Social Question

Demosthenes's avatar

Is "ironic racism" funny anymore? Was it ever funny?

Asked by Demosthenes (14909points) June 23rd, 2020
20 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

“Ironic racism” in this context meaning the portrayal of a character in a TV show or movie or book as racist to mock racism, i.e. the character in question is supposed to be hated or an idiot or completely oblivious to what they’re doing. The idea is that this character’s racism mocks racists and racism rather than endorses it.

The problem with “ironic racism” is that even if the intent was to mock racists, actual racists would not get the satire and would simply laugh at it because their racist ideas are apparently being validated, i.e. so-called “wrong laughter”.

The show 30 Rock had a few episodes where characters wore blackface, in particular the vain air-headed character Jenna Maroney. Tina Fey, the creator of the show, has called for the episodes in question to be removed from streaming services citing that this kind of satirical racism is no longer relevant and may be perceived as offensive even if the intent was not to offend.

Can this kind of “ironic racism” work as satire? Or is it just offensive?

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elbanditoroso's avatar

All in the Family had its share of ironic racism (Archie Bunker) but I think it was to prove a point and to educate. But I don’t think they ever did black-face on AITF.

I wonder how All in the Family would be seen today.

chyna's avatar

^ Excellent example.

janbb's avatar

I thought of All in the Family too. ( think at the time most of us knew that Archie was an idiot and the Meathead the moral center of the show but now it could be seen as pandering to racism. Personally I don’t think that should be taken off the air but there is a line to be drawn somewhere.

gondwanalon's avatar

I never watched all in the Family much. What I did see back in the 70’s I remember as pretty boring.
I think the Mel Brooks movie “Blazing Saddles” will always be outrageously funny. I don’t think that skin color matters in this case as it’s just so over the top. Makes me laugh just thinking about it. HA!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Blazing Saddles was my first thought too. No way in hell that movie could be made now. It was so exaggerated in how it mocked racism that it was funny. People are just wound up to tight for this now.

filmfann's avatar

Years ago, Megyn Kelly defended wearing blackface. Not long after, a Washington Post editor went to a Halloween party as Megyn Kelly in blackface.
Several people said it was offensive. That was the point! People missed the irony.
I find that totally acceptable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I immediately thought of All in the Family too. The thing about Archie, though, was yeah. He was racist as hell…but he also grew and evolved and learned. This Jewish funeral was a prime example of that.

ucme's avatar

All in the Family was based on the long running BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part
The original British show ran from the mid 60’s up until 1980 when a spin off…In Sickness and in Health followed.

Alf Garnett was the central Archie Bunker character, a working class, cockney racist.
The working perception being that Alf was to be ridiculed for his blatant bigoted attitude & viewers were meant to laugh at him rather than with.

To answer the question, while well intentioned, I believe the flaw in that comedic premise is overestimating the intellect of a minority of your target audience.
Racists would not get the joke, the running theme required nuanced thought & as we all know, these dummies are, well…stupid!

That concept of comedy has had It’s day, which is for the best, I think.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Archie Bunker & George Jefferson come to mind.
I thought there was a stage version of The Jeffersons not too long ago.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I think the problem with perceived racism right now is, kid, young adults, not understanding the “back then” of things.
They hear grandparents speak about being involved with this or that March, a sit in, being attacked.
They never saw how things really were. Today, if someone of color does not get a job they applied for, many will assume racism is involved. If they dit back, and do the numbers, it probably would not show confirmation.
I remember a time when a black man, who was a friend and I liked a lot, asked me to be his gf.
I said no. In a blink he asked if it was because he was black. I said no, it was because I already had a bf. There was a lot more conversation involved, but I pointed out that since arriving at that base, probably fifty white men had asked me, and only one black man. I maintained a friendship with maybe ten percent of the white men who asked, but one hundred percent of the black men.
He saw then, that there was no racism, but that black men had failed to step up, so to speak.

Lots of folks who were not there for the down and dirty days of social reform don’t understand that not everything in a negative light is about racism. In fact, very little actually is.
Archie bunker is outdated only because the show is all rhetoric. It doesn’t portray real, dirty, vicious racist behavior. He never beats the shit out of Edith for letting “them” into his house. There’s no lynching, or one person cornered by a group of whites for a beating. It is watered down racism, and gives the wrong impression of what was really fought over during civil rights activism.
I’m not saying there is no more racist sentiment or activity, but now vs. then is vastly different, and younger persons don’t seem to understand that they can no longer expect every negative thing they encounter these days are race based issues.
Archie was funny because compared to the “way back” of things, he was a whiny hold out from change. Change happened all around the impotent, whining Archies.
Nowadays, Archie Bunker is a cringey look at behavior that can be expected from a racist person, but is not a basis for comparison.

Blazing Saddles is still funny, because it was so over the top, nobody was going to believe it anyway. By over the top, I don’t mean an extreme example of danger, I mean the overreaction to little things, like fainting because a black man said hi.
I think being able to laugh helps to dissolve active racism. It is a slippery slope though, being able to keep it humorous without encouraging bad behavior.

kritiper's avatar

I guess it depends on who you ask. Ironic racial differences (non-racist) are probably funny for everyone.

kritiper's avatar

Actually, blackface is ironic racism.

Patty_Melt's avatar

By the way, @elbanditoroso, Archie Bunker did do black face. I remember seeing a show with him and best friend in black face and white tux and top hats for a show put on by their lodge.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When my daughter was a baby she cried a lot. A LOT. I ran it past the doctor who just shrugged her shoulders. No telling what might set her off, either.
One time we were at a second hand store and I had her in my arms. She was maybe 3 months old. Some black guy approached us, and got right in her face talking baby talk. She started crying.
The guy said, “She doesn’t like black people, does she.”
JFC!!! She’s only a few months old! She doesn’t like strangers getting up in her face.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I can’t find anywhere that shows he did blackface @Patty_Melt. I even searched Youtube.
Could you provide us with a link?

Patty_Melt's avatar

Seriously, no trick whatsoever to find it.
Just like I remembered it, only I forgot the baby part.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Meathead is calling them out on it.

kritiper's avatar

I remember the Archie Bunker doing blackface. He and three buddies were doing for a minstrel show. A song and dance routine.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Does he get points for feeling embarrassed, and trying to back out?

kritiper's avatar

Oh, of course not! But Mike gives him hell for it. Archie doesn’t understand what the problem is with what he and his pals are doing. To him, it’s all so innocent.

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