August 26, 2009

Words: The over use of the term "minstrel"

Those of who know me well, know that I tend to be militantly anti-PC politics, especially the way it's practiced in the good old U.S. of A. Lately, I spy a very disturbing trend of critics being too quick to judge movies and sketch comedy as offensive and derogatory, when most likely, they're probably just underdevloped and lazily written. The over use of the word "minstrel" and "minsterelsy" in particular is very disturbing to me. I've seen particularly egregious uses of these words in otherwise thoughtful and insightful articles and by writers that I admire. For instance in a recent issue of New York Magazine, a writer described Neil Patrick Harris's character in How I Met Your Mother as being "fratboy minstrels." I JUST read an article by the Onion A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin, who I LOVE, use the phrase "Stoner minstrelsy."

Let's think about the origins of the term "minstrels." We associate this word as a derogatory representation of black people on stage during the post-civil war era. "Frat Boys" and "Stoners" are not a race, they're not even legitimate groups of people. These are descriptive titles for existing stereotypes, and it's impossible for a stereotype to be misrepresented or simplified, right??

Tangentially related to this, I've read a lot of comments about homophobic undertones in various Saturday Night Live sketches. One mentioned in particular was one where Justin Timberlake and other dressed up in unitards and heels to be Beyonce's backup dancers. Are we serious? Men dressing up as women have been a comedic inspiration ever since humans discovered the art of the stage. You can tell me I'm the biggest homophobe in the world, but I'll never back down from the opinion that, yes, men dressing up and acting like women is really really hillarious.

At the end of the day, it is very important for us to reflect on ourselves and our works of art, and be certain that we make progress in terms of presenting an accurate reflection of humanity. But it's also important that we must not be hasty and self flagellating in this attempt, and seriously, if you don't think a man dancing in heels is not funny, you do not have a pulse.