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TV & Radio

Oct 8, 2009

The world sees red over Hey Hey's blackface

Whilst reanimating the fetid corpse of Hey Hey it's Saturday, the show's producers decided to also revive some ol' fashioned 20th century bigotry, by putting on a Minstrel Show. Pundits across the pond didn't quite see the funny side.

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Because Australia doesn’t cop enough flack for being a racist backwater, the good folk propping up the reanimated corpse of Hey Hey it’s Saturday decided last night that no nostalgia trip into the country’s murky cultural past would be complete without reviving some ol’ fashioned 20th century bigotry.

And so it was that, amidst three hours of tired puns, dubious puppetry and that very special Daryl Somers-brand of awkward ad-libbing, was this:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMAyGewq37w[/youtube]

Yes. They put on a Minstrel Show.

And it seems a few people got a little offended.

And by “a few people”, we do mean “pretty much the entire world”.

Naturally, the fallout started pretty early on the pulse of the people, Twitter. Ironically, Daryl Somers himself had anointed #HeyHey and #Plucka as the “official” hashtags prior to the show, which ended up providing a neat little way of collecting the world’s grievances over the stunt.

The show’s 10:30pm finish time (which was more like 10:50pm, because three hours just wasn’t enough time to contain all that fun) meant it ended just in time for those across the pond to wake up to clips of the “sketch” buzzing around the social media web. It didn’t take long for the outrage to begin — and it came thick, fast and dripping with scorn and sarcasm.

In The Guardian: Harry Connick Jr weirdly unimpressed by Australia’s blackface Jackson 5:

In Australia, of course, it is perfectly acceptable, and we thank the nation for yet another important contribution to the annals of human culture.

For The AV Club: G’Day, Blackface!

In case you were wondering what the country of Australia in 2009 has in common with fictional 1960s advertising exec Roger Sterling, well, apparently, they share an unbridled love of blackface. Really, they just can’t get enough.

Still Fresh And Funny In Australia: Blackface, scoffs The Awl:

You know what never gets old for the folks on Prison Island? Blackface! Oh, how they chuckle!

And you know you’ve really cocked-up when the world’s leading media industry gossip snarkers, Gawker, project some of their particularly acidic bile in your direction:

Wow, an American is being the voice of cultural sensitivity? Australia must be really messed up.

And the fallout continues, from the likes of New York mag, Movieline, dlisted and more.

For the 1980s anachronism Hey Hey, it was a harsh lesson in just how differently the media works in 2009: just because your target demographic is slack-jawed suburbanites and pensioners, the whole world is now watching.

And once again, the whole cringe-worthy affair has hammered home just how out-dated the show really is.

On the upside, the international scorn virtually guarantees this is the last time we’ll ever see Hey Hey rear its tired, shoe-polished face on our screens again.

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