Friday, October 09, 2009

Hey Hey ... that's fcked

Hey Hey it's Saturday recently got resurrected by the Nine network for a couple of reunion specials. Rumint was that Nine was also testing the waters about bringing it back.

Former host, Daryl Somers, who has apparently been living on a farm for the last 10 years and sitting by the phone waiting for the call to come in, likewise is back as host. This time he's in a suit instead of a colourful Jenny Kee like jumper.

Hey Hey is essentially an olde time variety show. Lots of segments sown together and Coda'd by a man in a duck suit giving away a random prize to a punter. One of these segments is Red Faces, where entertainers (professional and many, many not) vie for a small cash prize (and recognition).

Yeah ... recognition all right.

There was an act on called The Jackson Jive. Which was a pisstake, naturally enough, on the Jacksons. Apparently this act had been on the old Hey Hey many years ago and it was bought pack as part of this whole reunion thing.

The act included blackface - people blackening their face with make-up so as to superficially resemble dark skinned people - in this case the Jackons. As an especially hilarious subversion the one playing Michael, had white make-up. Because the former pop star had his skin lightened over the years due to a dermatological condition he suffered.

I didn't see the skit. Because I didn't watch Hey Hey then, and I don't watch it now. I did watch a little bit of the first reunion episode from last week, if only to confirm my annoyance and sneering attitude towards its crapness.

Crapness confirmed.

But I don't need to see the skit to know it was a moronic, fucked-in-the-head, utterly repugnant thing to allow on TV.

I am for free speech. I think every cretin deserves the right to speak their mind. Obviously yelling fire in a crowded theatre is a line that should not be crossed, and this includes calls for violence from (insert righteous fuckhead figurehead) here.

But part of free speech is knowing when to self-moderate. Use of blackface make-up in this manner, and it doesn't matter what the intention was, says to the viewer that they regard people with dark skin as a figure of fun. It's an almost mythic insult that is part of the rich fabric of entrenched racist attitude. It's up their with using the N word to describe a person of colour.

The entertainers that did it might not have realised the impact something like this would have. In Australia, our relationship with darker skinned people - mainly Aboriginal Australians - has a different cultural context (more akin to the context of Amerindian North America).

But Hey Hey should have known. They are part of mass media. And mass media knows that they have to be so, so, so fucking careful with how they depict people and cultures, lest they cause damage and hurt to others.

For all those people that think this is a storm in a teacup, that Hey Hey is copping way more flack than they should have for this issue, then they don't understand how poisonous and how evil entrenched racism was (and still is in some parts of the world). Blackface is a part of that entrenched racism.

Like all the other fucked in the head attitudes like women belong in the kitchen, that some people of specific religions are shifty or homicidal, fat people are greedy, short people are would be European Dictators etc, it belongs as a relic of an unenlightened, ignorant past.

Not on prime time family television show.

Oh - on the off chance someone from OS reads this - Hey Hey does not represent the views of typical Australians. And least, I sure as fuck hope it doesn't.

Finally, big ups to Harry Connick Junior, who was a panel judge, and who flat out called it for what it represented.


  1. Does this mean they'll never show Sir Laurence Olivier's Othello on TV again?

    Who gives a crap? I don't think its a big deal, honestly, and HCJr went over the top.

  2. I anti-concur! You know, whatever the opposite of concur is.

    Theatre plot specific make-up for a dramatic role Vs Blackface, with all the historical context that comes with it means both are very different uses of the make-up for very different purposes.

    I know, it seems weird that someone completely covering their face to obtain a realistic skin tone of a black person Vs someone slathering on bootpolish has such a different meaning, but it does.

    But it's the same with many things. Prick can mean a slight puncture of the skin. It can also be someone who is disagreeable and offensive or just plain annoying. Prick can also be a very mild insult to some people, or a major slap in the face.

    I remember when I changed schools - from a private school environment to a state school. Language was a lot freer in the state school. I got called a prick on my first day. I spent the rest of the day completely offended because my experience of the word was that it was only used on rare occasions. In this new environment it was just a mild insult.

    The irony was of course that the state school environment was 10 times a better place to learn than the private school since in the state school I didn't get bullied every single day by staff and students alike.

    I digress. My point is, context is everything. These idiots who blacked up didn't have the context that others have with it. But Channel 9 should have known. And they should have killed the skit.

    Peace out baby.


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