Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Oscars & Racism

There was the “racy” wardrobe malfunction that Jennifer Lopez was reported to have at the Oscars Sunday night. There has been a lot of talk on both sides saying yes she had one, and no, she didn’t. Television pictures show a blur over the breast area where her dress seemed to be cut just a tad too low. Online pictures and video do seem to show a malfunction, but the designer of the gown says it’s impossible because of the way that it’s made. I guess they will get to the bottom of it soon enough, but I digress from my original thoughts….wardrobe malfunctions will do that to everyone.

Back to racism. Two separate controversial incidents, at the Oscars, were being discussed today and frankly, I found both hard to believe. The first is the Billy Crystal “blackface” performance where he was portraying Sammy Davis, Jr. When I first heard of it, it brought me back to 1993 when Ted Danson got a lot of heated criticism for doing some  minstrel/vaudeville routine in blackface, and he did it at the Friars, not nearly as big an affair as the Oscars. He was with Whoopi Goldberg at the time. You would think that Billy Crystal might have learned how bad an idea doing “blackface” is and why. Doing blackface is never ok. People were tweeting their opinions all night. Apparently, Billy used to play Sammy Davis Jr. on SNL in the 1980’s and decided to reprise the role. But, even if Billy Crystal had a serious lapse in judgment, what about all the other people involved with putting on the show? No one chimed in and said we better rethink this idea? No one suggested doing something different that wouldn’t be so offensive?  I think this just about says it all: When Octavia Spenser won supporting actress for "The Help," comedian Paul Scheer tweeted her win "shows just how far we've come since Billy Crystal performed in Blackface."  So much for political correctness? 

Not long after I hear about Billy Crystal’s faux pas, I get wind of Ryan Seacrest’s very poor choice of words. Ryan was interviewing veteran actor Demian Bichir, on the red carpet. Demian is Mexican and has a thirty year career in acting. After their interview, Ryan Seacrest tweeted, "Demian Bichir's story is incredible...the guy moved here from Mexico and was making guacamole. Now he's nominated for an Oscar.” Ryan made it sound like Demian was just a Mexican laborer who got lucky and won himself an Oscar. Ryan’s remarks do sound stereotypical and racist and it seems the tweeters had a field day with it, calling Ryan ignorant and racist, and rightly so. People don’t know when they have crossed the line from being funny to being racist. It reminds me of the blog I recently did on Jeremy Lin, the Knick new basketball star. 

I shouldn’t be surprised by things any more, but I am. Crystal and Seacrest , in their zeal to be funny, better rethink how they execute their jokes and the topics they select. Both incidents were inappropriate. Crystal’s routine could have been changed and many people were aware of what he was going to do, so they could have spoken up. Seacrest just tweeted it out, without thinking, apparently the little censor in his head was taking a nap. I didn’t find his remark remotely funny and it certainly sounds racist. There really should be some repercussions for these kinds of incidents. We shouldn’t give them a free pass. Ted Danson didn’t get one. How about on top of the criticism they have to pay a huge fine that goes to a worthy charity affiliated with the group that the racism is directed towards. In Crystal’s case maybe the United Negro College Fund or the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association. For Seacrest, we know he makes tons of money and Mexico can sure put his to good use. There has to be some way to make people aware of there own ignorance. The guy who used the headline, “Chink In The Armor,” to describe the first loss of the Knicks after Lin joined the team, got fired. Are these two incidents any different? I don’t know, you decide.

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