Sunday, February 24, 2008

SNL avoids the Obama blackface issue

Lorne Michaels’ Saturday Night Live has never displayed much worry about white castmembers playing “blackface” (think Darrell Hammond as Jesse Jackson). But in the case of Barack Obama, who made a cameo appearance in the last episode before the WGA strike, there was some hand-wringing in the media about the need for a regular, politically-correct Obama character, and, with young Kenan Thompson too fat for the role, rumours that a tall, lanky African-American Obama player was about to join the cast (instead, a chubby white girl was added to replace Maya Rudolph).

In the end, they used Fred Armisen. Any controversy was immediately deflected because the makeup was laugh-out-loud good. And they sidestepped the “blackface issue" on a couple of counts: Armisen didn't need more than a light bronzing, as both he and Obama are of mixed race heritage (Obama with a white mother and Kenyan father; Armisen is Venezuelan on his mother’s side and part Japanese).

By the way, last night's SNL episode was one for the time capsule: the first consistently- funny show since the fifth episode of the second season (and as a reminder, Steve Martin made an appearance). The sketches were tight and actually laugh-inducing, and with the exception of Carrie Underwood’s subpar performance (why do the musical acts always sound so bad on this show while there’s never a problem on Conan?) and Tina Fey’s desperate Hillary-flogging during the news segment, the show held up to the end! As it was the first fresh SNL since the start of the Writers Guild Strike, the solution to SNL's quality control problem is obvious (Ben Silverman take note): cut back Saturday Night Live to once every 16 weeks.


ique said...

Speaking as an African American. They DID NOT 'avoid' the 'blackface issue'from our perspective. My circle of friends and family were turned off by the whole scene. Please don't attempt to speak for us.

Of course race is indeed an artificial construct. But Race is also much more than the hue of someones skin. If it were simply about skin tone George Hamilton would've been in more Spike Lee films than Samuel L. Jackson.

The larger question that begs an answer is; why does a seminal show that has been ingrained in our culture for more than a generation continue to find it 'difficult' to consistently present and choose talent from what is a proven rich pool of Black comedic actors. Firthermore, wrap your mind around this. If they don't pick up the option on Kenan Thompson. We could have a Black President and no Black cast members on SNL.

Why is it that a 5'9" chubby Darrel Hammond can play darker skinned 6'4" fit Jesse Jackson and Kenan Thompson can't play Obama?

Dylan said...


Anonymous said...

Why don't you capitalize your own name, but "black" is capitalized? Should I, as a caucasian guy, begin to capitalize the word 'white" as the proper written representation of my race?

Anonymous said...

ique: always the victim?

ique said...

No my anonymous friends. First, I am not angry. Anger doesn't allow a person to think and see the truth. When you allow anger to guide your thoughts and words, you will make assumptions about someones character. You may call them ANGRY when they are not, or you may get side tracked by minor issues of capitalization. You see these are easier issues to deal with than the serious issues that have to be solved to make our culture fair and open to all.

Absolutely never the victim. I can never be someones victim unless I give you my permission to make me a victim. it seems to me that a victim would cower when he sees something he perceives as wrong. Thats not me. Thats not what I am doing.

You see I was prepared by my community to expect criticism from those who fear change.

I hope someone can respond on the merits of the argument or at least defend your point of view.

Anonymous said...

ique, as long as you are posting these same types of comments on the pertinent message boards discussing "White Chicks" starring the Wayans Brothers, then everything you said is A O.K. with me, a White person. Oh, and "ique" is also anonymous as it is a nickname and neither your first or last name--not your location--is displayed. You are just as anonymous as we are who display "anonymous."

joy said...

"SNL" is THE television influence on my life. I love it wholeheartedly. True, there have been some dry years (and unfunny spells), but if the show ended today, I'd remember it as the funniest, most-quotable, most-consistently entertaining program ever. Catch it Download Saturday live here..

Anonymous said...







Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of English TV Serials. I do not miss any serial and always catch all episodes of tv serial from net. Thanks.