Tag Archives: racism

Movie Review – BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Put on your bell bottoms, 3.5 jive turkeys.  It’s time for a review of Spike Lee’s latest joint.

It’s the 1970s and a young Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) has become the first black police officer on the Colorado Springs force.  Alas, his dreams of defeating villains with kung-fu moves gleamed from his favorite flicks come to a grinding halt when he’s assigned to the epically boring records room.

One day, whilst fending off boredom by reading a newspaper, he spots a recruitment ad for the Ku Klux Klan.  On a lark, he calls it, requests information on how to join and down the rabbit hole he goes.

Naturally, Ron can’t show up to a KKK meeting and expect to get out alive, so he teams up with fellow officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a man whose Jewish heritage is also not looked at fondly by the Klan.

Together, Ron and Flip become two halves of one whole klansman.  Flip infiltrates the Colorado Springs chapter of the racist hate group in person, pretending to be a fellow hater of all non-white, non-Christians.  Meanwhile, Ron handles all phone communications with the klan on behalf of the made-up klansman, and even strikes up a long, ongoing telephone friendship with the head klansman, David Duke (Topher Grace), allowing Ron to obtain all sorts of info.  He also gets Flips back, tracking the baddies and helping out where he can from behind the scenes.

I won’t give too much away but suffice to say, it’s educational, thrilling, full of action, suspense and yes, even as you might imagine based on the premise, comedy.  A scene where a police sergeant matter of factly explains to Ron that he will likely be figured out if he shows up to a klan meeting as himself is one of the funnier parts of the film.

In my opinion, this is the greatest of all of Spike Lee’s films or “joints” as he calls them.  It’s a shame it was released in August as it does have Oscar potential, though who knows, perhaps the Academy will have a long memory this year.

Shout out to Washington, who nails it in this (as far as I know) his first major big screen role.  I could be wrong on that but at any rate this is a big breakthrough performance for him.  Adam Driver continues to prove that he does his best acting when he isn’t playing Kylo Ren and Topher Grace banks on his patented ability to play smarmy weasels.

One criticism.  Nick Turturro is a great actor and has long been a regular in Spike Lee joints.  I’m not faulting him or his abilities it’s just that he usually plays characters of either Italian or Hispanic descent, usually with a New York accent and, well, here he plays one of the klansmen.

In this day and age of social media outrage, I have to be clear.  It’s not that under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t want Nick to attend your dinner party or be part of your organization, it’s just that, in this case, you have a movie that’s exposing the inner workings of a group of people who hate anyone who isn’t a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) and in that respect, it seems like a character played by Nick would be more likely to be lynched by the klan than to be embraced by them.

I don’t know.  Again, not faulting NT as he has a number of great performances, but I think in this film, he might have been better as a cop or in a non-klan role.

Come on.  Don’t send me angry letters.  “You don’t look like you belong in the KKK” is a compliment.

A final thought – one (of many) positive messages I took from this film is that when people from different backgrounds come together, they can achieve great things.  Ron came up with the idea to infiltrate the KKK, but to pull it off, he needed Flip, as well as other police officers who assisted with equipment, surveillance, etc.

In other words, I hope one day we can reach a point where it isn’t about color or race or religion but rather, just good people doing good and keeping bad people at bay.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Judy Garland in Blackface

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal BQB here.

Ugh.  Maybe I’m not the pop culture guru I thought I was, because I found out the other day that Judy Garland performed in blackface.

Around Christmastime, I watched the Wizard of Oz after not watching it since I was a kid.  As an adult, I really appreciated the Jude-ster’s vocal talents and, embarrassing as this may be, I began looking up clips of her other performances as an adult.  Her rendition of “Come On, Get Happy” is pretty great.

Should I be admitting a love of show tunes?  Yes.  #2018.

So anyway, the other day I was on YouTube, looking for another dose of Judy and low and behold, two clips appear of her in blackface.  She’s got the dark makeup, the wig, the exaggerated whites around her mouth and eyes.  She’s calling herself “Opal Pearl Washington” and singing about her “Mammy and Pappy.”

Holy crap.  I mean, maybe you could defend her on the grounds that in at least one of the appearances, she’s a kid and her parents and/or studio execs are to blame but even so, finding out that Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz appeared in blackface is the equivalent of:

#1 – Finding out that Santa snorts coke off of stripper asses.

#2 – Finding out that the Tooth Fairy uses the teeth she collects for no reason other than to just swim around in them naked and revel in all the pain the kids went through to lose their teeth.

#3 – Finding out that the Easter Bunny is a serial killer who cuts off people’s faces and wears them.

#4 – Finding out that America’s Dad of the 1980s Bill Cosby used to drug women for sexual perversion purposes and, oh shit, that happened and I felt bad then too.

#5 – Finding out that seemingly trustworthy morning talk show host Matt Lauer had a button under his desk he could use to lock women inside his office.  Oh shit…

So anyway.  I guess that information has been out there a long time and I’m just discovering it.  Did I mention the other video was basically a tribute song to FDR?  Yes, because in the 1940s it was totally cool to get in blackface and support presidential candidates apparently.

Oh well.  The woman died of a barbiturate overdose when she was 47 so I’ll assume there was a long list of shit the studios made her do that weighed on her mind.  People have pointed out she sold a house to Sammy Davis Jr when no one else in Hollywood would.

Not excusing it…just ugh…Judy!  Why, Judy, why?  Say it ‘aint so!

I’m not posting the video.  Feel free to look it up on YouTube if you want your faith in humanity shocked.

I’ll try to soldier on but if I find a video of little Toto in a doggie klansman outfit then I’m going to give up on life.

 

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Is Comedy Dying? Reed College Students Protest Steve Martin’s King Tut Sketch as Racist

Hey 3.5 readers.

I’m late to the game on this as apparently it happened last Fall.

In a humanities course at Reed College in Oregon, a professor showed a class the infamous and hilarious “King Tut” sketch performed by Steve Martin in 1978 on Saturday Night Live.

I mean, if I’m a student I might protest that I’m being expected to borrow a shit ton of cash for a loan that I’ll never be able to pay back so I can watch a sketch that I could have just watched on YouTube myself for free, but that’s neither here nor there.

The students called this racist.  How dare Steve Martin appropriate Egyptian culture?  One student said that when a golden-faced King Tut pops out of his coffin to play a saxophone, this is the equivalent of “blackface.”  Read more in the NY Post.

Sigh.  When did kids become such squares?

Seriously.  Has everyone under 35 lost their cognitive functions?

OK.  Let me spell it out for you.  THE POINT OF THE SKETCH WAS TO MAKE FUN OF THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF KING TUT’S LIFE AND EGYPTIAN CULTURE!

That was what Martin was doing, through humor.  In the late 1970s, a famous King Tut exhibit toured museums throughout America.  Martin starts the sketch saying he thinks its ridiculous that King Tut’s life has been reduced to “toys and trinkets” and that money is being made off the pharaoh’s life.

Then he breaks out into a hilarious, over the top song and dance number.  Girls in Egyptian garb dance in the background.  Martin is using humor to make a point.  It’s as if the life of an ancient king has been turned into little more than a song and dance routine to entertain dopey tourists.

Goldenface?  No one had a gold face.  Tut was buried in a coffin made out of gold with a golden image of his face on it.

There’s just no critical thinking anymore.  How can anyone with a brain watch this sketch and realize anything other than Martin was making fun of the idea of taking an ancient culture and exploiting it for cash?  Ironically, if these kids would think for five minutes, they’d probably realize they and Martin agree on things.

Sad.  Everyone is dumb.

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Is Comedy Dying? – Part 2

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.  Is comedy dying?  Maybe not, but I fear it might be on life support.

Let’s keep pondering the question, shall we?

In my last post on this topic, I mentioned “Airplane” as an example of a hilarious movie that wouldn’t get past the PC police today.

Here’s an example of a funny scene from that film:

So, in the 1970s (this film was made in 1980 when the 1970s were still fresh), there was a “jive” culture.  Hip, happening black dudes would dress up in fancy, stylish outfits, hang out at discos and talk in a cool style.

In this scene, Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played literally the first TV sitcom mother ever, June Cleaver on “Leave it to Beaver” overhears one of the jive dudes talking to the stewardess.  The stewardess can’t understand all of the hip lingo.

Babs, for some unexplained reason, does.  She starts speaking this super cool jive talk.  The jive dudes talk back and pretty soon they and the old gal are having a jive argument.

Why is this funny?  First, it pokes fun at that jive culture, but only tangentially.  If anything, it satirizes white people and old white women in particular.  This old white woman, essentially America’s first sitcom Mom, goes out of her element and speaks in this hip language typically reserved for the cool, happening black club scene.

The joke is basically an old white lady could never be that cool but here she is, being cool, out jiving the jive talkers.  Laughs often come when we are shown the absurd, the unlikely, the thing we’ve never seen before.

It’s a funny scene.  Would it fly today?  No.  Why?  Some Hollywood suit would see two black guys, assume they are being made fun of, assume that people are too stupid to get the joke as anything other than ridicule of black people (and sadly, many people are that stupid) and cut the joke.

Let me ask you this.  When you see these dudes talking jive, is your reaction to dislike them?  To think that something is wrong with them?  No.  Me, personally?  I kind of envy them.  They look like they led interesting lives, hanging out in busy city nightclubs, absorbing the music, the culture, learning a hip way to talk.

I regret that I’m more like the stewardess, too lame to understand what they are saying because I’ve never lived it up like they did.  Or worse, I’m like Babs, so old and uncool that people would laugh if I ever showed a hip bone in my body because it would be so surprising to people.

But there’s just no nuance anymore. No attempt to understand intent.  It’s just, “Oh no.  A black person is involved in this joke.  We must cut it.  If literally one person can infer that black people are being made fun of, it’s one too many.”

I dunno.  Am I right?  Am I wrong?  Hit me up on the flip side, 3.5 bloods.

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Was Ellen DeGeneres’ Usain Bolt Tweet Racist?

OK 3.5 readers.

I’ll just throw it out there.  Was this tweet by Ellen racist?

So the joke was that Usain Bolt is super fast and that Ellen could get her errands done faster if she just hops up on his back.

Given today’s highly sensitive climate, I suppose you could make an argument that this tweet was ill advised.  The joke was only mildly funny at best vs. the great backlash it brought in.

Then again…come on.  This is Ellen. TV’s most beloved lesbian.  First TV comedian to come out as gay and play a gay protagonist on her 1990s sitcom.

I don’t know.  I rarely share my opinions on controversial things.

I just worry that people are getting so sensitive that by the year 2050 comedy, movies, books, even regular conversations won’t exist.

Everyone will just stare at the wall all day out of fear of offending someone.

Shouldn’t intent count for something? I highly doubt Ellen intended any offense here.

She wasn’t trying to say, “I am a white lady who must dominate this black man.”

She was saying, “I wish Usain was my best friend so he could give me super fast rides to the store!”

Everyone just needs to take a deep breath and give each other a hug.

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#OscarsSoWhite – Are the Oscars Racist?

Discussion time, 3.5 readers.

Are the Oscars racist?

And….go!  Talk amongst yourselves, I’m a little verclempt.

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Pop Culture Mysteries – Case File #004 – Snubbed (Part 3)

PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES…

Part 1     Part 2

AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…

It was time to review the evidence.  The tweets themselves.  I stopped by the library in my fancy new ride and asked Agnes to pull them up for me.

This one from MTV stuck out at me like a sore thumb on the hand of man who’s been scratching himself all day:

“I don’t get it,” I said as I stared at the screen of one of the library’s beep boop machines.  “The media’s made it out like this gal was left out in the cold but here a reputable source like Music Television indicates she WAS nominated.”

“I don’t care, Jake,”  Agnes said.  “Music hasn’t gotten any better since Danny Kaye if you ask me.”

I felt a ba-bump in my heart and grinned like an idiot.

“What’s with that look?”  Agnes asked.

“Don’t ever change, Ag,” I said.  “Hell, if your face didn’t look more worn out than the first baseman’s glove during Game Seven of the World Series, I’d propose right here and now.”

“Whatever,”  Agnes said.  “I just wish the city would do something about all the transients who wander in here all day and make me look up nonsense for them.”

I’m pretty sure she was talking about somebody else.

Moving on, I asked Agnes to look up all of the VMA award nominees.  Here’s what I saw:

BEST FEMALE VIDEO

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”

BEST HIP HOP VIDEO

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”

BEST COLLABORATION

Jessie J + Ariana Grande + Nicki Minaj – “Bang Bang”

“She was nominated three times,”  I said.  “Agnes, can you believe the snow job the press is trying to pull here?”

“Uh huh,”  Agnes said as she pulled up a website called “Jobs-A-Plenty.”

“Let me see if I kind find something for you.”

“Go back to Tweeter,”  I commanded.

“Here we go,”  Agnes said.  “Dishwasher.  Minimum wage.  Will train.  This has your name written all over it.”

“I’m on the job right now, woman!  Will you put the blasted Tweeter-ma-bob back on already?”

“Ugh,” Agnes said as she complied.  “I swear society just doesn’t do enough to help the mentally unstable.”

“There!”  I said, tapping my finger on the screen.  “Right there!”

“So what?”  Agnes asked.  “What is so important about this that you’re interrupting my coffee break?”

This caper had become what I like to call a “Kaleidoscope Case.”  In other words, with every angle, there’s a new point of view.

Some of the ones I’ve heard so far:

  • Minaj is super rich and ultra famous.  Few people ever sniff that rarified air.  A lot of folks who have seen their dreams go bust would love to be in a music video and you wouldn’t hear them complaining about only getting three nominations.
  • Her biggest video is just a bunch of posteriors flapping in the breeze.  (That reminds me, I need to review it again for research purposes.)  Is it really deserving of any award?
  • But then again, she never said she wasn’t nominated at all.  “Nicki Got Snubbed” is just one more example of press hype.
  • What does “different kind of artist” mean?  Is she talking about race?  That she has a little more junk in the trunk than the skinny waifs that dominate the entertainment industry?  Both?
  • Forgetting about the butt content of her video, is it possible to see her tweet as a springboard to a conversation about racial and body type diversity in the music industry?

So many questions.  So little time.  And at the end of the day, I was only going to get five bucks.

I understand the “she’s too rich to complain” argument.

I even get the “Anaconda is just a bunch of butts wagging around and has no artistic merit” argument. (Though I might have to watch it again just to make sure.)

But as for race and body type diversity – I suppose there’s always a need for that conversation.

3.5 readers, you might think things are hunky dory these days, but it’s always a good idea to talk about the past so that it doesn’t get repeated.

Let me tell you about the racism I witnessed in my day.

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