Blackface once was an entertainment industry trope. Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer is the most notable example.
Not that many decades after the old minstrel shows, Fred Astaire (in Swing Time), Shirley Temple, and Judy Garland went black, too. Some critics regard their performances as being culturally respectful. Laurence Olivier did Othello in blackface, although one supposes it’s not a requirement. Others were more in the Amos n’ Andy vein, painful to see through today’s eyes.
Wikipedia lists 300 entertainers performing in blackface, among them Frank Sinatra, Paul Muni, David Niven, Mickey Rooney, and Carroll O’Connor! Ken Burns’ don’t-miss series on country music shares still photographs of some early stars posing in blackface right alongside actual African-Americans. (A recent blog reproduced one of Joan Crawford but child psychologists have petitioned Blaska Policy Werkes not repeat that image.)
Going Orange for Trump
Anyone remember Dan Ackroyd in Trading Places? It seemed to make sense in the context of the movie. So did Robert Downey Jr. in Rolling Thunder. How is Billy Crystal going to parody Sammy Davis Jr. — a personage who invites parody — if not darkening skin and pomading hair? But he was criticized for doing so anyway. How does one categorize Eddie Murphy doing “Buckwheat” from the Little Rascals?
All those named so far did blackface in the context of art. Ted Danson at that private party, not so much. But we notice he’s still working.
⇒ Rosanne Barr should be so lucky. But then, she suffers from the wrong politics.
Canada in a dither
All of which is to say that Justin Trudeau has company, although he is the first head of state to be caught up in today’s Gotcha! culture. The widely shared photograph of Hillary in blackface is Fake News. The next best Gotcha! is Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who seems to have disappeared from view. He’s a Democrat, if that helps.
Trudeau is also the first to be captured in brown-face. That’s a new one. Elizabeth Warren claimed to be Native American, but she never put on the warpaint (DAVID!!!) or appeared in red-face.
We have no doubt that the researchers at the New York Times and CNN are pouring through the archives in search of images of Donald Trump at his prep school re-enacting Gone With the Wind — perhaps in the role of Prissy, who ain’t never birthed no babies. Especially now that a federal judge has blocked their inquiry into his past tax returns. There’s got to be something. That Russia thing backfired bad.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: We expect the New York Times to come out Sunday with a 3,000-page essay on how various Democratic operatives remember seeing Brett Kavanaugh doing a grade-school impersonation of Jack Benny’s butler, Rochester.