Perspectives on Race

A Discussion about Events Concerning Race

“People just need to get over it…”

with 2 comments

I’m assistant directing a musical at a community theater in town and it’s a dated play from the 50’s.  It’s a highly popular show but since it is dated there is a joke in it referring to “The Jazz Singer” (the first film featured with sound).  The joke pokes at the “Mammy” stereotype character.  I believe it is not okay to feature a joke based on such a senstive derogatory term.  Some members of my cast think otherwise claiming that it’s a dated show and makes it historically accurate.  One actor even asked me if I would remove all te derogatory and racial terms in “Raisin in the Sun” and I said I wouldn’t.  But, thats a completely other genre and I do not think this joke is necessary. 

I guess my argument is that the joke isn’t necessary.  The play is a comedy not a drama.   This doesn’t serve a purpose to reveal a character’s attitude or a historical theme.  And I don’t think it’s worth offending an audience member.  I mean, I’m white and I find it offensive.

And when I brought up the issue of offending an African-American in the audience, one actress in the cast told me, “people just need to get over it.”


Written by elfrat

September 27, 2009 at 1:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I have read articles and seen TV shows in which the reference to the black ‘mammy’ character is seen as an extremely controversial topic. I know there are more issues concerning this in the South versus the Northern United States and think that people are still offended in this day and age when the term is used, regardless of its context.


    September 27, 2009 at 10:52 pm

  2. For something as sensitive as this issue, I think that there should be a disclaimer in the beginning of the performance directed toward the audience about the nature of the program and how some of the language can be viewed as offensive or racially insensitive. That way, you can keep it historically accurate, but for those that want to use the opportunity as a teaching moment, then they can have an open discussion after the performance about what they heard and why it is not acceptable today.

    When I think about this issue it reminds me of when American Film Institute (AFI) put The Birth of a Nation (1915) on the top 100 list. Now, there is no arguing that this was a highly racial, bigoted movie, but it was put on the list because of its contribution to the movie industry. AFI, on their program releasing the list, gave a disclaimer and I think that it turned out alright.


    October 3, 2009 at 3:31 pm

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