Dear SNL, It’s Time to Retire Virginiaca

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

“There’s mama drama at the mall!”

Do you ever just want to throw a very heavy object toward your television? I don’t even own a functioning television at present, using my laptop instead to get caught up on all the shows I miss (thanks Netflix, ABC, NBC, MTV, etc etc), but I still want to throw something very heavy and with a lot of force towards the LCD screen when Keenan Thompson comes onto the set of Saturday Night Live. Most of his depictions of black people, be they male or female, are racist and steeped in tired, overused stereotypes. When I see Keenan in drag, however, I become even more enraged because, considering the already heavy dark cloud of negative stereotypes of black women in film and on tv, I don’t think a black man needs to be adding to the fray simply because SNL hasn’t cast a black woman since, to the best of my recollection, Ellen Cleghorn (it’s sad that I even had to GUESS this!). Former cast member Maya Rudolph, who is of a multiracial background (she is the daughter of  the late singer Minnie Riperton and producer Richard Rudolph), often played black female characters, but in a way that I felt was often humorous without being offensive. Thompson, however, cannot seem to follow in Rudolph’s footsteps.

Thompson’s most grave offense toward black women to date, in my opinion, is his portrayal of Virginiaca, a poorly behaved, inappropriately sexual black woman who’s fallen into some money by marrying a wealthy white man. As a reference for those of you who cannot view the Hulu clips,  in the typical “Shopping with Virginiaca” sketch, Virginiaca (Keenan Thompson,clad in an ill-fitting, tacky denim suit) takes her white stepdaughter (who now behaves in the same, stereotype-fulfilling way as Virginiaca, only it’s *reeeaaally funny* because the actress is white and “acting black”) to a retail store where they are both refused service as a result of their loud, outlandish behavior until Virginiaca mentions she is married to Cedrick Earlsworth Hasting, a white aluminum tubing magnate. Post name-dropping, Virginiaca and her daughter receive service, albeit at arm’s length. All of this is the framework for the climax of the mother-daughter pair booty dancing and Virginiaca sexually harassing the white, male store clerk.

For longtime readers of Racialicious, you may know that I’ve  mentioned my bone to pick with Keenan over Virginiaca before. The first time I saw Virginiaca was when Ellen Page was the special guest (the transcript which, by itself, is frightening enough, can be found here):

Then I saw it again (above) this weekend with Blake Lively of Gossip Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame.

Sadly, there are more Virginiaca sketches than I thought. A quick search on the internet brings forth gifts of Virginiaca sketches that include Scarlett Johansson, Jaime Pressly, and another with Justin Timberlake.

The fact that the skit continues without interruption. I recall that following my having written the previous assault on the Virginiaca sketch, a few readers wondered what could be done. One option? Voice your opinion. If the Virginiaca skit bothers you as much as it does me, please write NBC and give them a piece of your mind.

SNL Executive Staff (for your reference):

Executive producer: Lorne Michaels

Produced by: Steve Higgins

Director: Don Roy King

Supervising Producer: Ken Aymong

Producers: Marci Klein, Michael Shoemaker

Head Writer: Seth Meyers

Writers: Doug Abeles, James Anderson, Alex Baze, Jessica Conrad, James Downey, Steve Higgins, Colin Jost, Erik Kenward, Rob Klein, John Lutz, Seth Meyers, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney, Paula Pell, Simon Rich, Marika Sawyer, Akiva Schaffer, John Solomon, Emily Spivey, Kent Sublette, Jorma Taccone, Bryan Tucker (*note that Thompson is NOT one of the writers)

Writing Supervised by: Paula Pell

NBC/Universial Executive Bios: http://www.nbcuni.com/About_NBC_Universal/Executive_Bios/

General Contact Form: http://www.nbc.com/contact/general/

Questions/Concerns email: feedback@nbcuni.com