WARNING… PART OF THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS VERBAL MEANDERING WITH INTERMITTANT POINTS OF CLARITY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. PROCEED WITH CAUTION AND A SENSE OF HUMOR. IF YOU ARE MISSING A SENSE OF HUMOR, PLEASE LEAVE THE SITE IMMEDIATELY.
How many people out there know what movie the title of this article came from? There are many of you who probably think I am just being hateful, or mean, or making a racist comment. Trust me… I am not.
The quote came from what I would have to say is one of the greatest comedy movies, from the greatest comedy mind of our time. Mel Brooks and the movie was, dare I say? (Dare Dare) Blazing Saddles.
I started this article out with that for two reasons… first, because I know that there are probably people out that might not have ever heard that line, and will be drawn in by the sensationalism of it (Hi there, and welcome!), and also because I have just always wanted to use that quote for something.
I miss the days when movies could really take chances and not have to worry about some particular group being offended by something, or having some organization crawl out of the legal swamps and morass to defend some group that has yet to realize that they think they are being victimized.
A good RECENT example is the whole controversy over the character “Jar Jar Binks” in the last episodes of the Star Wars franchise. Yes, I will agree, Jar Jar needs to be killed in the most gruesome way possible for being one of the most irritating characters ever created in the the history of Science Fiction, following a close second would be the entire cast and concept of the movie “The Black Hole”, which ranks right there with “Attack of the killer tomatoes.” But I digress…
Jar Jar was a irritation, not too far removed from severe jock itch if you are Edward Sisor , but the idea that he was offensive to the Jamaican community? That is a bit a of stretch. Yes, he had an accent that would be considered slightly “island” and with a stretch of the imagination, you could say his ears looked slightly “Dreadlockish”. But SciFi is SciFi… we have no idea what is out there and what they look like, or how they sound. If you watch most of the newer SciFi movies and TV shows, then all of Australia and England should be offended, since it appears that most spacefaring races have a distiguished British accent.
But going back for a moment to the 70s, and the movies that were out at that time, you can see that there are some of them that would probably never make it back to the big screen, if they were released, brand new, today.
Take the whole opening sequence to “Blazing Saddles”, for those of you who remember it. The continuously running joke about Cleavon Little, and his become the first black sheriff of the town. How they actors kept teasing you with by saying things like, “The Sheriff, he’s a ni…” then a bell would ring, or something else would sound. And just when you were SURE that they would not say it… John Hillerman’s character drops the “N” word. Please see play the embedded video for the real scene.
I honestly do not think that studios could get away with releasing movies like that today without being called to task for them. Blazing Saddles was not being racist, it was making fun of the fact that there is racism out there and at the process of BEING racist.
If you go back even further, there are other examples that are not as light hearted as Blazing Saddles, and while their message is considered “Racially Insensitive” by today’s standards of not being allowed, in some cases, to acknowledge color or nationality except in a educational way, they were considered appropriate and innocent for their time.
As another example, look at the Disney movie The Song of the South. This was not a malicious movie, is was a fun movie whose message was in no way negative. It simple told a story about the deep south and was set in the past. There are probably very few younger people, born after the mid seventies, that remember this movie. In spite of the way people probably will look at it today, it was a good movie, and some of you may be familiar with the music of it.
If you have never seen The Song of the South, then I would ask that you rent it, if you can find it. I have actually been in two places that will not carry it because they consider it offensive material. Yet it you walk down the isles, you see just about every horror film you can imagine, and one of them had an adult movie section. Granted… these were smaller private rental places, but the point is made.
I think the point I am trying to make with this is that yes, racism is important, and it is something that makes no sense. There are already plenty of ways to keep ourselves divided, why make the color of our skin, or where we were born one of them. But we also need to laugh at ourselves sometimes. There are probably just as many Black idiots as there are White idiots, Red ones, Brown one, etc… Likewise, there are probably just as many of each who are as smart or smarter than you and I. The idea that you can look at a person’s skin color, and decide that they are smart or dumb, worthy or not of respect, etc, tells me that the person making that decision is missing something upstairs.
I think that portraying racism or bigotry in a humorous light makes it that much less of an issue, because if you can laugh at something like this, then you are that much closer to beating it. Simply dwelling on the negative does not fix the problems. Sometimes you need to look at something like this, and laugh. Make a movie about it and let other people laugh.
Can you imagine a world where racism was laughed at the same way we laugh at people when they same that they think the earth is flat, or Elvis is still alive, or that modern technology is based on what they found at Roswell?
Next time you hear a person use the “N” word, as referenced above… start laughing at them… just keep laughing and walk away. Who knows… maybe if they get the hint that the shock value of the word is gone, they will not use it as much. Then people like Mel Brooks can start putting out the movies we know and love!
Until next time!