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.

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][/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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58 thoughts on “The world sees red over Hey Hey‘s blackface

  1. Heathdon McGregor

    Watch Spike Lee’s Bamboozled to see that blackface is racist because the only way for african americans of the time to enter showbusiness was to don blackface and denigrate their race. Channel Nine should have been aware of a backlash as they had gone through the Sam Newman/Nicky Winmar crap a few years back.

    The Doctors who performed the show discussed whether it would offend before the show according to the reports and went ahead.

    I put it that once they themselves were concerned they should of walked away.

    It takes all types of intelligence.

    Another reason to laugh at racist commentators on Crikey who use the word Bogan to elevate themselves.

  2. jeebus

    Stephen, my point is that while this sketch was in poor taste, let’s not go overboard and hold it up as a rallying cry for how backwards or racist Australia is. That will only polarise people, and put wind into the sails of genuine racist movements looking to exploit the inevitable PC backlash.

  3. monkeyboy

    …And Dave Chappelle taking the piss out of white folk(as well as black folk) was comedy gold. Maybe that’s the difference with Chappelle you piss yourself laughing, with Hey Hey it’s just piss poor?

    So no one jumps up and down about the Wayans bros doing White Chicks or Little Britain or Borat/Bruno taking the piss out blacks. Please someone tell me what the difference is(beside the laugh content)?

  4. Glenn

    I see nothing wrong in being black.
    Those who complain about blackface obviously do, it’s impersonation you idiots not insulting.

  5. stephen

    Jeebus Australia does have a lot of racists, should we be silent so as not to upset extremists?
    The skit itself was at worst ill considered. What is more telling is the number of people jumping to defend the skit and insult as “PC idiots” etc, anyone who objected.
    Jacks, don’t you realise what’s PC is subjective. I reckon you’d have your sacred cows, in fact I think you’ve demonstrated that.

  6. loveyuhsall

    Harry Jnr said that “…….we (americans) have spent so much time trying to not make black people look like bafoons”

    Q1. Who is WE…………
    Q2. Is colour related to being a “bafoon”

    Black President……….White President……….Black bafoon………..White bafoon……When will we stop judgeing a man by the colour of his skin…………

    This whole skit is only about colour to those who are inherently racist. I didn’t hear anything that indicated the black was inferior or superior. Where is the racism (judgement) based on colour?????????

  7. Ade

    Plenty of worse things in the world to worry about ahead of a lame skit on Hey Hey. Plenty. But this will sell papers and get people clicking links, so it gets a run.

  8. malcolm grant

    A direct quote from one of the articles on The Seattle Stranger website.

    “Apparently it’s necessary to point out that the Australians were mocking an American musical cultural icon who recently died, using a form of performance that is universally offensive to Americans, in front of an American musician. So it’s not exactly like Connick was an outsider watching a Australian cultural display on its own terms. Everything about what was happening was predicated on American cultural history and values.

    And it’s not like it would require a deep study of American culture to understand that blackface is offensive to Americans. Anyone familiar enough with American culture to do the Jackson 5 would be able to anticipate how an American would respond to a blackface show.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  9. CaffeineAddict

    Absolutely sickening!

  10. loveyuhsall

    I lived in America 10 years ago and an American asked me “if we have bank yet in Australia ?” and another asked “how long it would take to drive there?”

    I said I wear “thongs” on my feet and I’m insulted by your “fanny pack”.

    Lighten up. We are not Americans and in general we know more about their cultural sensitivities than they know abot us……… Just try asking for “tomatoe sauce” next time your in the US.

    The skit was Australian and in no way diminished, demonised or derided people based on their colour.

    It would do us all good if people were colour blind.

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