Friday, September 04, 2009

Mad Men

A few months ago a friend of mine asked me what television shows I watched. "I love Mad Men" I replied. She said "Are there any Black people on that show?" The question surprised me, and rather feebly I replied "The maid is Black." and then "Oh there was this one episode where they dealt with one of the characters (White) was going to a voters registration drive with his Black girlfriend." I felt ridiculous saying this because it felt like I was apologizing for the shows lack of Black characters. It didn't matter that there were no prominent Black characters on the show, I just liked the show.

This was last season. Fast forward to last Sunday's episode on which one of the characters sings in blackface, ala Al Jolson, or to be more exact, one of the minstrels from the antebellum south. Mind you, this takes place in 1962. I suppose the shows writers were attempting to show the way people in a non-diverse setting conducted themselves and the things they were insensitive to at that time.

I'm hoping that the show will find a different way to incorporate Black characters onto the show other than as maids, and through civil rights issues. I know that the fact that it is 1962 is important, and they want to be as accurate as possible historically. However, when I think of my parents who lived during that time, neither of them was a maid nor did they participate in voter registration drives.

1 comment:

ryguy52 said...

I have never seen the show Mad Men but I have heard some good things about it. Actually let me take that back! I have only heard reference of the show while watching one of my favorite shows Entourage. Shout out to my guy Turtle! In regards, to the blackface minstrelsy you referred to that took place in one of the episodes of Mad Men I bet the character looked something like this:

Kind of looks like Uncle Ben or the crème of wheat dude. LOL. Although I feel this is one of the most disrespectful and degrading forms of entertainment. It is one of the first forms of popular culture ever created in the United States of America. It is ironic that you have brought this subject to the forefront because I recently have studied this form popular culture last semester.
Whites who performed and depicted the uneducated, lazy, rhythmic, and joyful enslaved black had no idea how influential and detrimental this would be to the black community and black identity for future blacks like myself. Blackface Minstrelsy only perpetuated the stereotypes accompanied with being black and gave those of other ethnicities a sense of superiority. I can’t even count how many times people have assumed I love chicken, watermelon, and that I can dance really well. It’s a slap in the face that these actors would even color their faces with charcoal and enhance their features such as the lips. They portray the characteristics of blacks to be unattractive and savage like. I think it is important that we don’t forget that this type of entertainment is part of America’s history because it is still prevalent in advertising and popular culture today such as Aunt Jemimah. But us, as African Americans, should do everything in our power to not live up to these ridiculous depictions and stereotypes. As for Mad Men, I hope they do fined a better way to incorporate blacks into their story line and still hold the essence relative to that time period.