Nice Ansari Impersonation, But Brownface, Though?

Will wonders never cease? Host Miley Cyrus was not the one delivering the race fail on last weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live. A send-up of screen tests for the 50 Shades of 

Grey flick was a highlight of the show. But, in addition to impersonations of Christoph Waltz, Emma Stone and Seth Rogan, it included Nassim Pedrad wearing brownface to portray comedian Aziz Ansari. Both Aerogram and Prachi Gupta at Salon took SNL to task for the choice. Gupta offered, “Brownface is marginalizing, turning a person’s skintone into evidence of his or her ‘otherness’.”


  • Xi Xi Topp

    Yeah, I saw this & thought “sis, BOO!” immediately.
    Aman & justlikeoldtimes pretty much summed up the substantive points flawlessly.
    I’ll just add: why are the beard + eyebrows sparse & light brown tho? My boo Aziz has off black facial hair SNL!!

  • justlikeoldtimes

    Complaining about how “SNL hasn’t been good since _____” has become trite, which is unfortunate, because the show has been, and will be in the foreseeable future, behind the curve with its handling of race issues.

    Which is unfortunate, because I am absolutely tired of people who keep acting as is it should be culturally relevant or it’s some sacred institution worth protecting. Its core audience perpetually remains to be 14-year-olds who believe they’re consuming mature and subversive humor when the show’s the farthest thing from it.

    SNL failed to catch up with the times when every other show on TV finally realized there’s a untapped pool of funny Desi comedians and actors worth looking into. You’d think SNL would have found these guys before prime time television, but… nope.

    SNL couldn’t even find Asians to play Hu Jintao or Kim Jong-un. They got white dudes to do it. If I’m not mistaken, the only major Asian cast members ever were Rob Schneider and Fred Armisen. Heck, when the Linsanity saga first broke out, they failed to even mention it on their initial show despite being a huge New York story at the time. (The easiest way for an Asian to appear on SNL is by wearing a diaper. Look it up. Better yet, don’t.)

    All six of SNL’s new cast members this season are white. It’s understandable, because it’s impossible to find POC in New York City. Especially in 2013.

    Lorne Michaels did the expected thing when he appointed White Man he’s been grooming all along Seth Meyers to fill NBC’s newest vacancy in there weekday late night lineup. He’ll take Jimmy Fallon’s a spot, another White Man SNL alum he groomed. The only ***remotely*** progressive thing to come from SNL in the past decade was its promotion of the White Feminist Funny Woman archetype with the Fey/Poehler brands. (Which women like Lena Dunham quickly took to the most logical conclusion.)

    I’ll be blunt. SNL’s racism is not a side effect; it’s a feature of the show and it’s working as intended. Everyone will do our culture a favor if we all just stop using the show as a cultural barometer.

  • Aman

    On the one hand I completely get this and am annoyed that this happened – and continues to happen in media. On the other hand, I cannot help but be triggered because I feel like there is a subtle and not subtle way in which Nassim Pedrad’s identity as a not White person is being ignored. I, like Pedrad, am Iranian (I happen to be half) and I find that so often we Iranians and many other of us Others from that general part of the West Asian/East African world who are classified in the we-didn’t-choose-this-name title of Middle Eastern are ignored as being not White people. What annoys me about SNL is the use of a brown person to portray another brown person from that same general-ish area. And then I am annoyed that Pedrad’s brownness is also ignored. Here’s the deal, I know that as Iranians we are legally considered White. I have filled out enough paperwork that leaves me out to know this. And because of White supremacy and colonization and ll those lovely things, many Iranians love the idea of being classified as white. At the same time, ask me when a white person treated me like I am white…ZERO times. We are Others. Like so many other Others we sometimes can hide it, but the clues are always there. Pedrad’s name and physical features are give aways.
    And, I am annoyed at Pedrad. I don’t know the circumstances of this situation. Maybe she thought it was funny. Maybe she thought it was terrible. I don’t know. I do know I wish she had said no.