|The Black Face is back on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia!|
The Black Face was once considered the height of thespian accoutrement, the pinnacle of artistic freedom:
The stock characters of blackface minstrelsy have played a significant role in disseminating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide. Every immigrant group was stereotyped on the music hall stage during the 19th Century, but the history of prejudice, hostility, and ignorance towards black people has insured a unique longevity to the stereotypes. White America's conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by minstrelsy's mocking caricatures and for over one hundred years the belief that Blacks were racially and socially inferior was fostered by legions of both white and black performers in blackface.In a bid to introduce diversity to a monochromatic cast, It's Always Sunny resurrected the long dormant tradition of Black Face in an episode that aired last night, entitled "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth":
I’ll say it right now, the first half of the episode was pretty slow and the pacing was way off. The best part of the episode, hands down, was the screening of Mac, Dennis, Charlie and Frank’s film, Lethal Weapon 5. Charlie uses his Borat accent for one of the henchmen. Frank plays the villainous Indian casino owner, whose evil scheme is to taint the city’s tap water. He also has an unnecessary and completely disgusting love scene with a breathy blond (worst love scene ever). Top it all off, Mac and Dennis switch parts half way through the movie. And then there are the little touches, like Dee walking into frame as she tries to take out the trash, the 10 second gun salute at the end and Frank credited as “Love Scene Choreographer.” Lethal Weapon 5 kind of represents every low budget fan film that’s still bad, but helped by the misguided enthusiasm of the people in it. It’s kind of why Plan 9 from Outer Space is laughable, but more-or-less watchable.The glorious return of Black Face to television could only have been courtesy of the creators of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show that acts like Black people don't even exist in a city where Black people routinely cast an ominous shadow over the notion of Brotherly love.
I wasn’t sure how the boys’ debate about blackface would go, but it was pretty funny for the sheer stupidity of it. Even when taking on a racy subject like this, what keeps Always Sunny charming is that the characters aren’t trying to be racist. In fact, there’s a whole scene where Frank, Mac and Dennis try to figure out what is actually appropriate. Mac’s attempt to rationalize blackface is so misguided, “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 asshole?” Come on Mac — 0f course blackface is inappropriate. Your performance as Danny Glover just proves that. But watching the confused Frank be told that James Earl Jones was not wearing blackface — that Darth Vader is actually a black man — was great.
Let us hope that this episode will bring about a revolution and renaissance in the usage of Black Face, for it might help ensure that shows with nominally Black people (well, a white actor using makeup to look Black) will last longer than one season and secure that elusive white audience to enable the shows continued success.
It should be noted that the pilot of It's Always Sunny was entitled The Gang Gets Racist...