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Your Grandma's Awkward Racist Humor (Movie Edition!)

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 

I recently had a friend over with limited English skills and fairly picky taste in movies, so we settled on a big, broad comedy with lots of physical humor: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I remembered finding this hilarious as a kid and I thought it held up fairly well with the obvious YMMV on Carrey's mugging, but I was kind of shocked at just how much the finale revolves around one extended gay panic joke. Like, that's the entirety of the finale. He kissed a pre-op transgendered woman, so everyone literally pukes. My friend was totally unfazed (LGBTQ issues are pretty low-visibility in China) but I was kind of bummed. Not in a "destroy every copy" kind of way, but in the sense that something I whole-heartedly enjoyed as a kid now has an uncomfortable asterisk that means I probably won't be in a big hurry to revisit it any time soon.

 

I think Breakfast at Tiffany's is probably the gold standard for classic movie with the really unfortunate part you have to accept in context (I've actually never seen it), but I'm curious as to whether anyone else has a personal example of a movie that's made them uncomfortable on a re-watch because of a particular aspect that doesn't sit well now.

post #2 of 53
I'd have to think about that. But on the "unfortunate part you have to accept in context" scale, HOLIDAY INN has BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S beat. No question.
post #3 of 53

Not really humor, but the nostalgic haze for the antebellum South that pervades Gone With the Wind is pretty hard to take these days.

 

 

Sounds great except for that pesky owning people thing.

post #4 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post

I'd have to think about that. But on the "unfortunate part you have to accept in context" scale, HOLIDAY INN has BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S beat. No question.

 

"Hmmm, don't know that one, let me just hop over to Wikipedia here..."

 

"Huh, that seems unfortunate, maybe it plays better than it reads."

 

"HOLY SHIT IT DOES NOT."

 

http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/sammondn/clips/holiday-inn-abraham-scene/view

post #5 of 53
Yep.

They typically cut that out during TV broadcasts, so some folks aren't even aware it's part of the film.

It's otherwise a very notable film. It features three of the best Astaire dance sequences ever committed to celluloid.
post #6 of 53

That Holiday Inn sequence is so bad they pretty much remade the movie as White Christmas a few years later. (the song "White Christmas" debuted in Holiday Inn didn't it?)

On the Ace Ventura tip, I recall the frightened African natives in When Nature Calls to be particularly cringeworthy.

post #7 of 53

I was watching that "Abraham" clip thinking, "Well surely if we can colorize films now, someone can go and remove the blackface and make this all a little less troubling."  And then Marjorie Reynolds trots out and I'm like, "Um, yeah, this isn't salvageable."

post #8 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangy View Post

(the song "White Christmas" debuted in Holiday Inn didn't it?)
Yep.

It was so popular they built a whole other film around it.
post #9 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post

I was watching that "Abraham" clip thinking, "Well surely if we can colorize films now, someone can go and remove the blackface and make this all a little less troubling."  And then Marjorie Reynolds trots out and I'm like, "Um, yeah, this isn't salvageable."
The blackface is actually baked into the storyline.

Bing Crosby is trying to hide his girlfriend from girl-stealing Fred Astaire, so just before the performance he panics and decides to make the number a blackface number to disguise her.
post #10 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post
 

Not really humor, but the nostalgic haze for the antebellum South that pervades Gone With the Wind is pretty hard to take these days.

 

 

Sounds great except for that pesky owning people thing.


I lived in Georgia for a few years, and Gone With the Wind remains a favorite for a lot of people there. Shops in touristy towns like Dahlonega tend to have a lot of GWTW-related merchandise, as well as bootleg copies of Song of the South, which can often be found alongside movies like The Littlest Rebel and General Spanky.

post #11 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post

I was watching that "Abraham" clip thinking, "Well surely if we can colorize films now, someone can go and remove the blackface and make this all a little less troubling."  And then Marjorie Reynolds trots out and I'm like, "Um, yeah, this isn't salvageable."
A-yup.

Still, I can't not like that movie.

Gone With The Wind can go fuck itself on a multitude of levels though. Even if you somehow managed to get past the open nostalgia for slavery, Scarlett has to be the very most hateful protagonist I've ever seen in a movie.
post #12 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by commodorejohn View Post

A-yup.

Still, I can't not like that movie.
Oh, I grew up with it and still watch it every year. It's a better movie than WHITE CHRISTMAS by a considerable margin. I mean, HOLIDAY INN features a solo Astaire number where he improvises a dance with firecrackers! It has to be seen to be believed.

But the "Abraham" number (the music of which actually gets reprised sans-lyrics and blackface in WHITE CHRISTMAS) is definitely a document of some ugly American racial history.
post #13 of 53

In-laws watch Holiday Inn every Christmas season. I tend to grab a snack in the kitchen during the Abraham part. I enjoy White Christmas though, especially the VistaVision look of the thing. (the Blu looks great)

 

One movie I haven't watched but kinda want to out of morbid curiosity: Soul Man.

post #14 of 53
I don't think I was even aware that Soul Man existed until the very late 90's, but aside from the shock that it was an idea that was deemed worthy to produce by someone, I think it's really sweet and good-natured in doling out its extremely antiquated, tacky and conversely earnest take on racial politics.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think only an asshole would get upset watching Soul Man. One should be too busy marveling at its inconceivable existence to take offense to it.

Also, the scene where the father of a girl "Black Thomas Howell" is seeing is mentally filing through all of these outrageously racist stereotypes at the dinner table (pimp w/ watermelon and all that) is still kind of funny to me.

It does say something that the love interest is played by Rae Dawn Chong, a light-skinned, bi-racial woman.
post #15 of 53
Oh, and I've discussed this before, but in the annals of slightly less obvious examples of race-based taboos can be found in Beverly Hills Cop.

In the original script (or one of the last drafts before Murphy was cast), James Russo was Foley's brother and Lisa Eilbacher's character was always the love interest. The change with Russo is fine, it makes sense, but it's the demotion of Eilbacher to "platonic childhood friend" that sticks out like a sore thumb. In a retrospective interview, a producer dances around the subject, but it's obvious why the change was made and I can now never watch that movie without thinking about it.
post #16 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post


Oh, I grew up with it and still watch it every year. It's a better movie than WHITE CHRISTMAS by a considerable margin. I mean, HOLIDAY INN features a solo Astaire number where he improvises a dance with firecrackers! It has to be seen to be believed.

But the "Abraham" number (the music of which actually gets reprised sans-lyrics and blackface in WHITE CHRISTMAS) is definitely a document of some ugly American racial history.

Just went out and watched that sequence online after reading your description - goddamn, that's some great cinema. Love that he's got a cigarette in his mouth the whole time, too - it's so hilariously nonchalant while he's tapdancing with friggin' firecrackers going off, and he's still smoking anyway.

 

But yeah, that Abraham number - yikes.

post #17 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splatoon View Post
 

I recently had a friend over with limited English skills and fairly picky taste in movies, so we settled on a big, broad comedy with lots of physical humor: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I remembered finding this hilarious as a kid and I thought it held up fairly well with the obvious YMMV on Carrey's mugging, but I was kind of shocked at just how much the finale revolves around one extended gay panic joke. Like, that's the entirety of the finale. He kissed a pre-op transgendered woman, so everyone literally pukes.

To be fair, Ray Finkle didn't change into Lt. Einhorn because he was unhappy with his birth gender; he changed due to his disgrace at losing a big game and used it as part of his twisted revenge scheme.

 

But I see your point though.

post #18 of 53
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ravi View Post
 

To be fair, Ray Finkle didn't change into Lt. Einhorn because he was unhappy with his birth gender; he changed due to his disgrace at losing a big game and used it as part of his twisted revenge scheme.

 

But I see your point though.

 

The motivation isn't really relevant though, since the entire joke is "A man kissing a man? LITERAL BARF!"

post #19 of 53

It's not a dealbreaker, possibly because it's so short, but the "fa ra ra ra ra" Christmas dinner at the chinese restaurant at the end of A Christmas Story is just on the edge of ridiculous Asian stereotypes. Luckily it's over in like 30 seconds, and is softened that Ralphie's family is so happy to be there (even when the chicken head gets cut off!).

post #20 of 53

I know there's some controversy surrounding the Mike Yanagita character from FARGO.  Here's some perspective from an Asian-American actor who was up for the part and felt relieved that he didn't get it when he saw the finished product.

post #21 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by FatherDude View Post
 

I know there's some controversy surrounding the Mike Yanagita character from FARGO.  Here's some perspective from an Asian-American actor who was up for the part and felt relieved that he didn't get it when he saw the finished product.

That article is some top-notch sour grapes. He clearly doesn't even understand the point of Yanagita's character. Is every non-white character who isn't noble and brave required to be the subject of a thinkpiece? I never once thought about Mike Yanagita's ethnicity. 

 

Quote:
 The Japanese-American character has no relevance to Marge’s investigation. He is there mainly for humor. The humor is based on his derangement that Marge or their acquaintance would ever find him attractive.

That is straight-up bullshit.

 

The actor who got the part has a very different view on the character.

 

post #22 of 53

I watched THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (1974) the other day.  The casual racism in that (mostly played for laughs) was...astounding.  Matthau's character is talking to a police commander on the phone throughout the film and he finally meets him near the end.  He's a black man, and the person next to him in the car is white, and Matthau goes to the white officer assuming that HE was the guy that he was talking to.  The actual commander is like, no...I'M the commander, and Matthau makes some sort of funny comment to brush it off and make it a 'funny moment'.  There are other instances in there (there are Japanese visitors to the Subway who are treated like stereotypes for laughs) and a couple other cringeworthy elements.  You have to put on your 'it was made in the 70s' hat to watch some of these films and not spend the entire time judging them.

post #23 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
 

It's not a dealbreaker, possibly because it's so short, but the "fa ra ra ra ra" Christmas dinner at the chinese restaurant at the end of A Christmas Story is just on the edge of ridiculous Asian stereotypes. Luckily it's over in like 30 seconds, and is softened that Ralphie's family is so happy to be there (even when the chicken head gets cut off!).


Infidel!  That's a duck!

 

 

But yeah, I see your point.

post #24 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Judas Booth View Post
 

I watched THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (1974) the other day.  The casual racism in that (mostly played for laughs) was...astounding.  Matthau's character is talking to a police commander on the phone throughout the film and he finally meets him near the end.  He's a black man, and the person next to him in the car is white, and Matthau goes to the white officer assuming that HE was the guy that he was talking to.  The actual commander is like, no...I'M the commander, and Matthau makes some sort of funny comment to brush it off and make it a 'funny moment'.  There are other instances in there (there are Japanese visitors to the Subway who are treated like stereotypes for laughs) and a couple other cringeworthy elements.  You have to put on your 'it was made in the 70s' hat to watch some of these films and not spend the entire time judging them.

 

Matthau does get a level of comeuppance when it turns out the Japanese visitors he's been condescending to understood English the entire time.

 

This thread is also incomplete if we don't mention Sixteen Candles.

post #25 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post
 

 

This thread is also incomplete if we don't mention Sixteen Candles.

And Short Circuit.

post #26 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
 

And Short Circuit.

 

I am sporting a tremendous woody right now!

post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangy View Post

 

Quote:
 The Japanese-American character has no relevance to Marge’s investigation. He is there mainly for humor. The humor is based on his derangement that Marge or their acquaintance would ever find him attractive.

That is straight-up bullshit.

 

What's interesting about this - and I'm moving away from the cultural sensitivity subject here - is that Noah Hawley, an intelligent man who is killing it with the TV series, also suggested that the character was narratively pointless:

 

Quote:

At the beginning of every episode, it says, “This is a true story,” which, of course, it’s not. But when you say something’s true, it gives you the leeway to tell a story in a different way. You don’t have to follow that Joseph Campbell hero’s journey. In fact, if you do, it doesn’t feel real. In that first meeting with FX, I said, “What we have to figure out is what is our Mike Yanagita,” who is the guy from high school who calls Marge out of the blue and turns out to be nuts, and you’re like, “Why is this in the movie?” But it’s in the movie, in my opinion, because it’s one of those details where you’re like, “Well, they wouldn’t put it in the movie unless it really happened. It has nothing to do with anything.” So that was the issue for us: On the one hand, what are those digressions, those scenes or moments that could only be in there because they actually happened, because otherwise you wouldn’t put them in the show?

 

But as you say, Mike isn't irrelevant to Marge's investigation. 

post #28 of 53

Weird, I don't agree with Hawley either! I always felt Yanagita served as a pathetic parallel to Jerry Lundegaard. When Marge later finds out that Yanagita was lying during their meeting, it motivates her to go back and question Jerry one final time.

post #29 of 53
Bill and Ted hugging then calling each other "Fag!"

Still love the movie.
post #30 of 53
Even something as recent, and otherwise smart, as Lost in Translation mines some rather lowbrow humor at the expense of the Japanese. "Rip my stockings!" "Lip them?" Maybe in a movie like Meatballs, but here?
post #31 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by User_32 View Post

Bill and Ted hugging then calling each other "Fag!"

Still love the movie.


Yeah, that was in another movie I watched semi-recently as well (name escapes me at the moment) and it was definitely a bit of a nails on a chalkboard moment. 

post #32 of 53
Thread Starter 

So, I mentioned in the Sci-fi thread I recently saw The Ice Pirates and found it incredibly dumb, but charming. That said, there's a record-scratch "wuh?" moment about half-way through were a character just casually drops the n-word. It's played for laughs (he's talking to a black guy, so he changes it to "black gentleman" or something) and the anachronism fits the movie's tone (they reference Tylenol at one point) but it's kind of amazing how even in 1984 that word would play in a comedic PG film, even if it skews low-brow. 

post #33 of 53

The "darkie" joke in Duck Soup gives me a full-body cringe every time.

post #34 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splatoon View Post
 


Yeah, that was in another movie I watched semi-recently as well (name escapes me at the moment) and it was definitely a bit of a nails on a chalkboard moment. 

Unless you enjoy nails on chalkboards, there is a way for you to reduce the frequency and intensity of chalkboard nails you encounter in movies: drop the PC sensitivity.

 

 

Same goes for the LiT bit - so Japenese have trouble pronouncing a foreign language correctly, and the people actually speaking that language make fun of that? The horror, how could they.

post #35 of 53
There's no other place on the Internet for you to be an asshole?
post #36 of 53
We were tucking into a delicious Sunday roast once and the conversation turned to things you should or shouldn't say. My mother-in-law started babbling on about how things were different in her day: 'When I was a child in the Fifties we had a dark brown cat. It was quite normal to refer to the colour as 'nigger brown'.
post #37 of 53

Wasn't it the name of Biggles' dog or something as well?

There was a beaut down here, somewhere over east I think, where a semi famous cricketer from the 40s had the nickname 'nigger' as well  (I think he was just one of those people who tanned well. Stay classy Aus sportsmen)   In honour of his long service to the club they dedicated one of the stands in the stadium to him, proudly displaying in big letters at one point  The Nigger Stand.  It kept that name for a really long time, although I think they took down the letters so you didn't really know.  It only really came back up again when it was thought of as a good reason to sell the naming rights to a company in the 80s, I think.

post #38 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluelouboyle View Post

We were tucking into a delicious Sunday roast once and the conversation turned to things you should or shouldn't say. My mother-in-law started babbling on about how things were different in her day: 'When I was a child in the Fifties we had a dark brown cat. It was quite normal to refer to the colour as 'nigger brown'.


This sounds like it could make for an epic Chapelle's Show sketch.

post #39 of 53
That's interesting actually. A friend of mine told me about a guy he worked with, an older chap, who when describing a sweater he bought called it a "dirty nigger brown." He said it as matter of factly as you would describe the sky as blue. He just had no inkling that something was off there.

Man oh man though, that Holiday Inn clip.
post #40 of 53

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post
 

 And then Marjorie Reynolds trots out and I'm like, "Um, yeah, this isn't salvageable."

 

Yeah, that's some reality-breaking ugliness. I mean, the entire clip is just flabbergasting but Reynolds' piece really seems like someone in the production accepted a bet that they couldn't double down on the racism.

post #41 of 53
My (step) grandfather...who's about 88 I think, will still drop an N bomb like it's nothing (with the hard R obviously) and...sometimes I wonder how to address that...or should I even? He's old, frail...probably gonna shuffle off this mortal coil before long. He ain't changing. But I feel like a shit for NOT saying "ya know Victor (I don't call him grandad)...that's not really cool anymore." Not that it ever WAS cool but, well, you get my point..
post #42 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splatoon View Post
 

So, I mentioned in the Sci-fi thread I recently saw The Ice Pirates and found it incredibly dumb, but charming. That said, there's a record-scratch "wuh?" moment about half-way through were a character just casually drops the n-word. It's played for laughs (he's talking to a black guy, so he changes it to "black gentleman" or something) and the anachronism fits the movie's tone (they reference Tylenol at one point) but it's kind of amazing how even in 1984 that word would play in a comedic PG film, even if it skews low-brow. 


It's a little strange going back and reading "The Dark Phoenix" saga now and seeing Kitty Pryde tell Storm, "There aren't any negroes in my school." And then finding out that actually frequently throughout the '80s Kitty was known for blurting out the n-word in comparison to the plight of mutants:

 

 

Chris Claremont with the best intentions, but...

post #43 of 53
I guess I can see the logic in it's use in THAT panel. I mean...I wouldn't have thought to go there but, it's essentially meeting one hateful slur with another. She's not CALLING him that there. But yeah....very ill advised..
post #44 of 53

Well this was on the tele the other day, much to the dismay of local social media:

 

 

 

I pretty much grew up watching these flicks, they usually aired old Finnish films after school. This is from 1960 and the tenth film of the series. A shoddy and nonsensical comedy about two guys who try their best to avoid house work and end up posing as a jazz duo from America. The quite apparent racism has a bizarre innocence (or ignorance) to it, it feels like the filmmakers didn't think much about it all. You could even argue they thought they were being progressive, here's an excerpt from a scene where a nightclub owner is desperate to find performers that kids these day dig:

 

(A NSFW warning is in place, depending on how loud the sound is on your work computer)

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

 

I assume translation isn't necessary. The 20th century sure was weird as hell. 


Edited by Virtanen - 11/3/16 at 9:49am
post #45 of 53
I think the thing in a movie that I was most taken aback by was watching Dr No as an adult for the first time and hearing that "fetch my shoes" line that's directed at Quirell (sp?). But then, Bond doesn't treat Quirell badly...and he makes it clear to Dr No that he intends to avenge his death...which I've always liked. But yeah...it is what it is. Those were the times. What can you do?

I think I'd want Idris Elba to play Bond if for no other reason than to have the opportunity for him to tell a white dude to fetch his shoes..
post #46 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muzman View Post

Wasn't it the name of Biggles' dog or something as well?
There was a beaut down here, somewhere over east I think, where a semi famous cricketer from the 40s had the nickname 'nigger' as well  (I think he was just one of those people who tanned well. Stay classy Aus sportsmen)   In honour of his long service to the club they dedicated one of the stands in the stadium to him, proudly displaying in big letters at one point  The Nigger Stand.  It kept that name for a really long time, although I think they took down the letters so you didn't really know.  It only really came back up again when it was thought of as a good reason to sell the naming rights to a company in the 80s, I think.
My grandfather (RIP) used to call my mom his "little pickaninny" during the summer because she tanned so dark being at the pool all day. I didnt know what the term referred to until I was older. I inherited my mom's olive complexion (Portuguese descent) but don't recall her ever calling me that as a kid in my brownest summers. She also told me of candy she ate as a kid with racist names and "that"s just how people talked back then". My step dad plays in funk/jazz bands and theyre super liberal and friends with lots of black people (that old chestnut), but I still cringe at some of the stuff that pops out of my mom's mouth. She's still the only person in the world that can embarass me now that my Pop-Pop has passed on.

I think of my mom and Im reminded of Rachel Feinstein's mom...

https://youtu.be/Uz9jerEnRXQ
post #47 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2K-D2 View Post
 

Unless you enjoy nails on chalkboards, there is a way for you to reduce the frequency and intensity of chalkboard nails you encounter in movies: drop the PC sensitivity.

 

Same goes for the LiT bit - so Japenese have trouble pronouncing a foreign language correctly, and the people actually speaking that language make fun of that? The horror, how could they.

Since you wish to come across as someone who's really smart, you may want to do something about your fourth-grade writing level.

post #48 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangy View Post
 

Since you wish to come across as someone who's really smart, you may want to do something about your fourth-grade writing level.

The whole "if you're not as progressive and pc as I am then you're obviously uneducated/child" routine hasn't been effective for quite a while now.

post #49 of 53
Came back to stink the place up between hate crimes?
post #50 of 53

Hey, I just made the suggestion that if you stopped getting upset at nonsense like people making fun of other languages (the language of a successful wealthy country), you'd have a somewhat easier life - if you think I'm an "asshole" for saying that, then hey, fine; don't have an easier life then *shrug*

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