Thank you to all who have participated in the survey! It is much appreciated, and has helped me gain a better grasp and understanding of a few things, on which I will elaborate as I explain why the hell I cared about something that SEEMS so far removed from today’s society. As most of you explained, Black Face was the practice of white actors painting their faces black to depict African-Americans on stage. Would an African-American have been the best person for the part of an African-American? Yes, we all shout now. But in those days, it was easier for the audience to accept and love an actor they knew to be one of their own. Still wondering what I’m up to? I’ll get their, bear with me.
When asked what your thoughts were on this practice, one of you said this: “I think it was a hazard of the ignorance of that time. Ideally, people should have recognized that stereotypes were wrong and hurtful, but in the time that it was being done, Black and Chinese people were considered inferior individuals worthy of mockery. If it were done today, I'd be furious.” That same thoughtful person, in answering whether or not this was an acceptable practice said this: “If you're casting Lassie and Al Pacino is the best actor available, you wouldn't put him in a dog suit would you?”
Another person had this comment: “No, I do not think this is an acceptable act. In this day and time, people should respect and appreciate the differences between the various races. Each race has an interesting and diverse culture. When people think about the differences in race, I feel that they should concentrate on the unique aspects of culture that distinguish the races, not focus on negative stereotypes.”
Negative stereotypes being propagated, actors dressing as a particular group in order to mock and mimic and bring to light untruthful myths about that group. Let me ask you this: have you heard of Martin Short’s new show, Primetime Glick on Comedy Central? Martin Short, having failed at his first attempt with a talk show comes back as a silly, slobby character, with the aid of a “fat” suit. Didn’t think I was going there, did you. You may not be able to tell by that gorgeous blue picture of me, but I’m a big, voluptuous woman. I have never been slender, and have never fit into society’s view of what a “normal” woman should look like. Recently, in theatre, when a fat person is depicted, it is usually by a slender actor in costume. Eddie Murphy’s character for the Nutty professor (or characters) was a big man (and family) who couldn’t control his eating habits or bodily functions. Dirty, lazy pigs, right? I find that very sad, and I find myself being offended, something which rarely happens in my life, because one of my motto’s is “being politically correct means always having to say your sorry.”
But not here. Gwenyth Paltrow is making a movie right now, and she will be donning one of these “fat” suits. The premise is that a good-looking guy, somewhat of a player, is given a “curse” that allows him only to see the true, inner beauty of a person and not their shell or visual appearance, so he ends up falling in love with Gwenyth, a “fat chick”. I wonder, were there no larger women capable of playing this part? Is it easier for us to stomach a fat heroine in a movie when we know that she’s really a slender and beautiful woman?
I’m not here to preach or tell everyone what they should think or feel, how the world should be, whatever. I just wanted to give you a little perspective on a practice that society accepts because, as with Black Face, it is humorous to the rest of the bunch when one of “us” dresses up as one of “them” to grab a laugh. I used to think that Martin Short was funny. Now, I think he’s reaching. He had to succumb to the bane of comedy in order to hold on to his television career.
I am clean. I am beautiful. I am healthy. I do not eat junk food, and I do not flatulate at random. That is a stereotype of an overweight person, and it is a myth. MTV recently held an ad campaign that I found to be accurate and educational. One commercial shows a lesbian, and she is repeating to the camera questions she receives from random people. Questions like, “who is the man in the relationship? How do you have sex?” Ignorant, because people are not sensitive to how that may make her feel. Another commercial shows a large man on a bus, trying to find a seat, and the looks and stares he gets from the other riders who quickly move about to avoid being near him.
A hundred years ago, huh? Why do I care what society accepted a hundred years ago? One of you responded with this comment: “Attempting to impose modern thinking and values on an age over a hundred years removed is pointless. It makes as little sense as inflicting blame and moral judgements on people today for what was done by those same people a hundred years ago.”
I’m not talking about a hundred years ago. I’m talking about today, and I’m pointing something out that NO ONE has questioned, because that’s how acceptable it is in today’s society. I’m not expecting things to change immediately, or for us to jump back to TWO hundred years ago, when a plump, voluptuous woman was all the rage. I’m just asking you to be aware. There are more stereotypes in this world than those that relate to color. More than those that relate to sexuality. All we’ve done is replace one mask for another. Black Face? Fat Suit. Do some people fit the stereotype? Probably. But we could do that with any group. And I thought we were past that. Sometimes, we walk the fine line of comedy and cruelty. Sometimes, I think people are being "too" sensitive, because I find most things funny.
But over time, the masses tend to agree on what is truly too offensive, and therefore "unfunny". Many of you reacted with indignance in regards to the Black Face practice, calling it "ignorant" and "backwards" and stating that something like that would never happen today because we are educated and more sensitive to issues and diversity. Well, I'm here to let you know that something "like that" will ALWAYS happen, because there will ALWAYS be different groups of people. It's up to us to grow and change with the times and recognize old societal patterns when they occur. And that, in reality, it doesn't matter whether this Sneech is a Star-bellied Sneech or a plain-bellied Sneech, because EACH SNEECH can be the best on the beach. Or the worst.
(note: if you have no idea what I'm referring to there, consult your old Dr. Seuss books. Then you'll get it)