Author Topic: Billy Crystal and blackface  (Read 23817 times)

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Lauren

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #60 on: March 04, 2012, 04:08:26 AM »
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But it seems to me that most of the people that claim to be 'hurt' are not hurt due to memories of 'blackface' routines. They are hurt to be reminded in any way shape or form of the dreadful history of race relations.

The majority of the people who are hurt are people who still deal with the consequences of that every day. The modern day world is not free from racism. People still have to deal with being discriminated against because of the colour of their skin. So to watch a show and be confronted by something that everyone, either side of the argument, agrees is a throwback to the dreadful history of race relations, can be incredibly upsetting. Why would you do something that has the potential to cause that hurt when it's not needed?

There have been a number of controversies over this very subject in recent years. You would have to have completely ignored any press to not be aware of it.

My first exposure to watching people perform in black face was a couple of years ago when an Australian show from the 80s came back and had people who performed in their variety segment recreate their acts. One of them was a group of white men who performed as the Jackson 5 in blackface (and it was minsteral) I watched it, not understanding why I was uncomfortable but was not comfortable at all. Harry Connick Jr was on the show and explained very eloquently why it was wrong. Those men went in with no intent to hurt people. Like most Australians they were baffled over it as it's not something we've had a lot of experience for. But they still hurt a LOT of people and they were wrong.

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But banning anything that anyone ever finds offensive ever won't solve the crimes of the past, and won't help us as a people continue to move forward either.  If Sammy Davis Jr's family finds the act fitting and a tribute rather then painful then I think it's to anyone who is 'hurt' to look past their initial reaction and accept that in some cases donning another skin color is not tied up in racism and privilege, but is simply meant as humor.

Except that it's really, really not. Blackface in any form is coming from a racist past. As much as people want it not to be, you can't separate the two.

Sharnita

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #61 on: March 04, 2012, 06:20:18 AM »
I don't think everyone does agree it is a throwback to the dreadful history of race relations.  I think a lot of us think it is a throwback to when Sammy Davis Jr. was alive and a powerful force in the entertainment industry and a time when doing impressions was when of the skills required of comedians.

hyzenthlay

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #62 on: March 04, 2012, 10:04:02 AM »
Except that it's really, really not. Blackface in any form is coming from a racist past. As much as people want it not to be, you can't separate the two.

Once again you persist in using the phrase 'blackface' incorrectly.

If you can't distinguish between a caricature from earlier and cruder days of humor, and an impersonation of an actual entertainer, then I can see why you think this can never be anything but hurtful.  But if Davis's family can see that it is a humorous tribute, is banning the celebration of a well loved entertainer really helping to put the past behind us?

Kaypeep

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #63 on: March 04, 2012, 12:36:19 PM »
Can I just say that I didn't like the SDJ impression in the Oscars simply because it is a dated impression and had no place in the bit it was used, and appeared to be there simply because it's something Billy Crystal is good at?  Seeing it made me think "Oh jeez!  I knew Billy would pull out his old schtick!  Doesn't he have ANY new material?"  This is why I loathe him as an Oscar host.  It's the same shlock every time he hosts. 

camlan

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #64 on: March 04, 2012, 12:55:26 PM »
I had no idea what was going on in that portion of the show*, other than a white man was impersonating Davis. So I was mostly thinking, "Huh? What's this? What's it supposed to mean? Who is this guy?" I saw the makeup as a sort of prop, like a wig or glasses to make an impersonator look more like the subject of his/her impersonation.

I found the "joke" Crystal made after Octavia Spencer won her Oscar, about there being no black women in Beverly Hills, to be far more disturbing--and people laughed at it.


It's been years since I've watched the Oscars and the whole bit about the host inserting himself in to the nominated movies--well, I'd never heard about it.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Surianne

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #65 on: March 04, 2012, 01:47:38 PM »
So to watch a show and be confronted by something that everyone, either side of the argument, agrees is a throwback to the dreadful history of race relations, can be incredibly upsetting.

Nope, not everyone agrees it's a throwback to the history of race relations.  I certainly don't, since the makeup isn't actually blackface at all.

Sabbyfrog2

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #66 on: March 05, 2012, 09:51:00 AM »
I just came back to this thread after being offline all weekend to say how pleased I am that it hasn't been closed yet. This very easily could have been turned into a heated argument.

Certainly, we are not all going to agree, and there is defintely a level of emotion attached to it, but I am very pleased that people have stated thier strong opinions on this topic without it getting to the point where a MOD has had to step in yet. I think it's important to talk about stuff like this, even if it's unpleasant, and am glad that we are doing so in a mature, albeit emotional, fashion.

Thanks ehellions.

Nora

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #67 on: March 05, 2012, 11:15:22 AM »
I'm half Ethiopian, and I'm firmly on Sabbyfrogs side of the discussion here.

Blackface:



Two-toned thick slab of makeup, applied haphazardly. Makes fun of a whole race. Through stereotyping blackface denigrates, humiliates, and belittles people into second class citizens. Bullying.

What Billy Crystal did:



Makeup intended to look as realistic as possible. Pokes fun of a specific, famous, well-loved, known to be rather eccentric individual. Satire.


Huge difference.
Just because someone is offended that does not mean they are in the right.

Allyson

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #68 on: March 05, 2012, 08:27:52 PM »
I do think that people need to be careful with this sort of thing, and totally dismissing someone's concerns isn't a good idea. There are bad historical implications with white people impersonating black people, even if it's not blackface.

But with that said, I think that what happened was far removed from blackface. A previous poster used the 'catch a tiger by the toe' rhyme. To me, the 'original' racist version of the rhyme would be the equivalent of blackface. The current, 'tiger by the toe' rhyme, would be the equivalent of what Crystal did. So offense over the impression would be along the same lines as offense over the non-racist version of the rhyme--it calls back to something bad, but isn't that thing anymore.

Calypso

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #69 on: March 05, 2012, 09:32:56 PM »
I do think that people need to be careful with this sort of thing, and totally dismissing someone's concerns isn't a good idea. There are bad historical implications with white people impersonating black people, even if it's not blackface.

But with that said, I think that what happened was far removed from blackface. A previous poster used the 'catch a tiger by the toe' rhyme. To me, the 'original' racist version of the rhyme would be the equivalent of blackface. The current, 'tiger by the toe' rhyme, would be the equivalent of what Crystal did. So offense over the impression would be along the same lines as offense over the non-racist version of the rhyme--it calls back to something bad, but isn't that thing anymore.

I find your post both thought-provoking and kind.

Sabbyfrog2

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #70 on: March 06, 2012, 08:04:03 AM »
I do think that people need to be careful with this sort of thing, and totally dismissing someone's concerns isn't a good idea. There are bad historical implications with white people impersonating black people, even if it's not blackface.

But with that said, I think that what happened was far removed from blackface. A previous poster used the 'catch a tiger by the toe' rhyme. To me, the 'original' racist version of the rhyme would be the equivalent of blackface. The current, 'tiger by the toe' rhyme, would be the equivalent of what Crystal did. So offense over the impression would be along the same lines as offense over the non-racist version of the rhyme--it calls back to something bad, but isn't that thing anymore.

Exactly.
Something that before may have meant one thing, ISN'T that thing anymore. Times change and with it so must our attitudes. On BOTH sides. What emotion this "thing" may evoke is sympathetic, but that's when it's the time to use logic to decide whether it's actually offensive or the person feels it's offensive based on some past offense of those who came before us. That's the argument I am making. And, again, what Crystal did wasn't even close to the thing that is causing all of this emotion so I still don't understand what all the fuss is for. 

This idea that just because someone feels offense makes something offensive is sort of absurd to me. No one is dismissing the feelings of those who feel something negative by whatever they feel the impression was, but those people who feel offense also have a responsibility to use their common sense IMO.  I beg of those who are so offended to look at themselves before they start lambasting Crystal. If you (general) acknowledge that it was merely an impression, and know that the intent was just to do an impression, then why can't you just take it in the spirit is was done? Why are folks determined to turn it into something that it's not?

Giggity

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #71 on: March 06, 2012, 08:45:18 AM »
Double standards? Yes, but double standards are not necessarily a bad thing.

Yes, they are. When dealing with sound-minded adults, double standards ARE a bad thing. They provide an excuse to change the rules based on "sensitivity" or "feelings" or something completely unquantifiable.
Words mean things.

ShadesOfGrey

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #72 on: March 06, 2012, 09:26:56 AM »
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there are plenty of comedians of color that go into "whiteface"
Blackface and whiteface are not the same thing. There is no painful history with whiteface. White people have not been institutionally oppressed or victimized throughout US history. Double standards? Yes, but double standards are not necessarily a bad thing. We also have a Black History Month but no White History Month, and a Black Entertainment Television but no White Entertainment Television for similar reasons.
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Double standards? Yes, but double standards are not necessarily a bad thing.

Yes, they are. When dealing with sound-minded adults, double standards ARE a bad thing. They provide an excuse to change the rules based on "sensitivity" or "feelings" or something completely unquantifiable.

A double standard exists when there are two different rules for the same people or situations. In this case, it's not a double standard, because the situations (history of blacks vs. history of whites) are not at all similar/the same situation. So yes, *of course* different standards apply. Context is everything.
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Sabbyfrog2

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #73 on: March 06, 2012, 11:06:38 AM »


A double standard exists when there are two different rules for the same people or situations. In this case, it's not a double standard, because the situations (history of blacks vs. history of whites) are not at all similar/the same situation. So yes, *of course* different standards apply. <snip>

Yes. The history is different, however, as I've said, it's the past. Enough time has gone by. Let's move forward.
Times have changed and with it, so should our attitudes.  Admittedly, racism still exists. It always will. And, it's NOT exclusively white.
If what people want is true equality and for the racial divides to be closed, then double standards should not be acceptable. Period.
It seems very SS to me to say that its okay for African-American performers to mock and generally belittle "whites" in comedy, but not okay for Caucasian performers to do the same because of *insert justification because of racial history here*. No. It's not. It's not seeking equality to do that, it's seeking special treatment based on race. Disguise it any way you (general) want; It's no less racist for an African-American to do it then a Caucasian to do it, regardless of the history. Who's' to say that fifty years from now, we won't be looking back on those African-American performances who do that the same way we are looking at the "Blackface" performances today?

Besides, and this may get me flamed, NO ONE here can claim a personal grievance to "Blackface" or any other racial issue from those days, just like no one can reasonably claim a personal offense as a slave, which is another justification I hear thrown around a lot (not here directly). (I concede that perhaps a few here can remember growing up in the segregated south however and might be more sensitive to racial prejudices). We should be appalled that it happened, and use that history as a learning tool to do better in the future, but we should not continually use the offensives of generations past as a reason to find a personal offense where there is none in present time. 

Context is everything.

Yep.
And Billy Crystal's impersonation is being taken out of context.

Sabbyfrog2

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Re: Billy Crystal and blackface
« Reply #74 on: March 06, 2012, 01:11:04 PM »
That movie was stupid, but you are comparing apples and oranges. There is no historical connotation for African-American people painting themselves white to make fun of white people. None. There is no systematic racism of white people.

Besides that, yes it is quite easy to act as a 'rich white girl' I've seen men do it all the time. It's not hard.



This bothers me. Immensely. It's not only inaccurate but it's also hypocritical.
I've been thinking about it since I read it and only just now decided how to respond.

I'd say it would also be very easy for me to dress in a manner that represents what society perceives as a "gansta" and adjust my mannerisms and voice to act as such. But I don't. Because it's rude.
The African-American comedian doing his impression of a "rich white girl" stereotype is considered acceptable... Funny even (even if the movie was terrible). But a white man doing a genuine impersonation of a once living breathing entertainer who happens to be a Black man is considered racist?
How hypocritical...

You are only helping to perpetuate the double standard that racism, misogynistic attitudes, and stereotypes are okay, but only if it's done by African-American men, because of the double standard in place regarding entertainment.
 
Also,  there is racism against white people. Like I said, racism isn't and wasn't always exclusively white.
There was, at one point, an absolute systematic and societal prejudice against the Irish. No, we weren't used as slaves, but we also weren't allowed to do so. Slaves were actually considered more valuable than the Irish. African-American's weren't allowed to work on the railroads, not because they were African-American but because the work was considered too dangerous and they were considered far to valuable; Irishmen were considered "disposable". There were signs on establishments right next to the "No colors" that said "No Irish". Yet, the Irish jokes and stereotypes exist and are seemingly acceptable.
Let's also not forget the more recent systematic racism against Jews in Europe, who by all accounts were and still are considered "white". And, the stereotypes and jokes about Jews in Hollywood run rampant and no one kicks up a fuss.
Women were only allowed the right to vote in the 20's. Jokes about women are par for the course in comedy's.

Once again, you're cherry picking what should be considered offensive in Entertainment based on race and "feelings". It's incredibly unfair, ungracious, and frankly, it's quite hypocritical.