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Japanese TV Show Featuring Blackface Actor Sparks Controversy

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michael-author-iconEditorial note: This appeared on TV while I happened to be watching, here in Japan, and I was able to capture a few screen shots, as seen here. I didn’t get that he was portraying Eddie Murphy, but knew it would hit a nerve. Sure enough, only a few days later, I see this, at BBC News.

A Japanese TV program has sparked accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity after a comedian painted his face to impersonate Eddie Murphy.

The New Year’s Eve show featured celebrity comic Hamada appearing in a Beverly Hills Cop skit with his face blacked up.

Using makeup to lampoon black people – a practice known as blackface – is seen by many to be deeply offensive.

Protest over the show have grown over the past days.

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US-born writer and columnist Baye McNeil – who is black and has lived in Japan for 13 years – drew attention to the show on Twitter, arguing that black people were “not a punchline nor a prop”.

“Need a black actor, get a black actor that speaks Japanese,” he urged.

He said he loved Japan and wanted to draw people’s attention to how the practice of blackface is widely regarded as racist.

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He tweeted that his “nightmare scenario” was that during the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, “Japan naively sends a Blackface doowop group out to pay homage to black athletes”.

“What a fiasco that’ll be! So I implore you please #stopblackfaceJapan now.”

But there is debate on Twitter over whether Japanese audiences are aware of the racist history of minstrel shows in the US and Europe, and whether it remains racist if performers and audiences are unaware of that history.

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Other Twitter users defended the show, saying the comedians merely wanted the Eddie Murphy portrayal to be as accurate as possible and pay homage to the actor.

But Mr McNeil said people should learn to be more careful and sensitive with the issue … (read more)

via BBC News

 

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