Thursday, February 08, 2007

Black Men in Drag: Has it gone too far?

From The Cocoa Lounge

Black Men in Drag: Famous Hollywood Drag Characters

(Black Men in Drag: 1. Flip Wilson as "Geraldine" 2. Jamie Foxx as "Wanda" 3. Martin Lawrence as "Sheneneh Jenkins" 4. Tyler Perry as "Madea" and 5. Eddie Murphy as "Rasputia")

Now, don't get us wrong. We've laughed at the brilliant characterizations over the years of Flip Wilson, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry (and a host of other comedians) as they've portrayed varying degrees of black womanhood to often gut-wrenching comedic effect.

Eddie Murphy's Norbit

But the joke is beginning to get old, and not only that, it's beginning to get offensive.

'Drag'ging in Old Stereotypes

Charles Knipp as Shirley Q LiquorEddie Murphy's latest venture, Norbit, has been raising eyebrows since its trailer hit theaters, prompting outraged community leaders in Los Angeles to call a boycott. In the wake of Charles Knipp (a white performer, who dresses in drag--and blackface--to portray a stereotypical character he's dubbed "Shirley Q. Liquor,") the lines between comedy and blatant racism, are beginning to blur.

It's easy for the studios that make these films to stand behind their product: Cross- dressing comedies have a proven track record at the box office. And with black men (not white) donning the wigs and make-up, words like "Stereotypical," "race," and "exploitation" don't apply, right?

Martin Lawrence in Drag. Big Momma's House 2

The joke is ultimately on us. So pardon us if we refuse to laugh.


Anonymous said...

I am neither black nor a woman but there is something terribly wrong with this picture. But who's really at fault? The guys walk away with a nice paycheck and moviegoers get a heck of a laugh. The studios are reaping the profit and maybe black women pay the cost.

If black women are offended, then maybe you shouldn't put your money behind such films. That's how us old fogeys used to show our dissatisfaction in the 60s. I think the power of the dollar is still pretty influential.

The last drag film I've seen is Tootsie and they've all gotten pretty crass since then. I feel pretty good knowing that none of these guys have gotten a red cent from me. Why? Because a man in a dress isn't funny: it's disturbing. White, black or purple.

There are other ways to make people laugh and these guys should find one.

Anonymous said...

I really like Big Mama and Madea especialy.

Anonymous said...

Why is Thandie Newton in this movie???

Anonymous said...

When I first saw the trailer and read about "Norbit" I was conflicted. On one hand, I was excited to see Eddie Murphy's genius of comedy and different make up changes but on the other hand, I was thinking that black women already have a bad rep to the outside world (Global Community) as it is and movies such as these only perpetuate the stereotype. In "other" communities, black women are seen as loud, ghetto, ignorant, unhealthy or just plain old "loose" women.

BTW, Angela you brought up an interesting question. The two characters in Norbit's life are Rashputen (i think that's her name) and Thandie's character. It's an interesting view of what society views as "beautiful black women." Rashputen (Eddie in Fat Suit) is overweight, dark skinned, wears tight clothing, colorful weaves, and is agressive...while Thandie's character is skinny, light skinned, european-styled hair/features and is soft spoken. I'm assuming their supposed to be "polar opposites" but to me, it's not only embracing but exploiting already detrimental stereotype. And when Hollywood does choose a black woman who is "beautiful" they often choose women of mixed race such as Thandie Newton, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams and so on. They're basically saying in order to be beautiful, you have to have some of the white race mixed in. I mean look at Eddie in real life...his ex-wife was light-skinned with green eyes and european features. The same goes for his current girl Tracey with the same characteristics sans the eye color.

I find it both dissapointing but not surprising that most black men (with dark skin) always marry/date women who are white or damn near it. I think that says something about what they consider beautiful not only in women but in themselves. NOW DON'T GET ME WRONG PEOPLE, I myself am "light skinned with some euro-features" but in my eyes, there are so many beautiful black women of all shades and I feel so disrespected that Hollywood (and some black men) don't show or appreciate it!

I'll admit, I'm on the fence because the movie looks hella funny but I just can't support a movie to embraces and promotes stereotypes. I think I'll take a page out of Leonard's book and spend my money elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

It does look funny and we shouldn't take entertainment so seriously especially a comedy.

Charece said...

I agree totally one hundred percent with what everyone is saying, even the anonymous people who for some reason didn't want there identities displayed but thats a whole nother story. I know I for one laughed at every drag performance from Shenanah, Wanda, Madea one of my favorites, and so on.

When viewing these images I never thought of them as stereotypes but I looked at the messages behind them. Like Madea for instance I'm sure we've all known a strong black portly women who reminded you of a Madea. A women who always had something to say about something, (probably the samething you were thinking from the begining but didn't have the guts to say), and always knew what to say to help you get through your situations. By creating these images, They're not saying all black women are this way, but out of the billions of Americans out there, there just might be a few out there that act like some of the women we've seen protrayed in these films, but not EVERYONE acts that way and most of us know that. The same can be said for films about whites, hispanics,chineses, etc.

It's a touchy subject I think. I mean we as black people know that every black woman is not like, that but then there's those people who have never been around a black person and watch movies like Norbit and think that every black person acts that way. Do we get angry at the filmakers, or do we get angry because that person who has put all black people in this class of being "ghettofid" non-educated people because their ignorant?

Has anyone on here actually seen the movie yet! I know I haven't but until then I'm just gonna go in there prepared to see a comedic film and if I do see things that are upsetting or appauling then I'll a clearer idea to make a judgement but as of now I'm at no liberty to judge. There a saying "Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover" we'll I try to go by that saying with every situation I face so I guess I'll just have to see the film first. (I have a lot more to say but I have to go for now, I'll be picking up where I left off later.)

P said...

There are a lot of stereotypes about black men and women, including the ones that you see in this movie.

But why stop there?

All black women are not overweight.
All black men are not whores and players
All black women are not saucy and loud.
All black men do not aspire to be rappers and athletes.
It goes on and on.

I don't think truthfully that the intent was for Eddie to offend black women. He keeps it black. However, I am uncomfortable with the sassy big black mama attitude that pervades the images of our people, and then the guy that has to endure the trauma of such a woman.

Interesting post.

The Cocoa Lounge said...

Whoa, this film has stirred up some strong emotions and opinions.

Leonard and Ellington, thanks for really digging down and sharing your thoughts from the male perspective. Leonard--They didn't get a dime of my hard earned cash and I'm pretty proud of that fact. Ellington--I think I heard something about that scene in the film. And all I can say is wow!

Charece--you're right about it being a touchy subject. There are people who will take this film for being exactly what it is--strictly entertainment--as they should. But there are those who will take away with them those ugly notions about what it means to be an African American woman in this country. Which is pretty sad.

P, as always, thanks for keeping it real. I can't blame Eddie for rolling with the high-concept idea--I love him like a blood cousin. But there are some questionable things going on in the film (which I will not pay to see in it's entirety) that just doesn't sit well with many of us. So as the star, he has to be ready to take a great deal of the well as the rewards. Like all that moola.

For all that this film isn't, it certainly performed extremely well at the box office. I'm really interested in hearing the thoughts of those who saw it from beginning to end. I just refuse to do it at this point.

Anonymous said...

I think to each his own if they feel comfortable doing drag - I guess. But I think Chappelle touched on this when Oprah interviewed him on the show. He mentioned that a role was offered to him in some movie where he'd be required to act in drag and he said he outright refused, no compromises. He mentioned that he can't understand why so many black comedians feel that they have to do so to be funny. Chappelle don't play, as we all already know $50mill times over. ;)

Anonymous said...

The original article is correct in its content. I think moreover that we have to be aware that the media is saying that a big black woman is funny. I don't care where your size is I am aware a black women do have this problem and seems to come after the glory year of 25. For more than looks that should be addressed straight and upfront. Black women can no longer allow themselves to believe that being over weight is okay or healthy.

Our self image places us in a vaccum and as a group we have not moved. From the Aunt Jemima to Big mama that is what and how black women are seen. We shouldn't fan the fire by being okay with it and just saying this is who I am.

Time has rolled around and so have some of us. Now, with all that is available to the black women you have to hard to be the Queen that you think that you are. Give me my sista back. The one with not shame, stand by your man or beat him up, carry the load, be the dimes, be what ever you want, except the joke.

The Cocoa Lounge said...

I think in addition to all the sterotypes being discussed here is the fact that it is MEN that are portraying these characters time, and time again. There's just something twisted in the message it's sending about both sexes to me.

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