General Etiquette > Etiquette of the Rich and Famous

Billy Crystal and blackface

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This thread could get very dicey very fast, so I hope we can all stay within the etiquette of the situation.
As part of Billy Crystal's Oscar movie montage last night, he appeared in blackface as Sammy Davis Jr., a character he did frequently some 25 (!) years or so ago on "Saturday Night Live." I didn't think twice about it.

Today, though, I'm seeing this choice "boo'd" on the interwebs, and I'm realizing that a lot of people viewing it probably don't remember him doing this as a character and were thinking "whaa??"

I am 100% positive that Crystal had no intent to do something rude or insensitive. I'm a little more surprised (in retrospect) that no one connected with the Oscar broadcast caught the possible poor taste of the situation and nixed it, but, again, I suspect most of the writers/producers/etc of the show are my age or older, have this thoroughly in their memory as a "bit" and didn't have the "updated software  8) " in their brains as to why this might be a bad idea.

So---was it rude?
If yes, should Crystal or the Oscar show people apologize to anyone? Who? and How?
Should Billy Crystal retire this character (I doubt he'd want to do it again, anyway---how often does the opportunity come up to play Sammy Davis, but if it did, should he say "no, can't do it"?

Or was it ok and not at all rude?

Not rude.  It was an entertainment gag intended to impersonate a character and nothing more. He wore makeup and a wig, what he did was NOT blackface. The boo-hooers need to get over themselves. Plenty of African- American  comedians have impersonated Caucasians in sketch comedies of past and no one is calling them out... Let it go and enjoy the show.

It's not like he actually did "blackface" anyway, as was done many years ago, and even then, I might still think it's not rude if it had been done as part of an homage to the past or something.
Blackface is something that use to be done in minstrel shows of the 19th century. It was very popular and part of our cultures history of entertainment. To exclude it at all just because it's considered offensive is naive. It's part of our history. You can't erase our history.

Honestly, I didn't realize that it was Crystal in blackface until I got on the internet. However, I don't think that it was a very good idea to do that with the potential fallout of today's world, and the people in charge of entertainment should've told Crystal "no."

He was impersonating Sammy Davis Jr. It wasn't blackface -- at least not in the traditional sense. I don't happen to see it as rude because I'm familiar with Crystal's impersonations and Sammy Davis Jr.

Regardless of whether it was rude, if people have taken offense, then the right thing to do is acknowledge it, apologize, explain the impersonation, and let the offended parties know that there was no ill intent. Any attempt to downplay or minimize the situation is likely to go over poorly. Everyone involved needs to take responsibility for the decision to air it.

Yes, I think it was rude. Just because he was impersonating a specific character does not make it NOT blackface, IMO. Blackface is more than just the super-obvious minstrel-y stuff you hear about. It should have been left out of the show, IMO. That, coupled with his joke about The Help/Beverly Hills.... well, I'm over him.

Do I think he meant to be rude/insensitive? Well, no. But that doesn't change my opinion that it was.


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