Racial Caricatures

Last week was Halloween, and most people including myself are going through Halloween withdrawal. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, due to the horror movies, candy, parties and the creative costumes. However, controversies always arise during the month of October. This includes objection to the holiday from religious extremists and their set up of Hell Houses in response (which I find them extremely hilarious), and controversy including costumes. This has been a rising issue lately, mainly due to social media, and some of the controversies are ridiculous including people getting upset over a cigarette baby costume, but some of are actually legitimate with the main complain of using someone’s race as a costume.

This can be best represented with the controversy of actress Julianne Hough. The actress alongside her friends dressed as characters from Orange is the New Black.Personally, I believed the white, blonde-haired actress should have been Piper in the group, but for some reason thought it was a good idea to be the African-American Crazy-Eyes. Therefore, for her costume she imitated the prison uniform, styled her hair into braids, and wore black-face thinking she was going to escape the wrath of the internet. People understandably got upset, but there was also the group arguing it was just a costume and just another result of our overly politically correct society. However, people have a good reason for being upset.

Blackface has haunted the American entertainment industry for decades starting with minstrelsy. Minstrelsy or a minstrel show is a type of performance where white people dressed up as black people. The show was kind of revue where the performers lampooned black people as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish and so on. This type of performance emerged in the 1800s and continued in too the mid-20th century making it into classic movies like Holiday Inn and the first sound film The Jazz Singer. Of course once the civil rights movement moved on this ended, but insensitive portrayal of races in Hollywood still exist.

The most notable instance of this is actor, Rob Schneider. Schneider, Adam Sandler’s “muse” as depicted in Sandler movie’s as an Arab, a Japanese person, a Hispanic and a Peloponnesian. It is not because he looks like one, but for comedic effect and it portrays the ethnic characters as over the top and with generalized stereotypes that are as bad as the ones portrayed in the 19th century. The exception is that the makeup is slightly better, but that is still not a valid reason to do it. Even in the theater, Caucasian actor, Jonathan Pryce, played The Engineer in Miss Saigon, an Asian character. Of course, this was met with controversy, but ended with Pryce winning a Tony.

White people need to stop using a race as a costume because it promotes negative stereotypes and reduces a culture to a cartoonish figure with really awful makeup. This also needs to stop happening in Hollywood because doing this in the mainstream media reiterates the negative stereotypes on a nationwide level, and also at the same time blocks minority actors from acting jobs.

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