Social Question

filmfann's avatar

When is wearing blackface make-up acceptable?

Asked by filmfann (45753points) 1 week ago

Many politicians and celebrities have done it. For some, it means the end of their careers. For others, it’s hardly a speed bump.
Have you ever worn blackface?

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36 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

The series Community had a Dungeons and Dragons episode where one of the guys wore blackface to look like a drow elf wizard. It hasn’t been pulled off the air yet. I’ve never worn blackface.

The true story “Black like me” the anthropologist wore blackface to understand what it felt like being black in America.

ragingloli's avatar

When you are Robert Downey Jr. and are playing Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder.

Demosthenes's avatar

When no one finds out about it.

I thought it was funny when Jenna Maroney wore blackface in 30 Rock or when Robert Downey Jr. did it in Tropic Thunder. I think it works in certain comedic situations. I think anyone who’s thinking of going into politics should avoid it.

No, I’ve never worn blackface. I did once attend a politically incorrect dinner in college whose theme was “black stereotype food”, but there’s no photos of it, so you can’t prove I was there :P

elbanditoroso's avatar

I never have, but then I grew up in the 60s.

My view is that it’s offensive to people, and I tend not to want to be offensive. So I wouldn’t. My circle of friends wouldn’t do it either.

Would others? I’m sure there are. I just don’t know them.

rebbel's avatar

When you live in the Netherlands and are anticipating in the annual children’s fest Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas has helpers (Zwarte Piet/Black Pete), who are blackfaced, kind of boogie men.
The country is devided about it, for at least a month each year.
Some cities now do rainbow Pieten, or soot smeared Petes.

kritiper's avatar

When you are doing it in honor of another person, or in a way that does not insult or demean.

Dutchess_III's avatar

How would a white person feel if a black person painted their face white to honor someone? I would find it quite odd.

janbb's avatar

@rebbel I’ve read that Zwarte Piet was under attack.

Yellowdog's avatar

If you are playing the part of a character, historic figure or superhero who is African American. Or doing it tastefully.

Most people GREATLY overestimate how dark the pigmentation of African Americans. Even African American children, when coloring a picture with crayons, use a dark brown color. African – pigmented skin is only a few shades darker than atypical Caucasian skin. In fact there is a lot of overlap.

Its the facial features of equatorial and sub-Saharan natives that separates ‘races’ as much as color or pigmentation,

Putting shoe polish on one’s face is tasteless and offensive.

If you are playing a DROW or other jet-black skinned fantasy character or race, that’s not the same as African American. Black or Dark elves have jet black skin and elven features, not African or Equatorial features.

Zwarte Peit, in my opinion, they ought to make him an authentic Morrocan or North African child (whatever his origin) or even a sub-Saharan African. If they did it tastefully and authentically, using a real African child nowadays, it wouldn’t be offensive. As long as it was portrayed as a helper or companion and not a boogieman or Krampus or beast or slave. Krampus is a monster, not a black child.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I would opine that context is a huge variable.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Loli’s right. The line between makeup and black face is elusive. Olivier as Othello!

MrGrimm888's avatar

Hey Dutch. You must not be an Eddie Murphy fan. He dressed up as a white person on SNL. Very funny skit. I highly recommend it.

Stache's avatar

Only a black man or woman can answer this and even then you won’t find them 100% agreeable.

You can’t win so you might as well don’t even try it.

kritiper's avatar

@Stache Oh! But Dude! That is blatant discrimination!

Stache's avatar

@kritiper Please describe in detail the last time you were discriminated against because of your skin color. Maybe then the rest of us will understand your sense of humor.

kritiper's avatar

Last week there was a black man walking past me in a parking lot. He walked past me without even looking up to say hello, like I wasn’t even there.
The same thing happened today. Different black man, same attitude.
Young white people who I hold the door open for and they don’t look at you or say thank you.
Like I’m nothing.
NOBODY should discriminate against anyone, ever. It doesn’t matter what color one’s skin is.
Unless you think only white people discriminate?? Is that why you think “only a black man or woman can answer” the question?

Stache's avatar

The history of white oppression is equivalent. I get it.~

JLeslie's avatar

Never ok to wear it in that cartoonish way of dark painted face with some white edges like a mask.

Making oneself look black all over is more of a blurry line in my opinion, but I’m white, so I’m not sure my opinion should really count.

If a white actor is playing a black character then if they darken their skin to look more like the character it seems to me that should be ok. Actors change hair color, hair style, their nose, and other features, why is skin color different in that circumstance?

I saw a Toddler in Tiaras where a little girl wanted to do a Beyoncé song and dance as her talent and she asked her mom for more tanner to be darker. She wanted to be Beyoncé’s color. She wasn’t making fun of black people, she wanted to be like Beyoncé. I don’t think that little girl had any clue about hatred. Was it offensive? I’d be curious what Beyoncé thinks about it. Certainly the girl could have done the routine without darkening her skin, but in a way, if I ignore the history, it was nice that this very young child saw nothing but wanting to look like her favorite music artist.

More recently, there has been uproar over someone dressing as a TV series character and darkening their skin for a Halloween costume. I don’t think there is mal intent in that, but it is iffy. If a black person wears a mask for Halloween of another race is it racist? I see people wear President masks all the time. The thing is, on Halloween are people usually dressing up as people they dislike or like? I think it’s the former, but I don’t know.

If a couple dress as Lucy and Ricky, and the Ricky isn’t Hispanic himself is that offensive? I see people dress up as nuns and priests, is that offensive? What about dressing as a Jewish person for a part or for Halloween? As a rabbi, or as Bernie Sanders? I understand black face has a specific history, so maybe that is different than dressing as other minorities or other groups in general.

I’ve never worn black face, I’ve never in real life seen someone wear it. I would be shocked if I did see someone in real life wearing it. I can’t see any situation where I would do it. I think it’s advisable for no one to do it.

I recently saw on Facebook a classroom of children holding up blackface masks in front of their faces reciting a poem I think? Some sort of writing. That’s insane to me what the hell was that teacher thinking?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Never have personally and see no reason to. Closest anyone I know gets is a charcoal facial mask.

raum's avatar

I think the portrayal of blackface if used to bring attention to why it is problematic is an instance where it might be acceptable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I believe black face started a a few hundred years ago when they would put on plays. The play would call for a black character, but heaven forbid they have an actual black person play a black character, so they painted a white person’s face black.

Response moderated (Obscene)
filmfann's avatar

Is a Michael Jackson tribute offensive?
What about Billie Crystal portraying Sammy Davis Jr. on SNL?
What about Olivier performing Othello?

janbb's avatar

@filmfann I think they now would be considered so.

Yellowdog's avatar

Since the early 1980s, Michael Jackson was actually quite pale.

What seems to be offensive is ridiculing the persona and overdoing the color. Attempts to emulate a character or celebrity in a tasteful way, or do an AUTHENTIC makeover to look African American, is not objectionable, Not all white people can pull it off, however. Chiseled North European features and light eyes make it pretty hard to do. But about 60% of North American caucasians can wear hairpieces and makeup only a few shades darker and pull off being a light-skinned African American quite successfully and tastefully imho

KNOWITALL's avatar

@filmfan Its not intellectually necessary for any reason imo.

In the old days it was socially acceptable, like Mexicans playing indian, or E Taylor playing an Egyptian, etc… A tribute to Michael Jackson is about music and love, not his appearance.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Yellowdog I’ve seen a racist do it, for Halloween. It wasnt funny. He is no longer my friend either.

Yellowdog's avatar

Isn’t that what Virginia Governor Ralph Northam did with his Moonwalk?

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb So, now SNL can’t have characters of one race play people who are African American from what I’m hearing here. I’m not arguing with that, just restating it to make sure I’m clear. What about a man playing a woman? Is the male actor who plays Whoopi Goldberg being offensive? Is it only imitating African Americans that’s the problem, or should we stop making fun of all people as a society?

When the comedian Margaret Cho mimics the accent of her Asian mother in her routine it seems it is acceptable, but one time when Rosie O’Donnell did an Asian accent impromptu to make a joke a lot of people went crazy saying how offensive it was. If it is offensive, should it be that only people from the same race or ethnicity can make the joke? Maybe the jokes or impersonations shouldn’t be done at all anymore.

I’m not a big fan of the impersonations myself, and I have never been very entertained by SNL. Although, I admit that I think Cho is very funny, and I thought Rosie was funny that time also.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Well thats pretty much where we’re at. Comedians are no longer exceptions to the PC society.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t watch SNL so I don’t know. I’m not stating whether I agree or not, it just seems to be where we’re at. And of course, there is still plenty of overt racism which is acceptable by racists. Culture is not a monolith.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb @KNOWITALL I really am not sure how I feel about the comedy aspect at this point. Shows like Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond is mostly people making fun of their own culture, although sometimes an actor is playing a different religion or ethnicity. Still, some of it reinforces stereotypes that maybe some people find offensive.

Maybe the line of what’s ok is just moving, but some things are still ok? Hard to keep up with it. I can see the argument for not joking in this way. However, I joke about my own family fitting some of the funny stereotypes so I don’t even know what to think.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I remember SNL in the 70s and Eddie Murphy making black jokes….

JLeslie's avatar

Lots of recent examples of black people making some fun of their own. Preacher on America’s Got Talent, Chris Rock, Tyler Perry, the show Blackish, the list goes on.

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