Hey Hey It’s Not Racism!

THE men behind the masks at the centre of the Hey Hey It’s Saturday race furore have hired a crisis public relations firm to manage the global fallout from the controversy.

The six Sydney doctors, who painted their faces black and donned Afro wigs in the “Jackson Jive” skit have gone into hiding since the show was slammed as racist by guest judge Harry Connick Jr, who was openly offended by the antics watched by a TV audience of 2.3 million.

Plastic surgeon Anand Kumaradeva, who painted his face white to play Michael Jackson, left the country with his family on Friday for a holiday, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

The Sydney University graduate swiftly hired crisis PR manager Matthew Horan on a pro-bono basis to protect them from the global backlash, which included criticism from Michael Jackson’s family.

Mr Horan, from the firm Cato Counsel, also represented embattled Pacific Brands when it decided to sack 1200 manufacturing workers, virtually ending local production.

Michael Jackson’s brothers Marlon, Tito and Jackie have since thanked Harry Connick Jr.

Marlon told reporters the family understood the men weren’t deliberately being disrespectful.

“Man, if they turned up looking like that in the United States …” he said.

“We thank Harry for speaking out, but we also understand that they weren’t trying to be disrespectful to us.”

The other members of the singing group include [radiologist] Suresh [de] Silva, paediatrician Joseph Macdessi, anaesthetist Harry Koumoukelis, [cardiologist] Mark Sader and [urologist] David Jefferson.

Dr Sader refused to comment when contacted by The Sunday Telegraph.

“We’ve said what we wanted to,” he said. “We have already given detailed responses, no takers for more.”

Earlier this week, Dr da Silva said the same skit was met with great acclaim 20 years ago when they were first on Hey Hey, and even a few months ago when they performed at the University of Sydney Medical Revue.

See also : Hey Hey It’s Saturday (c. October 7, 1979) (October 9, 2009).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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10 Responses to Hey Hey It’s Not Racism!

  1. dean says:

    i understand the sensitive folks can’t handle anyone taking the piss…that’s their right, but nobody cried racism when the wayan brothers painted their faces white in the movie white chicks…maybe racism is only racism when certain ethnic groups get portrayed? interesting debate though…

  2. @ndy says:

    “nobody cried racism when the wayan brothers painted their faces white in the movie white chicks”

    Maybe not — dunno. But it did earn the bros. five Golden Raspberry nominations in 2004: Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. (It also had a Worldwide Gross of US$111,448,997.)

    In Tropic Thunder (2008), Robert Downey Jr donned a (kinda) ‘blackface’ to play the role of Kirk Lazarus. “I know what dude I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!”

    In Soul Man (1986), C. Thomas Howell, another white actor, plays the role of a black college student. “To achieve his dream of attending Harvard, a pampered teen poses as a young black man to receive a full scholarship.”

    There are other examples.

    In Australia, ‘The Chaser’ adopted blackface to perform as The Jackson Five.

    And so on…

    So yeah: people who are not ‘black’, playing the role of whites — and vice versa — has a number of precedents.

    Regarding whether or not the performance was ‘racist’: I guess that depends on what you think ‘racism’ actually is.

    The six doctors who performed the act have disavowed racism, and stated that it was not their intention to denigrate ‘blacks’.

    If the racist content of an action is measured simply by how the actor perceives it — that is, what was their declared intention — then, by definition, theirs was not a ‘racist’ performance.

    And of course, the same rule applies to any and every other action (“I didn’t mean it”).

    Beyond this, there is the distinction between the Australian and US audience. Thus it has been argued that, whereas such a performance has a particular resonance in the US — on account of the fact that it has a history of both blackface performance and racial discrimination against / racial oppression of blacks — in Australia there is no such tradition of blackface performance. (Or, to the extent it has been a traditional practice, it has been a very minor one.) If there is such a distinction, it suggests that the same act can assume different meanings, and be subject to different interpretations, by different audiences; further, that these interpretations are informed by national culture, and history (among other things). Finally (it is argued), Harry Connick Jnr, being a US citizen, is sensitive to such matters in a way that, say, Anand Kumaradeva, Suresh da Silva, Joseph Macdessi, Harry Koumoukelis, Mark Sader and David Jefferson, are not…

    A Brief History of Blackface

    In Spike Lee’s [2000] film Bamboozled, a television writer reinvents the black-face minstrel show as a 21st century network hit. In reality, television’s first real view of African-Americans came from that same minstrel tradition. It was 1951 when two black actors became television’s first African American stars in “The Amos and Andy Show,” which actually began as a radio show — with two white actors playing a pair of comically uneducated southern black men. “Amos and Andy” was America’s highest-rated radio show and became equally popular on television – without ever altering its crudely racist content.

    “Amos and Andy” arose out of an even earlier tradition of stereotypical entertainment that started in the 19th century: the minstrel show. The tradition began in the early 1800s on stage, with white actors using burnt corks to darken their skin – a method that became known as “black-face” – allowing them to portray African-American slaves, usually as lazy, child-like providers of comic relief. This evolved into Vaudeville-style parody shows consisting of songs, dances and comic repartee performed by white actors made up as blacks.

    The father of the American minstrel show was Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice, who in the 1830s drew immense popularity with a song-and-dance routine in which he impersonated an old, crippled black slave named Jim Crow. In New York City, the act of “Tambo and Bones” was one of the Manhattan stage’s biggest draws. These shows introduced some of Africa’s musical instruments – especially the banjo – to white audiences for the first time.

    After the Civil War, black entertainers themselves began to enter the tradition — appearing in black-face makeup themselves and forming their own minstrel theatres – taking with them the caricatures and stereotypes created by the white performers. Perhaps the first major black minstrel success was Brooker and Clayton’s Georgia Minstrels, who hailed themselves in their advertising as “The Only Simon Pure Negro Troupe in the World.” In 1876, the black group known as Callendar’s Minstrels broke the mold, and became the first African-American minstrel band to perform without black-face.

    Although the minstrel shows began to decline at the turn of the century, the tradition was continued in the newfangled entertainment forms of movies and radio. Early silent films continued to cast white actors in black-face as shiftless, lazy, comical characters. One of the most popular characters of the silent film era became the “Uncle Tom,” a head-scratching old black man portrayed by white actors in such films as For Massa’s Sake, Ten Pickaninnies and The Wooing and Wedding of A Coon. Other popular film stereotypes included the big, waddling black woman, often known as Mammy, who chased her man with a cast-iron skillets; and the chicken-stealing, shifty-eyed black hooligan, frequently named Rufus or Rastus. One of the most shocking examples of black-face in the silent era came in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, in which cinema’s largest early audiences were subjected to vivid images of white actors in black faces raping, stealing and threatening the people of the South.

    The “Talkies” saw the rise of Stepin Fetchit, a black comic named Lincoln Perry who became Hollywood’s first major African-American star, joining the ranks of other early film millionaires. Stepin Fetchit’s brilliant comic timing won the admiration of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin among others, but he was also criticized for perpetuating the stereotyped images of the day, playing what became known as “the laziest human being in the world.” His films included Hearts of Dixie, The Galloping Ghost and Helldorado – and Stepin Fetchit often received top billing with white actors.

    During the 1940s, Mantan Moreland (the inspiration for Savion Glover’s character Mantan on the “New Milliennial Minstrel Show”) became one of America’s top black stars. Although he starred in several of the era’s black-directed “race” movies – which were shown to segregated audiences in major urban centers – he became best known for his portrait of the wide-eyed, scared-to-death chauffeur, Birmingham Brown, in the Charlie Chan movies.

    It took decades for the scope of black life on film to begin to expand, but at the same time the rise of television provided a new outlet for images of African-Americans. Following a cry of outrage over “Amos N Andy”, the networks handled the controversy by staying away, rarely creating black-themed shows for several decades. Black television shows resurged in the 70s with such hits as “The Jeffersons”, “Benson”, “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Good Times” – but the one-dimensional and sometimes degrading comedy caused another backlash, with sit-coms showcasing upper-middle class African Americans like “The Cosby Show” taking off.

    Today, in a world of some 900 channels all competing for media-hungry audiences, diversity remains an unattained ideal. Some media scholars posit that urban talk shows – which often present troubled minorities for public consumption – are a direct descendent of minstrel stereotypes. Others point to the detrimental depictions of African-American characters in currently-running sitcoms as signs that the minstrel show continues to exert its influence. And, like poor Pierre Delacroix [the lead character in the film Bamboozled], lots of people have been looking for a change.

  3. dean says:

    thanks for the info…i’d heard of uncle tom, jim crow, mammie, amos and andy, but never knew it’s actual background…i see now why blackface pisses so many people off…but the furore here seemed to focus on cryin racism, without understanding that australian and american history is different, so intent was different. I heard kamahl comment on the issue the other day, and he reckons that in the past he’s been offended by some of the skits on hey hey…red symons and john blackman…but said that those 2 people weren’t racist as he’d had dealings with them off-air…but he did say that both of them have a shit sense of what is comedy!

  4. Ana says:

    “That Australia is once again defending itself against claims of racism is not surprising. That the cause of the furor is a childish, inappropriate racial ‘joke’ is even less of a surprise. Australian popular culture has a long held and often embarrassing tradition of wrapping racism in supposed humor.”

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/09/jackson.australia/index.html

  5. @ndy says:

    dean,

    I very much doubt that the six medical specialists from Sydney who performed ‘The Jackson Jive’ on ‘Hey Hey’ had any, consciously ‘racist’, intent. That is, the doctors did not sit down and agree among themselves prior to their performance that it would be totally neat-o to go on TV and perform an act intended to denigrate ‘blacks’. Rather, they were invited by the producers to reprise an act they originally performed on the show 20 years ago, when they was still students, and getting up to the kind of crazy hi-jinks medical students at the University of Sydney are renowned for; further, because it was funs then — and was still funs when they performed it for another group of students at a ‘revue’ at the University just a few months ago — they thought, perhaps for nostalgia’s sake, it would be funs now.

    But then, I don’t really think that this is the issue.

    Secondly, while it’s certainly the case that — barring those who regard Australia as being the 51st, or 52nd, or 53rd US state — Australia is a different place, with a different history, and a different ‘culture’, to the US, I don’t think it’s all that difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the kinda performance that The Not-So-Young Doctors enacted is inappropriate, offensive, and draws upon racist stereotypes. (Which is not suggest that The Not-So-Young Doctors are teh evil — maybe a little silly.) Which fact begs the question as to why the producers didnae think a little more carefully about the appropriateness of reprising ‘The Jackson Jive’. On which point, I think the Angry Aussie nails it:

    Ana,

    CNN is a mouthpiece for Teh International Jew! Australia is not racist! Australia is Good! I am Australian! Therefore I am Good! Take off that black armband! It’s all in good funs!

    (Et cetera.)

  6. @ndy says:

    Antic Hey Hey: On blackface, racism and disguise
    Derek Barry
    Woolly Days
    October 9, 2009

    …Blackface has a long history in Australia. On the tense night Ned Kelly was hanged, hundreds of people crammed into Melbourne’s Apollo Hall where they paid a shilling each to listen to Ned’s sister Kate and brother James. The hall was full despite the press downplaying the speakers as “relatives to that reckless scoundrel”. Apollo Hall was in a lively area of Bourke Street next to the Eastern Market and was primarily a blackface venue. The Georgia Minstrels sub-leased the hall to the Kelly siblings. According to Melissa Bellanta in her “Australian larrikins and the blackface minstrel dandy”, there is no suggestion that the minstrels performed on the night Kelly died. But Bellanta said the choice of venue was appropriate as the family was often described in terms of blackness.

    Occasionally an African-American would perform at Apollo Hall but usually the troupe were white people who “blacked up” using burnt cork. Their minstrelsy’s combination of character songs, ballads and burlesques attracted huge crowds and appealed to a far more diverse audience than in the US or Britain. A standard feature of each show had leading characters delivering a stump speech in “nigger” dialect.

    The meaning of nigger here is stylised African American speech as imagined by white Australians. But there weren’t many black Americans in colonial Australia. Their role at the bottom of the ladder was taken by the Irish and the Indigenous. Kelly’s family were poor white trash who missed out on the Australian gold boom of the 1850s and 60s. Ned and his brother Dan were “blackguards” and loved the attention of their two years of being outlaws. While they were on the run, a play called “Catching the Kellys” used white actors with black faces to portray the black trackers who failed in their attempts to hunt down the gang. At the end of the play, a plot twist revealed the blacks to be Irish.

    The play showed blackface in Australia moved with ease between caricaturing Aboriginals, Southern American slaves and the Irish. As far back as the medieval period, blackness signified a range of despised qualities so blackface had a history that pre-dated the first American minstrel shows. Minstrelsy was initially the preserve of the lowest classes. In New York and London, as in Australia, minstrel-acts were to be found in the cheapest saloons. In England, they migrated to music halls by including popular songs in their repertoire. Writing about madness in nineteenth-century America, Benjamin Reiss said that popular black minstrelsy was a proletarian provocation but which was often sanitised by white supremacists to fit their notion that blacks were backward. It is no wonder blackface became frowned upon in the more race-conscious 1980s and 1990s…

  7. learn2laugh says:

    To start with, it is amazing this comedy skit was even discussed in such a manner it has been since it aired.

    Fact, these 6 doctors did not even think about racism when they decided to do this act. Comedy is comedy, there will always be someone that is upset by a comedy routine. That is the nature of comedy. Usually comedians go for the easiest way out to get a laugh, and that goes for these 6 doctors.
    They could have decided to do an act about ABBA, dress up in Scandinavian clothes and paint their faces pure white, to represent the region where ABBA comes from. Does it mean, they are racially making fun of people whom come from Scandinavia, of course not.
    And it goes the same for the jackson jive act, it was all about visual effect for their act.

    It could be said in this day and age these sorta acts just can’t be put on TV or anywhere actually, but that has to go both ways. Black people can’t dress up as white people, whites can’t dress up as blacks, and etc etc for all races. Then the message can get through to everyone, and people can’t say then that there are double standards for one group and not the other.

    As others have stated, this just proves Australia does have a totally different culture to America and a sense of humor. Many have said over the years, Australia is the 51st state of America, this just proves no it isn’t.
    Australia is a proud and strong nation. A nation which boasts a melting pot of many different nationalities from around the world, and for the most part ALL Australian get along very well, compared to most multi-cultural countries.
    Australia are no more racist then china, india, AMERICA, or any other country, in fact, the majority of all Australians live peacefully with each other, no matter what your background is.

    Americans know very well this comedy skit was just that, a comedy, meant with no racist motives and yet some are latching on to it, to just be racist themselves.

    The skit was meant to be a joke, just like white chicks, Tropic Thunder etc etc. Don’t make something out to be more then it really is.

    Learn 2 laugh, with respect of course.

  8. @ndy says:

    Learn 2 think, with respect of course.

  9. dj says:

    Why does America get CAPS LOCK and no one else? Typographical imperialism I say!

  10. Pingback: Delta Goodrem has a great sense of humour | slackbastard

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