Friday, March 7, 2008

one way racism

Hollywood strikes again.

Not so long ago two Wayans brothers (in the literal sense but the cultural works too) dressed up, and put on makeup to become "White Chicks" in the movie of the same name.

It wasn't funny. It had some moments, but not enough to fill even the trailer.

But the make up and acting were themselves quite impressive. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon fooled nobody, but these two actually pulled it off once or twice, skillfully if not subtly.

Now there is a new movie about to hit the screens in which Robert Downey Jr. (Currently "Iron Man") is made up to look like a black man. And it is at least as impressive in that sense.

A glance at the publicity photo and you'd never imagine Downey was in the photo. I cannot WAIT to see how the slightly unbalanced but brilliant Downey pulls it off.

It is a Ben Stiller movie, with Jack Black, a goofy comedy and satire on multiple levels including a send-up of egotistical and self-aggrandizing actors-- which gladdens my heart, as most of them appear to be exactly that in real life.

What is is NOT is a 'real' role for a black man, stolen by a white man. It is doubtless a role created for Downey by Stiller et al, and Stiller is a second generation comic legend with many great creations to his name-- the king of 'awkward attempting to be cool and failing" comedy.

And yet the accusations have begun to fly.

Some perfectly qualified black man is out of a job because of the racists in Stiller's production team.


I saw an episode of "Scrubs" last week in which Donald Faison ("Turk") was made up to be a white-bread suburban insurance salesman for a skit. He pulled it off, marvelously-- it took me a few seconds to realize it was him.

No cries of racism here either.

Why is racism always a one way street? Even Stiller, doubtless a Hollywood liberal in every sense of the word, realizes we've made enough progress on that front that we ought to be able to exchange roles now and then without having labels like Minstrel Show tossed around.

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