by guest contributor The Thin Black Duke, originally published at Slant Truth 2.0
I’m not a fan of Sarah Silverman. I find her humor juvenile and often offensive. She will stoop to the lowest level possible to try and get a laugh. Yet I was still shocked to learn that a recent episode of her show, titled “Face Wars,” went so low as to contain (oh yeah…you guessed it…the hip trend of last year hasn’t gone away yet) Silverman in blackface. Take a look:
Yep, she went there.
Now, I’m a big fan of comedy, especially subversive comedy, and so I understand that many comedians exploit stereotypes to get their point accross. Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Sacha Baron Cohen, among many others have all to varying degrees of success exploited racial/ethnic/religious stereotypes to get a point across. The difference, for me, is that they all exploited racial/ethnic/religious stereotypes in order to expose the ignorance of those stereotypes. In Silverman’s episode, it seems to me that she is revelling in stereotypes and trying to be as offensive as she possibly can. When I saw the bit where a black man is wearing a big nose and a t-shirt that reads “I love money” (the black man and Silverman attempt to switch places so that Silverman can prove that Jews have it worse than blacks, as if that’s a question worth asking) I almost threw my computer monitor out the window.1 Really? Did she need to go there? If you haven’t seen the episode you probably don’t get where I’m going here, but in the context of the show it is nothing but offensive to me and serves no purpose other than to perpetuate the faux black/Jewish divide.
What really gets my goat about this episode is that it’s all played off as “starting a dialogue about race.” Um no. All I see is the worst stereotypes about black folks and Jewish folks being perpetuated with little to no actual commentary on why these stereotypes are messed up in the first place. It’s all shock. No commentary. And when it has all ended, she has painted herself as the most “open-minded.” To wit, this little supposedly funny bit from the show:
“What do we want?”
“The freedom to explore issues of race in American culture through the use of post-modern dramatic irony.”
“When do we want it?”
“We think it’s fairly obvious.”
That could be funny in a lot of comedic situations, but here, I find it all too telling.