Around 6 weeks ago I posted this picture on my Facebook with the caption:
“My Halloween Costume This Year, Please Don’t Steal it!”
Actress Uzo Aduba playing her character Suzanne aka ‘Crazy Eyes’
I was met with overwhelming laughter and encouragement from all of my friends.
“OMG Crazy Eyes, That’s so Funny!” said one.
“I Can’t Wait to see your Pictures. Please Post them on Halloween!” wrote another.
About ten posts into the thread, a relative by marriage living in the States wrote “isn’t this offensive?”
To which I quipped back; (not entirely devoid of feeling huffy that I was being called out on my OWN FB board)…
“Offensive? To whom? This is a great character on TV from a show I adore. I’m not reading into it more than that I assure you?”
And then last weekend…this happened.
Dancer/Actress Julianne Hough Dressed up as ‘Crazy Eyes’ for Halloween
Immediately like wild-fire, there were allegations that Ms. Hough was racist, that her outfit was offensive and that she was misguided in thinking it could ever be appropriate.
This jarred me to my marrow, as, this was my idea only 6 weeks prior?
In the end, Ms. Hough put out an apology tweet, that in my opinion was vetted by her PR team who implored that she do so. I believe that she felt bad that she was offensive in any capacity as well, but had she truly understood the implications and backlash, I don’t think she would have ever done it in the first place? She truly had no idea!
The apology in full read like this: “I am a huge fan of the show Orange is the New black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize“
Ok, so back to topic.
Disclaimer: My intention here is not to offend ANYONE, but rather curry a dialogue about how people can see things so differently, especially people of different races, cultures, and even ages.
I have to be honest and this is truly with zero intended malice or disrespect, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong with Julianne Hough’s costume? Not to get into a debate about color or hues…but I see her as ‘orange-faced’ at best, and didn’t even think that something like this would offend? Honest!
Is it possible that it’s because the character is based on someone who is both mentally ill and incarcerated? The latter being an overused stereotype in the black community or inversely as negative ammunition towards the black community?
What if Julianne had dressed up with her ex-boyfriend Ryan Seacrest as Mr. & Mrs. Obama; The President & First Lady of the United States? Would the maelstrom reaction have existed as badly? Or how about someone like the beloved and gorgeous Beyoncé–successful & strong people of color?
I’m not the one who is offended here, so I’m truly asking? Is this more about negative stereotypes, than a case of Blackface?
I pride myself as someone who is moderately educated and informed on historical matters and even *I* thought that there was a very different interpretation of Blackface. (I’m not even *certain* I’m spelling Blackface properly, and even that gives me anxiety that I’m offending someone!)
Inset:1)Ted Dansen shocks the world as he wears Blackface in a 1993 Friars Club Roast to then girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg, 2)1900 Minstrel show poster, 3)Entertainer Al Jolson in Blackface.
I HONESTLY thought that the Vaudeville era of white entertainers who wore ‘Blackface’, were what was offensive to the African American community et al. The notion that a white entertainer would dress up in such a lampooned manner, depicting a black clown face and emphasizing the larger lips, as if to denote that for them to ‘entertain’ they felt the need to project the ‘black face clown image’ ie; that white people don’t have to cower to entertain the masses, that the clown ‘entertainer’ should be a black person (long sentence, mea culpa).
It’s not perfectly articulated, but this is what I ‘thought’ was the offensive Blackface in question. I know there are many other offensive depictions of black culture such as the ‘Mammy/Aunt Jemima house servant’ or other overt Blaxploitation characters that exist that I haven’t touched on, but my intention here is NOT to write-up a laundry list, so bear with me.
My intention here is to express my own confusion and naiveté about what is acceptable for Halloween, as a white Canadian who considers herself responsible and compassionate (OMG, I’m writing in 3rd person…super ick!)
Another set of photo’s surfaced this week. That of a private party that was thrown in Italy called “Hallowood Disco Africa 2013.” It was attended by various taste makers and fashion designers and the pictures that surfaced were shocking to say the least.
Below famed fashion designer Allesandro Dell’Acqua is wearing dark face paint and big white-painted lips while posing in a picture with a feather adorned Stefano Gabbana from Dolce & Gabbana (pictured on left).
In addition, there were various people who were sporting this slave-like costume? I’m unsure if these were actual guests or were male models who were hired as ambient props for the evening.
Either way, it was in the utmost of poor taste, and I certainly didn’t need an Internet outcry to make me see that it was offensive and utterly disgusting.
N.B. The organizers of the “Hallowood Disco Africa” have issued an apology via Instagram in the wake of all the controversy.
While I didn’t think anything could trump that revolting display, I learned of a photo that was taken by some young white adults (ages 22-25) re-enacting the death of Trayvon Martin and his assailant George Zimmerman. While the photo was eventually taken down, it had already gone viral and out of respect for Trayvon Martin’s family I would never repost it here. This particular Blackface of Trayvon was so caricature that I don’t even know what it was made from (a mask or paint?) but the entire picture, which included a bloodstained gun shot wound on the sweatshirt made me want to projectile vomit all over American stupidity and arrogance as a whole.
Again, my reaction was one of disbelief and moral outrage.
Apparently the parties involved issued some sort of an apology via I-have-no-idea, and with that image on permanent record I’m certain that this group is having to super-glue their lives back together and rightfully so, as it will probably haunt them for the remainder of their pathetic existence on this planet.
It doesn’t end here friends.
A couple of days ago, this happened to the daughter of Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger–Miss Ireland Baldwin.
Ireland was on vacay with her mother in Disneyland for Halloween weekend (which as you can see was when most people dressed up who were above the ages of twelve). She posted the following picture via Instagram, and almost immediately she was inundated with accusations of RACISM?!?!
She was earnest in expressing that as someone who is part Cherokee on her mothers side, was emulating this Disney character…BECAUSE DUH, SHE WAS IN DISNEY LAND; get a GRIP ‘Merica!
Being that she is the daughter of the famed Twitter outlaw Alec Baldwin, I’m not surprised she stood up for herself and good for her!
She had this to say…
And ultimately this…
I can’t say I understand what its like to have lived under a narrative of oppression, and I’m sensitive and have compassion for all forms of suffering, bullying or racism→ but hasn’t this all gotten out of hand? Should all racial parody costumes cease? I don’t know the answer to that, but I felt compelled to immediately take down my original Facebook post about my Halloween plans, of which didn’t actually exist, and was just a fun post about what I would want to be this year if I could. I have a long history of dressing up as various characters from ‘TV’ or ”Media’ some of them from different cultures, but I definitely won’t be doing that in the future any longer. Through all of this, I learned something new, and I’m thankful for a heightened awareness in my sensitivity footprint. I guess it’s back to the Sexy Nurse, Sexy School Girl, Sexy Meteorologist Halloween garb for me!
“Its going to be MUCHO Caliente in the Gulf of Mexico today Papi…”
…Until the meteorologists get offended that is.
I sincerely wish everyone and their families a safe and joyful Halloween eve.
The Pop Culture Rainman™
*I have used the term black community in the majority of my expression above. Again this is in no way to disrespect anyone. I was brought up in Canada, and in my experience I don’t hear the term African-Canadians used very often, but understand that it is a valid, and often desired expression and way to address the black community. I do use it more when describing an African-American as I feel that this is the general term used. Might I also add candidly, that as a white person, I get frazzled when it comes to the right and wrong way to address people of color, and I believe it’s an anxiety shared by many conscious white people.