Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hey Hey there's an elephant in the room!

That Hey Hey skit, again...the publicity mileage is phenomenal!
Tut, tut, tut....3 Egyptian Kings in a tomb.
Boom, boom.
Oh, sorry, that was racist.
Now, lets have a look at the definition of "racism" to see if this skit was, indeed, racist...
 The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
Nope, no one was prattling about differences or abilities or superiority...they were too busy following their dance steps (badly).

 Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
Hmm, can't see how attempting to impersonate someone/a group of people is discriminatory or prejudiced.

 (Sociology) the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others.
Hmmm...yep, I think it was safe to say that the only hereditary factors playing a part was that the real Jackson Five could sing and dance way better - dare I say, in a superior manner? - than the Jackson Jive.

(Sociology) abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief.
Don't quite recall anyone bustin' an aggro move or offering to pop a cap in anyone's arse due to skin/hair/eye colour...although their wardrobe designer needs a good slappin'.

Let's talk about that BIG elephant in the room - blackface, black and white minstrels, racism, African-Americans, whoever, whatever.
This is Australia.
We did have a history of Black Minstrels performing here, like most countries did, from the early 1820 onwards, and later the Black & White Minstrels TV and stage shows were on our screens and on at the Princes' Theatre for short seasons.
We also had a percentage of African-American minstrel and variety performers arrive here and stay due to the freedom offered in the melting pot that was in the wake of the goldfields.
Sorry, borrowed the term "melting pot" from the Canadians, hope they don't mind, didn't mean to offend.
Yes, there are racists in Australia.
There are racists in every country.
This does not make whole countries racist by definition.
What Cheezsus Me ORF (sorry, Daryl, borrowed that term , didn't mean to offend) is some Americans demanding that we learn their history and show them respect.
I said "some", which does not mean "every single American", ergo they can not be determined to be all demanding the same thing by definition.
Some Americans also saw that there was clearly no intention to insult or discriminate against any one or any race.
The Jackson family and Whoopi Goldberg have stated they recognised that there was no intention to hurt or be racist in the skit. Who could forget Whoppi's then-lover TedDanson slapping on the blackface to do a tribute to her?
Hang on...a white guy wearing blackface to do a tribute to an African-American...where have I heard of this recently...?!
But still the blatherings continue, noticeably from those who didn't like Hey Hey when it was on TV, didn't like Hey Hey the reunion shows, didn't actually watch either of the reunion shows or actually eye-ball the skit in question and they certainly do NOT want Hey Hey to make a come back.
The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival - renamed from the Coon Carnival due to tourists being offended! - is a celebration of history, heritage, culture which includes slavery, racism at its very worst.
We had blackface minstrels here in the 1850's onwards, some white putting on blackface but interestingly some African-Americans doing blackface minstrel shows.
Without care or prejudice.
With a freedom they'd never experienced before hitting the NZ and Oz shores.
Um, hello, that means Australia has a positive history of blackface minstrels, completely the opposite to that of America.
If we get pedantic - and don't we all love nitpicking? - the skit was performed in Australia by Australians of non-white background, on an Australian show for Australian audiences to show how the Australian boys had changed in 20 yrs from their first performance.
It wasn't very funny and it wasn't too flash but it was simply to look at where are they now-type memories.
There was no intent to insult, to discriminate, to hurt and it certainly wasn't racist like some are screeching.
If you look hard enough you could play the race card on almost anything during a normal daily routine.
Let's recognise it for what it really was - a typically bad comedy skit on Red Faces.


  1. The more I think about it, not that I am trying, the more annoyed I am becoming at American cultural imperialism. Also remember when Bert Newton referred to Muhamad Ali as 'the boy'. Clearly boy meant nothing to Australians. Nice work Jayne.

  2. I've watched it again. Verdict: tacky-as, but not rascist. The criteria I'd use is: does it put another group of people down? Not really. The hair, costumes, gestures and (dare I say) skin-darkening/whitening was to impersonate a group of performers who happen to be Afro-American.

    From what I've seen of "Hey Hey" via the clips -- it seems to have been a fairly borderline show by nature. Pushing the limits until the cracks showed. Seriously, this skit wasn't even close to the limit, even though it was tacky. No "Mammy!" hand waving, no white-bordered lips and eyes, the blacking only on the face (there were still some pale necks on those guys, clearly visible).

    Methinks this is just another storm-in-the-Internet-teacup. Sadly, it's bringing out anti-Americanism just as much as it is the Aussie-bashing.

  3. Thanks, Andrew.

    Yep, Lisa, it's a vehicle for some to jump on to use as a big stick to beat their own agenda into everyone's heads.

  4. For those looking for a good source of historical information regarding blackface, minstrelsy and other vaudevillian acts in Australia should go to Melissa Bellanta's research blog The Vapour Trail (in particular )

  5. Thanks for that, Colonial Boy, I just discovered her blog this arvo.
    She has done some fab research, hoping to do a post sometime tomorrow to include references to her in it.

  6. Well THAT is what I was going to say, but you said it better. And I am offended by H C Jr that he feels he needs to put us in our place...I liked him but he's cheezed me orf now....

  7. Damn that was well done!
    Racist my fat butt {and ain't that the truth!!}

  8. I notice no-one is "having a go" at any of the many impersonators out there,no, not the "Elvises", the "Michael Jacksons". There are some, making a living doing the glove wearing and moonwalking and no one is making a fuss. Like someone ^up there^ said, it's mostly a storm in a teacup thing and should blow over soon.

  9. Thanks, Farmers Wife :)

    Ta, Mo!

    Yep, River, it's a knicker-twister that'll be forgotten in 2 weeks.