Where Will Community Rank On the List of Recent Blackface Stunts?
Considering Community is a sitcom that made a 9/11 reference within the first 10 minutes of its pilot episode, the fact that the show will use blackface to garner laughs this week isn't that surprising. But! Will the sight of Ken Jeong in blackface push things a bit too far? Ahead, find a brief history of blackface stunts from recent memory.
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
The joke that made satirizing blackface in mainstream pop culture somewhat acceptable. Or at least acceptable enough that Downey Jr. was nominated for an Oscar after playing Kurt Lazarus, an actor so committed to his role that he actually got his skin darkened.
John Slattery in Mad Men
The joke that made you feel bad about laughing at Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. While Slattery's Roger Sterling serenades his new bride in blackface, you're meant to be horrified like Don Draper, not laughing like Harry Crane.
Rob McElhenney in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Stepping away from the Roger Sterlings of the world, FX comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia went the Tropic Thunder route. As resident Always Sunny expert Julie Miller tells me, "They wanted to film a Lethal Weapon 5 and Mac (Rob McElhenney), for some reason, didn't think that putting shoe polish on his face and playing black would be racist at all. He had this whole argument about how blackface is actually OK for an actor. 'They're actors, they're trying to create an illusion. You know, in the Lord of the Rings movie, Ian McKellen plays a wizard. Do you think he goes home at night and shoots laser beams into his boyfriend's a**hole?' So offensive as it may have been, the characters were constantly talking/arguing about what was appropriate or not."
Jane Krakowski on 30 Rock
As Mark so adroitly reminded me in the comments section, you can't have a list of pop culture instances of blackface without the "two Black Swans" from 30 Rock's recent holiday special. That's Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney as former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann. Of course.
Laura Bell Bundy in "I Be-Weave Hair Salon"
To be fair, the argument could be made that Broadway actress and country singer Laura Bell Bundy wasn't actually in blackface in this viral video. She's just affecting what could be described as a Stepin Fetchit-like voice. Which is also as offensive... [via Videogum]
"Jackson Jive" on Hey Hey, It's Saturday
...but nothing compared to this. As appalled guest judge Harry Connick Jr. put it, "I know it was done humorously, but we've spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that, we take it really to heart." Since Community star Yvette Nicole Brown follows the Chang blackface with a pointed, "So, we're just going to ignore that hate crime, huh?" here's guessing executive producer Dan Harmon and company take it to heart, too. Even if this episode is airing during Black History Month.