This is dangerous territory and I can’t even hope to understand it from a Black point of view.
I will say that I’ve been a huge Spike Lee fan forever and the minstrel montage at the end of Bamboozled was devastating, so I hope I can understand the passions behind this.
Anyway, in the last Rolling Stone, they asked a lot of comedians to name their favorite television comedy and here’s what Larry David said.
“I’d rate ‘Amos n’ Andy’ and ‘the Phil Silvers Show’ together, with a slight nod to Amos. Kingfish was hilarious. The relationship with the wife was hilarious, the wife and the mother-in-law. His friends were funny. The stories were great. It’s the ingrediants that any sitcom needs – they had it.”
And I immediately thought – wow, that dude has balls of steel!
I’ve always been fascinated, because the show has been a pariah for at least 40 years due to obvious racial concerns, but it also has its supporters and many of them are black.
Here’s an interesting quote I found from Marla Gibbs on the show.
“I enjoyed it immensely especially Kingfish, he represented a lot of people that we knew, of course it was a little exaggerated because of the writing, but I thought he was a very natural character, and very hilarious, as a matter of fact most of the people on the show were. It was a very good cast and very well orchestrated, and very believable. I don’t think it reflected the wrong image of black people, I think it was the fact that it was the only image of black people, and in that context the only image of any people, no show can represent that, it would come up erring if you took it to task. I think what the NAACP was trying to say was, we need a balance, Instead of saying that they said that this show reflected us in a negative image and other people see us and think this is the only way we are.”
Whatever your perspective – it happened and it was popular and it seems odd to me when we try to just hide things away as if they never happened. I prefer that these things are watched and discussed intelligently.
Of course, the biggest example of embarrassing art is D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, which is an all out paeon to the KKK, and yet, because of Griffith’s innovations to the advancement of film in other areas of Birth were so revolutionary it can’t be ignored. Sometimes awful people with horrible belief’s are really talented – I’m not sure what you can do about it other than acknowledge it, discuss it, and do your best to get your head around it. Everything but supression, because ignorance even with the best intentions does no one any good.
Anyway, back to David. Sure, he’s rich, but who needs to be labeled a racist forever just because someone wanted your opinion on your favorite television comedy. Especially after Michael Richards went from wacky, lovable Kramer to well, we all know what happened there.
I think it’s also interesting in terms of David’s Jewish background, because if you watch Curb or Seinfeld, you could easily label the guy one of the most self hating Jews of all time, or even worse claim that he made millions fueling people’s stereotypes about his own people. Georga Costanza, who was based on David, and I don’t care what his last name was he was Jewish, is perhaps the cheapest, shiftiest, laziest character in television history. On Curb, David basically went so far as to have his character celebrate when he for a second thought that he might not actually have been born to his Jewish parents.
I think it’s pretty clear that David doesn’t hate Jews, but rather he’s fascinated by his own and other’s worst impulses, writes about his own background, and finds character flaws fascinating. From what I’ve read about Amos n’ Andy, it makes a lot of sense that he was influenced by that show.
That was a really long way of saying the following. In an age where celebrities have to check with ten publicists any time they think of saying something controversial, I love the fact that the guy was just honest and told the truth.