As anyone who knows me should know, I’m not one to really make my views on causes or politics widely known. I have my opinions, and by and large feel no great need to proselyte them to the world. But if I could be said to have a Cause, then this is why I’m writing.
Many years ago, and for many years in a row, there was a variety comedy show in Australia called Hey Hey it’s Saturday. Initially spontaneous and subversive, it grew over the (28) years into a prime time monster, lost it’s edge, gained an army of followers, and then crumbled in it’s own weight and habits. Having become a shadow of it’s former self and thus, a relic of the past.
Fast forward another 10 years and we have just had a reunion special or two. I had to admit I didn’t watch them. I was not huge fan of what the show had descended into at the end of last century, and if I watched TV enough to even know there was going to be a special, I’d not have bothered watching anyway.
But then something special happened. Controversy!
Yes, in one of the most beloved of Hey Hey regular skits, the ironically named ‘Red Faces’, a group of amateur performers used Blackface to parody the Jackson Five, and specifically, Michael Jackson (performed in whiteface). The sketch was judged by guest Harry Connick Jnr, as being offensively racist, and has stated that if the same occured in America, then the show’s broadcast would have been terminated.
So anyone following any of this probably knows all this already, but it makes good background for those unfamiliar with the situation, due to geographical or chronological distance.
The race is won by…
The sketch in question: The Jackson Jive (youtube)
Now Michael Jackson’s ever-lightening skin tone and other cosmetic surgeries have been the center of COUNTLESS parody for many many years, only overshadowed by his other eccentricities and alleged perversions. This parody used a more sensitive racial jibe than most, that’s all. Blackface was all about white men making themselves look black, and Jackson had famously made himself look white. So it’s not the worlds cleverest parody, nor in the best taste, but beyond that, this is all a storm in a teacup. (someone else can compare this to Robert Downey Jnr‘s performance as a white Australian pretending to be a black American in Tropic Thunder.)
Ok, so that’s as far as most people seem to care.
A couple of comments in the local free rag’s (mX) coverage got me thinking in a few other directions though, and thus this post.
Stepan Kerkyasharian, chair of the Communications Relations Commission, said a joke was racist if it offended any person
To which I say no, not ‘any person’. Cos some people are overly sensitive about a topic, and so will be on a hair trigger and will go off about it if given even the slightest provocation.
Were the men in question racist? I don’t think so. This is a good video to watch on racism in fact, and pointing out racist behaviour to people (It was only coincidence that I had seen this earlier today.)
So, I think their actions were poorly thought out, and they should have realised how it would look. But that’s not my point. Because maybe they did consider, and decided that at the end of the day, they were both parodying Michael through the use of blackface, AND parodying blackface through the use of Mister Jackson in whiteface. Regardless of intent or not, that is not my direction.
This, however, caught my attention
“I am Indian, and five of the six of us are from multicultural backgrounds and to be called a racist… I don’t think I have ever been called that.”
–Dr Deva, plastic surgeon and whiteface performer.
Dr Deva, here is some news: not being a whitefella doesn’t give you a free pass to not think about the racial content of your actions. That is all.
No really, that’s about as much comment as I think it’s really worth. Certainly not the hoopla that has been drummed up by the controversy media. I don’t think Deva is racist, just a bit clueless about being on that side of racial interpretations.
Most interesting to me, however, and that I’ve not heard talked about much at all (or indeed, any at all), is Mister Jnr’s reaction.
“Censored” is a Dirty Word
Now, if I can be said to have a Cause, it is this:
(I am against it.)
Harry Connick Jnr has stated that if the show was airing in the US, then it would have had its broadcast terminated. It would become “hey, no show”.
So he started it, let’s bring this to Connick’s home turf. Now I realise that technically, the US constitution says nothing about a private company curtailing ones freedom to speak – so a TV station stopping a broadcast has no contitutional protection. But symbolically it’s a bit crap. A bit? No, how about a LOT.
Advocating the curtailing of someone’s speech… is just not acceptable to my eyes.
Parody, incidentally, is protected free speech under the US constitution. I just thought I’d mention that.
So I think it says alot about someone’s mindset that their first instinct is to cut the show. And it says alot about all our cultures that this is NOT what everyone is up in arms about. Let Dr Deva know that his skit could be seen as being offensive by those with a cultural history of American slavery, and be done with it. Frankly, that issue is boring and old.
But do NOT tell me that anyone should not be allowed to perform that skit, if they want to.
Remember, the right to make offensively bad jokes that nobody likes, without being censored, is meant to be a GOOD thing.
Stopping someone from speaking their mind, whatever their opinions and tastes are, is a BAD thing.
Dear Mr Deva. Please remember in the future to consider the way others will interpret your actions.
Dear Mr Connick, Jnr. Please think LONG AND HARD about the real meanings of your words, and what it is you are implying to advocate when you speak without thinking. If you do not, you run the risk of truly looking like a dick.
Dear controversy media. Please get your issues straight.
(BTW, If you are reading this via a facebook note or other site, please link back to the original site via this permalink and consider commenting there also:Thankyou)