Black actors and actresses such as Steppin Fetchit, Rochester and Hattie McDowell all playing buffoons or mammies in the movies of yesteryear was being discussed after Morgan Freeman who stars in the movie “Evan Almighty” was stated to be in “Full-on Magic Negro Mode” by Slate magazine. Prince Joe Henry who wrote an article called “Evan Help Us” where he states “However, those aforementioned blacks were heroes to the black masses. Their gifted antics relieved stress in time of need. They taught blacks how to laugh at themselves while under duress, as well as joke about how they were treated. At times laughable quips served better than medicine.”
Now I have to admit that blacks were under a tremendous amount of stress as we are at this time. So to have a way to blow off steam was and is a great idea, but I am wondering at which point did playing the buffoon turn into a repetitive ongoing role. It seems that we have just as many or maybe even more buffoons today than in the past. We have our Michael Epps, Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence, Tyler James Williams, Anthony Anderson and oh so many more who no doubt are totally accustomed to playing our modern day buffoons. Unfortunately the females are in the running as well becoming so adept at playing the Hattie McDowell mammy character like Queen Latifah, Oprah, Whoopie Goldberg, Nell Carter, Rah Digga just to name a few.
We just don’t seem to get it; we are either playing the role of savior to whites, their worst fear or comic relief. What is wrong with that, it seems that we are getting a variety of roles within these parameters so again what’s the problem? The problem is that we don’t have many if any roles that portray a black person who is in touch with their roots. Yes we have our Will Smiths’, Denzel Washington’s Don Cheadle’s and Morgan Freeman types playing the leading black male etc. The problem with the roles these black males are playing is that they are racially ambiguous. It would be so easy to slip in a Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt or Ben Affleck into the role and the character wouldn’t change just the way the acting comes across.
Whenever you hear about blacks playing the buffoon or whatever black stereotype you can name, someone says that they had no choice if they wanted to make it in films or that if they didn’t do it someone else would. Why, is all I can think of, why is it that they had no choice you always have a choice? No one forced them into these stupid roles. If they and or any other black being offered these roles had some integrity then NO one would have played or will ever play these idiotic roles that always seems to be affixed to black people. Being that it’s all about me with most people, if one of those aforementioned actors didn’t do it, then you are damn sure someone else would have.
If an actual film or television show like the one portrayed in Bamboozled, you probably could get some “all about me” blacks to dress up in black face and put on that minstrel. Then sure enough you would have a gaggle of blacks watching and see nothing wrong with the show and in fact right now a bunch of people reading this see no problem with the roles these blacks are pushing on our community. What I think is that as a community we should own our persona and take steps to protect it. This will ensure that the black people especially children will have some positive role models.