That's Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind, playing a role that sadly remains a fixture in pop culture: the "big, funny, sassy black woman who teaches whitey how to laugh" (that's from Radar magazine's great roundup of the top ten stereotypes in movie history. They include, among others, such classics as the Asian exchange student! the irie Jamaican! and that same lovable Indian character that has been making cameos since The Party.
Of course, just about all of the stereotypes in the piece make sporadic appearances on commercials to this day. Do any of you fellow Canadians wince at that recent Rogers ad with the big black aunt on the phone?!. Stereotypes like this are just one reason why a lot of ads often seem awkwardly out-of-sync with culture, seemingly suspended in a place and time detached from reality.
I was thinking about stereotypes and racism while watching Grey's Anatomy tonight, because racism and "insensitivity" has been a hot topic over the last couple of weeks or so. Fans of the show will know about one of the main actors, Isiah Washington, admitting himself into counselling (he likes to call a fellow actor "faggot" a lot, which likely can't be doing much good for his career. In Washington's (own?) words:
"I regard this as a necessary step toward understanding why I did what I did and making sure it never happens again. I appreciate the fact that I have been given this opportunity and I remain committed to transforming my negative actions into positive results, personally and professionally."
WTF? What kind of bullshit is that? Washington is in his 40's, not Grade 3. He's going to talk to someone about using the word "faggot"? Doesn't this seem a bit odd, and totally contrived? Does anyone buy this?
PC is back, if it ever went away, but for some reason it just seems slightly surreal and strange to me this time around. The Big Brother incident in the UK is another example which I can't really make sense of. I don't watch the show here, but even reading about the whole thing is a bit crazy. Now the the Indian Government has promised to "take appropriate measures". The Indian Government?! What measures? I'm lost. I know the two incidents are totally different, but for some reason they give me the same uneasy feeling. Where's Borat when you really need him?