By Mark Frauenfelder at 11:47 am Mon, Nov 9, 2009
A Russian actor's group called "Big Difference" (Bolshaya Raznitsa / Ð‘Ð¾Ð»ÑŒÑˆаÑ РазниÑ†а) remade The Matrix as a Charlie Chaplin silent film. (Via Neatorama)
Huzzah, , encore!
@the chemist (and others crying “racism!”)
Okay, I’ll bite.
The Hey Hey (Australian TV) thing was clueless and offensive, although arguably not malevolently racist (just bloody stupid and really, really ill-conceived). Whatever humour there was in that skit (and I couldn’t see any) derived from showing “black” people acting in a stupid and ridiculous manner ie. holding each other by the hips and jumping around crotch-thrusting. While it was supposedly a parody of the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson, it had nothing at all to do with either, other than the costume worn by the lead dancer in whiteface. Hence offensive.
This (the matrix short) is clever and funny. All the humour comes from an understanding of the stylistic conventions of the time, and the clever way that the SF/cyberpunk storyline of the Matrix is shoe-horned into them. Morpheus isn’t depicted as any more of a buffoon than the rest of the cast, and the use of a white actor in make-up is arguably another original stylistic convention from the period that they parody. No insult to people of colour is intended or inadvertantly made. Hence, not offensive. Like it or not, a white actor in black make-up does not automatically equal minstrel-show or racism.
Now, I know that you don’t really care. Crying “racist” over something otherwise clever and funny that happens to involve a black person played by a white person is just a cheap way to start a fight. But c’mon, you’ll have to do better.
Now that I’ve partly diminished my own enjoyment of this by having to explain the humour for the hard-of-thinking (ie. you), you may go.
“Crying “racist” over something otherwise clever and funny that happens to involve a black person played by a white person is just a cheap way to start a fight.”
Really? All I’m doing is trying to start a fight? So I should just keep quiet when I notice something that may perhaps be marginally in poor taste? How ’bout no?
“Morpheus isn’t depicted as any more of a buffoon than the rest of the cast…”
When has a person in blackface ever represented anything but a buffoon? Stupidity defines any character depicted in blackface- the equality of ridicule argument doesn’t hold water.
“…the use of a white actor in make-up is arguably another original stylistic convention from the period that they parody.” [emphasis mine]
Then argue it, otherwise it remains to be demonstrated.
“No insult to people of colour is intended or inadvertantly made.”
So you get to decide what’s insulting to people of color? You also speak for the filmmakers too? Oh, pardon me.
“Like it or not, a white actor in black make-up does not automatically equal minstrel-show or racism.”
Actually most of the time it does. A white actor playing a black person is one thing- black actors play white people in Shakespearean plays all over, and I’m sure more than the occasional white person played Othello, but the line is crossed at colorface. Colorface to lampoon colorface as in Tropic Thunder is arguably different. (Notice how I used “arguably” to avoid digression from the immediate topic- not to avoid actually making a point.)
“Now that I’ve partly diminished my own enjoyment of this by having to explain the humour…”
Yeah, sorry you had to save the world from anti-racist criticism. Sorry to ruin your fun. Actually no, who am I kidding, I’m not. Perhaps I couldn’t enjoy it because of blackface, ever consider that? Was blackface necessary or integral to the bit such that you would have noticed otherwise? I think not.
>Really? All I’m doing is trying to start a fight?
You clearly like a good argument (nothing wrong with that), but your first posts were nothing more than snarky throwaways. Thanks for posting something of substance this time.
>Stupidity defines any character depicted in blackface- the equality of ridicule argument doesn’t hold water.
noun – the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. â€¢ prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief”
Morpheus is not depicted as either superior or inferior to the other cast members, and even if he were, his race is in no way a factor. No race specific characteristics or abilities are implied or shown, no discrimination, no antagonism – so, no racism. The equality of ridicule argument *does* hold water.
>”…the use of a white actor in make-up is arguably another original stylistic convention from the period that they parody.” [emphasis mine]
Then argue it, otherwise it remains to be demonstrated.
Okay. “In the early years of film, black characters were routinely played by whites in blackface. In the first known film of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903) all of the major black roles were whites in blackface. Even the 1914 Uncle Tom starring African American actor Sam Lucas in the title role had a white male in blackface as Topsy.
D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) used whites in blackface to represent all of its major black characters” – from the wikipedia article on blackface.
>So you get to decide what’s insulting to people of color? You also speak for the filmmakers too? Oh, pardon me.
Nope, but I think there’s a standard of reasonableness that can be applied. I argued that there was no racism shown, and that no insult was intended or present was my conclusion. Can’t speak for the film-makers, but can you make a case for deliberate insult to coloured people?
>Actually most of the time it does. (…) Colorface to lampoon colorface as in Tropic Thunder is arguably different.
Even assuming that’s true, most of the time â‰ all of the time. How is the colourface in Tropic Thunder different? This film lampoons the style of the time, and blackface is part of that style.
>Was blackface necessary or integral to the bit such that you would have noticed otherwise? I think not.
*shrug* Perhaps not integral, although using a black actor in the role would have broken the stylistic conventions they were using, and using a visibly white actor as Morpheus would have made the character difficult to recognise.
>Yeah, sorry you had to save the world from anti-racist criticism. Sorry to ruin your fun. Actually no, who am I kidding, I’m not.
Sarcasm, you’re doing it wrong. Not very well, anyway.
Very well stated!
Yeah! “Big Difference” is the best Russian humor TV show for this moment. :)
This is so full of win it’s like it just ate a Thanksgiving dinner entirely made of win with extra win sauce and then win a la win for dessert.
@The Chemist – Well recently it’s been used on the Sarah Silverman Program and the Colbert Report and Mad Men – apparently blackface is OK now as long as it’s ironic.
Very nicely done.
@The Chemist – Sorry, but I found your comment tiresome. Such a charming creative little piece and you just sucked the fun out of it. It would be so much better to put things in context instead of applying a knee jerk reaction. Not everything is intended as an insult. Why does it have to be assumed to be?
“Dammit I was enjoying the racism till someone pointed it out!”
So we should pretend that Russia has no problems with race?
Obviously they just couldn’t get a black actor. No wait, blackface is funny. No, wait, is this the Australian thing with the Michael Jackson impersonators? No, wait…
I’m not sure that the blackface is racist in this context. First, it corresponds to the historical use in the time period that the film is mimicking. Second blackface as racist is a largely American thing. In other countries it doesn’t always have the same historical baggage.
WTF laughtrack? Never heard of a Chaplin movie with a laughtrack. Maybe a laughtrack would’ve made Reloaded better?
Chemist: just out of curiosity, the Hitler mustache is OK, though? Sure it didn’t mean the same thing in Chaplin’s time, but neither did blackface.
This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in weeks. And approximately ten million times better than either of the official Matrix sequels.
Is that a steampunk Smith, what with the goggles and all?
A magnificent piece of work but why oh why did they have to add the faux scratches and frame jumping!
Morpheus is wearing blackface because _there aren’t any black actors in Russia._ It’s Russia! Not every country has a large minority of every race on the planet. As far as I know, there are three people with some african heritage in the entire Russian entertainment industry, and none of them are actors.
…there aren’t any black actors in Russia.
That’s funny, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of Black Russians at my local bar.
Grigory Siyatvinda (Ð“Ñ€Ð¸Ð³Ð¾Ñ€Ð¸Ð¹ Ð¡Ð¸ÑÑ‚Ð²Ð¸Ð½Ð´Ð°) IS an actor, but he is the only one I know http://images.yandex.ru/yandsearch?text=%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B9%20%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%8F%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B4%D0%B0&nl=1&stype=image
*pats clothes down* I believe my composure remains intact!
Close-run thing though. Phew.
Note to PC police: it is not “blackface” whenever a white person wears dark makeup, even when portraying a black person.
To TheChemist and 13tales,
You guys take it too seriously :) I laugh at your arguing!
Don’t forget – it’s russian tv-show (called Big Difference) where they parody other mostly russian tv-shows and movies, and I’m sure it was intended to be used internally, someone just discovered it somehow.
And in Russia we kind of don’t have black people (personally I saw black people like a couple of times in my life literally), so to me it sounds ridiculous – considering any racizm here… just because we don’t have targets for that :) Imagine if you color your face in green imitating an alien, would it be racizm? – because it’s the same thing as long as Russia is considered…
‘Twas a thing of beauty!
By the way, watch Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924). Science! Constructivist fashion! Revolution on the Red Planet!
That was delightful!
I am aware there is racism in Russia. I am also an adult and able to discern the difference between an insult and a portrayal of a character in a film.
Must be a pretty sad, angry little world you live in if you see insult and injury in everything.
Not trying to stir the crud, especially since the thread seems over. But I had a “blackface wtf?” response as well. Even if we accept the idea that there are no black actors in Russia, was there no other way to code their chosen actor as Morpheus? Creative theatrical thinking means problem-solving without resorting to a retrograde practice that at best is merely embarassing.
Otherwise, a what a charming video. I dig how the design of Zion here echoes the machine Chaplain works in Modern Times.
No, like some others, I saw it as merely a device that serves to evoke the period.
Kneejerks of the chronically outraged. The laughtrack, however…deeply offensive. Probably there to cue the abovementioned outraged that this was meant to be humorous.
Anyone know what the original Chaplin film is called? I’d like to see it and determine for myself why the dude’s made up. Looks to me like he’s a genie, with his magic and crossed arms pose, in which case his face might be blue, or merely swarthy like an arab. Clearly he is a guy in charge, not a buffoon or victim. His makeup denotes that he’s a special character, like a wire halo and wings might in another context, though no one would get upset if he acted in a non-angelic fashion. Get over yourselves, folks, the only racism here is what you brought yourselves…
Reminds me of Steam Trek by Dennis Sisterson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y39gHihP74
Unfortunately the Chaplin was probably the worst played character in this piece.
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