Wednesday, February 3, 2010

SNL Failure: The Really Hot Black Girl

Transcript starting at :37

I got so laid last night.  I was at this club and I went up to this really hot Black girl and I was like hey, anyone ever tell you, you look exactly like Beyonce?  Then I went in for the kiss and I noticed that she had like a full mans moustache and I was like, let’s do this thing….

Can we just stop with the reductive jokes at the expense of Black women?  Really..didn’t John Hamm just take one for the team sleeping with a Black woman with a moustache?  Isn’t he courageous everyone? And honestly telling a Black woman that she looks like Beyonce is really going to work because lord knows we are all so desperate to get a man. 

This is not to say that there isn’t room to tell jokes about Black women; it is simply tiring to see that we are consistently the butt of the joke.  The fact that race became a factor when SNL decided to construct a woman as man-like is certainly based in the idea that the Black woman is understood to be the ultimate un-woman. 

You may be tempted to say that this is just a harmless joke, however when this sort of construction is repeatedly part of the social discourse, it leads to “othering”  You will also note that he met this woman in a bar and all that she was good for was a good fuck. 

In a world in which Black women are decidedly devalued, continuing this form of conversation only serves to reify the fact that Black women only exist for the purposes of sexual gratification, when we are understood to be women.  When we consider the history between White men and Black women Hamm’s little joke is far from harmless.

The power difference between White men and Black women continues unabated and therefore when Hamm told this little joke it came laced with a history of social imbalance.  The White man is historically the most privileged group and for Hamm to make a reductive joke about Black women serves to maintain this warped social hierarchy. The race and gender imbalance exists in part because each day we labour to ensure that the foundation remains solid by repeatedly ensuring that certain bodies are understood as less than.   For Hamm and the SNL writers, this may have just been innocent fun, but for Black women who must struggle each day to assert human dignity, it is just another example of the myriad of ways that we are devalued.

Comedy need not be reductive to be funny, however SNL long ago gave up on this concept to achieve an easy laugh.  Of course a White man being out of it enough to sleep with a Black woman that is described as man like is hilarious because he is lowering himself to engage in copulation.  See, see what happens if you get drunk and follow your dick? You end up sleeping with someone beneath you. 

Comedy as a tool of oppression is far too common in our discourse and yet when it is questioned, the marginalized body is being too sensitive or cannot take a joke.  If your life is continually the butt of the joke or the comedy reifies social conditions which serve to mark you as less than, why is it unreasonable to decide that your personal value is worth more than a punch line.   SNL will continue on and few will bother critique the ways in which it uses humour as a reductive tool. The bottom line is that it supports a hierarchy of bodies and we have all become far to comfortable using power coercively to understand that tomorrow the joke may be at our own expense.