Back in the day, I thought this was Funny…

Back in the day, I was a Nickelodeon Junkie. I loved shows like Clarissa Explains It All, My Brother and Me, Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Hey Dude and All That. Suffice it to say, I am the quintessential 90s kid.

Any way, this post is hardly about 90s cartoons. Instead it’s about the seemingly, innocuous image of Black women in comedy and the media in general. I would like to draw your attention to the following clip from the 90s  Nickelodeon TV show, All That.

All That Skit- The Convenience Store: 

…After watching that clip as an adult, the first thing that came to mind was…”and to think, at one time, I thought this was funny.” Yes, the last time I had seen this short skit from All That was when I was a kid. I distinctly remember watching this episode and finding it hilarious.

Today, as an adult, I can see the plethora of stereotypes, demeaning images and classist references in this skit and they’re anything, but funny to me. We have three “Black women,” portrayed as rude, ignorant, tacky and unintelligent. In this short skit, so many stereotypes of Black women are replayed, that it’s mind-blowing. We have the sapphire stereotype, Jezebel stereotype just to name a couple. What makes these stereotypes even more disconcerting is the fact that two out of the three “black women,” portrayed in the scene are played by Black male actors. Nick Cannon and (no surprise here) Keenan Thompson.

The third Black woman is portrayed by Christy Knowings. In all my childhood years of watching All That, I can only recall seeing two Black women, Christy Knowings and Angelique Bates. Although this is not much representation, it’s still more than some modern-day Comedy Shows, like say…Saturday Night Live, which has only had 4 Black women cast member since it’s inception in 1975. Although, they are reportedly adding a new Black female cast member soon.

Speaking of Saturday Night Live, it should come as no surprise that Keenan Thompson would transition from portraying an ignorant, stereotypical Black woman sapphire to portraying loud-mouthed, ignorant Black women on Saturday Night Live…nor should it be surprising that he thinks Black women aren’t funny enough to be on SNL.

Virginia

What is most disturbing to me is that these are images of Black women that I grew up on and as a child, they seemed like nothing more than good, old fun. Now, as an adult when I see and feel the impact of these stereotypes, it makes me sick to think that children grow up on these images so much that when we see Black women misrepresented or mistreated, it’s comical to us. I have never gotten over the Antoine Dodson fiasco. A young Black woman who is living in poverty is attacked and sexually molested by a stranger and it becomes comedy for the world. While many people were cheering Antoine on and making songs about his genuine concern for his sister, I was sickened. It’s nice that it turned out somewhat well, but what truly was overlooked in all the hoopla about Antoine was the fact that Kelly’s experience was a  tragedy and a stark reminder of the powerless position that many Black women (especially those of lower income background) are forced into. It’s truly saddening when the sexual abuse of a Black woman is seen as comedy.

  I wonder if it’s easier to disregard Black women’s experiences with racism and sexism when we are indoctrinated with images, like that of Virginiaca from SNL and the three Black women at the All That Convenience Store, from a young age.  In reality, these images of Black women objectify and stereotype, they are not comedy. When we live in a racist society, its impossible not to be affected by these images in a negative way.

I wonder if when people looked at Kelly Dodson, they didn’t see a woman, but instead saw the image that they were taught to see. Did they see a LaQuisha/Latasha/Lanisha or Virginiaca, instead of a woman who was victimized and dehumanized?

When Renisha McBride went knocking on a stranger’s door for help, did the stranger see a woman in need or did he see an aggressive, potentially dangerous and ignorant Black woman like those portrayed in our culture?

When I think about the mistreatment of Black women and I see images like these in the media, they don’t seem so harmless to me anymore.

So, we have to ask ourselves…are these images just harmless, all-in-good fun comedy or are they something more…and what does it mean when a children’s show could so readily portray such racist/stereotypical images of Black women?

It’s no wonder that many from my generation didn’t bat an eye when Black women were continuously mocked and derided on shows like SNL or in Pepsi Max Superbowl commercials. We grew up on these images…

9 thoughts on “Back in the day, I thought this was Funny…

  1. I look back on some of the things that were funny to me before I awoke and now I see the stereotypes everywhere. i don’t remember the episode of all that where they had these stereotypes, the black males that dress up as black women are dead to me. they are nothing but cooning men. but u let a white person put on black face and make fun of them and omg how dare they. but at the same time black women have to stop supporting this mess. i’ll admit i used to watch madea with my parents but now i don’t. people can’t be hypocrites and say oh black women are portrayed negatively and then turn around and support some men and women that portray stereotypes about black women. Oh and the comedians need to stop making dumb jokes about black women as well. All these images from cartoons are used to brainwash ppl at young ages, tom and jerry had the mammy, dumbo had the coonin crows, some bugs bunny episodes,all these images seem innocent and funny but when u get older u realize the hidden messages.

  2. also in a lot of movies u notice the bad characters are darker while the good characters are lighter. lion king the darker lion was bad the lighter lion was good. in Aladdin jafar was darker than Aladdin and was the bad guy. Then we wonder why black kids always point to the black doll when they ask which one is the bad doll?

  3. Kenan should not have dressed up to mock any sister. Unfortunately, we all need to make money in Amerikkka. Why-te men have no respect for Black Men. The only way some why-te men can tolerate black men existing is if they see him as a Black Woman. I have had why-te men call me “sweetie”. Even during slavery, they raped black men when no black woman was around. They do not see the Black Man as the Father to all civilization. When asked how they got here, they always say that a Neanderthal mated with a Black Woman.

  4. The thing you keep forgetting is that most black women who act like this are from the ghetto or at least low-income housing. And most black stars or celebrities are from there (as majority of black individuals in America are poor). I rarely see a middle class black man or woman who had two parent home with both respectable parents make fun of blacks using ghetto stereotypes. Most blacks here (as many of us were raised or still live in ghetto/poor neighborhoods) have seen many or at least ONE relative, neighbors etc. who acted like those people in the video. I’m 100% sure Nick Cannon knows someone personally who acts like that. Most black people don’t want to admit it, but black women and men are living up to these stereotypes, where do you think they came from??

    • yes there are unfortunately some black ppl that fit these stereotypes and serve as confirmation bias, but why are they the ones mostly represented. that is the problem we don’t have a healthy balance, most of what we see are the dysfunctional, loud, rude blacks acting on tv. whites have negative stereotypes about them like the redneck but u also see the balance where they have more movies and shows with them being superheros and family oriented. and u don’t see that many shows of white males dressing as white women and playing to stereotypes about white women.
      black actors and actresses play what role they are given, they don’t have many options, even if they do come from a 2 parent middle class family, that does not guarantee they will not stoop to that level. we have a lot of people that are willing to sell each other out from every class and background. black actors learn that in order to be successful they do have to compromise and play to stereotypes to get major roles. a lot of actors and actresses have played maids, gangstas, drug addicts, etc to get where they are. yes they should be held accountable but the people writing the script and the people going to watch the mess are the bigger problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s