’t really know.)
- Let Jay Pharoah do things. He’s more or less the only dude on your staff who is talented, but—oops—God knows you can’t give more than one black man airtime in a week.
- Hire. A. Black. Woman.
- Seriously. Please?
THIS. I’d do so many awful things with Jay Pharoah, he’s mad talented.
And more black women plz.
And Asian women! There are so many hilarious Asian women…Margaret Cho, Charlyne Yi…but SNL has never had ANY Asian women as cast members. Come to think of it…I don’t think any Asian men have been cast members.
I need a drink, man.
Nasim Pedrad is an Asian woman. (And Fred Armisen’s part-Japanese - I think he generally “passes”, but still.)
But yes, SNL has always had race issues. Like, they should probably be able to do a sketch about Beyonce or Michelle Obama without waiting for Maya Rudolph to come back. Tonight was great though. Jay Pharoah! I didn’t realize until just now how good at stuff he is!
I’m not sure “blackface” is a really helpful descriptor of what’s happening in this photo. I want to tread very lightly here, because it’s not my issue to get upset (or not) about, and I don’t in any way want to minimize or displace anyone’s entirely legitimate outrage, anger, hurt, or desire to say “that’s fucked up.”
But speaking (only) as someone involved in research where I have to recoil on a regular basis from what we might call “traditional” blackface imagery — the face shoe-polish black, a giant ruby-red circle taking up all the space between nose and chin — this strikes me as something different in kind, not degree. It is not first and foremost a cartoonish mockery of African features, it is not intrinsically dehumanizing, it does not reduce complex humanity to a single image of stereotyped buffoonery; all of which is implied, in my understanding, by the word “blackface.”
I’m probably wrong! It could well be the case that most scholars and students of history and regular people refer to all skin-darkening makeup, including that of Elizabethan actors playing Othello, as blackface, and to what I think of as blackface as specifically minstrel blackface — which it is! That’s the time and place (USA, 1860-1930) where I spend most of my historical energy, and poking and prodding at that specific form of racism to find twisted humanity underneath could easily have left me insensitive to anything painted in finer strokes.
I don’t mean to say that if it’s not as soul-crushingly obvious and horrible as Al Jolson braying “Mammy,” it’s not offensive. Anything that offends is offensive, and there are plenty of reasons to consider this specific thing an error in judgment (at best) and an act of privileged appropriation (again, not my call to make). I’m just not sure conflating all skin-coloration under the same charged word does much to help people see what’s actually happening.
I only recently learned about blackface in school last year and, yes, it was specifically in context to minstrels shows. I think I understand your point of not losing sight of what the original term encompassed, how far reaching it was in American pop culture (we had to watch a young Judy Garland do it in one of her first movies…), and the dehumanizing effects it had on African-Americans, but from what I’ve seen, blackface seems to be a commonly accepted term for any skin darkening that is meant to ‘represent’ blacks. While there isn’t the traditional big red/white lips or an explicit mockery of ‘African’ features, skin darkening with racial undertones, it was apparently done in honor of a Nigerian activist, still evokes deeply hurtful and racist histories because, amongst other things, they keep playing to and reinforcing stereotypes of what black people, and in the magazine’s case, Africans/Nigerians, should look like. That is a racist assumption. Just because it wasn’t done with a malicious intent to debase anyone doesn’t make it less racist and damaging.
I’m a bit tired right now, so I don’t know if the following will make sense or if it’s off topic….but….
If you think about it, blackface minstrel shows were a way of entertaining and profiting off selling ‘blackness’ while conveniently limiting African-Americans. (What I mean is that while the white entertainers could simply wash off the paint and go back to living their life and do other things, black entertainers who also did blackface didn’t have that luxury and still had less work and were probably paid less…?). The fashion industry, as in this photoshoot with Beyonce, is practically doing the same thing: Making money off selling ‘black’ skin, while not actually having to hire the models who have the skin tone they’re looking for to pull off whatever bullshit ‘art’ or aesthetic they claim they’re doing.
Is ‘blackface’ really too much of a charged word for things like this then? I can’t think of anything else to call it….
You know, I reblogged this without really thinking about whether blackface was too historically specific - and to my (fairly limited) knowledge (like, I’ve read a book or two, but I couldn’t teach a class), it is generally only used to talk about minstrelsy. But I really felt like it was a not unfair summation of what’s going here. Like, a 21st century version of it, but Beyonce’s face is being blackened to produce a caricature of “Africanness” for a fashion magazine. I don’t feel like I am necessarily a person with a right to say it, but sometimes it’s not the degree, it’s the act.
In some ways, the conversation around dead women in Kanye’s video reminds me of the conversations that happen around feminism and black women. The reality of black women is assumed to be exactly the same as white women – if it is mentioned at all. The fact that the majority of the women pictured lying dead where white, while black women are all part of the monster crew is generally not mentioned.
So, I’m not surprised that no one has looked at the very specific positioning of white women in the video as opposed to black women, which dives deeply into the history and construction of black women as beast-like and fearsome, the sexualization of violence, and how the video is a win for both normalized misogyny and upholding the ideals of white supremacy.
Really, really happy Latoya wrote this.
When I first watched the video, I was really struck by the divide between the dead women being used as props, in an obvious attempt to offend and disturb (as well as titillate, sad to say) and the threatening, “monstrous” women who were still alive. I did not notice the racial divide! Which now seems really obvious.
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