PDA

View Full Version : Question About Blackface In Comics.



Donal DeLay
12-21-2008, 11:22 AM
If you read a comic where all the black characters - including the protagonist - were done in blackface to represent the time period (a story set in the late 1800's-early 1900's) and perceptions of black people ... would it offend you, or would you not care as long as it wasn't done TO offend?

Or would you simply not read it at all because it used blackface?

Marcdachamp
12-21-2008, 11:25 AM
You're asking for controversy. If the characters are black, avoid blackface. I see what you're going for, but it just seems like you'd bring on way more problems than necessary.

I'm a journalism graduate. We were always taught to avoid using cursing in a story (even in quotes) unless it was absolutely pertinent to the story. I'd say follow that guideline.

Criden
12-21-2008, 11:25 AM
If you read a comic where all the black characters - including the protagonist - were done in blackface to represent the time period (a story set in the late 1800's-early 1900's) and perceptions of black people ... would it offend you, or would you not care as long as it wasn't done TO offend?

Or would you simply not read it at all because it used blackface?

Depends how it was handled, I think. If it was very clearly *about* perceptions as opposed to the author having those perceptions, then sure, I wouldn't be offended, as long as it wasn't being employed in a problematic way. I thought Bamboozled was interesting, for instance.

Joe Kalicki
12-21-2008, 11:26 AM
I'm not sure I've ever been offended by anything.

Kedd
12-21-2008, 11:27 AM
Depends on what the story is. Blackface, to me, isn't offensive as a tool. But what it's being used for can be offensive. And yes, Bamboozled was interesting

The Hodag
12-21-2008, 11:27 AM
There'd probably have to be a pretty good "point" to it all for me to be interested, but I can see such a point being made. Portraying all the black characters with depth and humanity even though they're drawn according to cracker-ass stereotypes might be interesting.

Or it might be crass and pedantic.

Kedd
12-21-2008, 11:28 AM
I'm not sure I've ever been offended by anything.

:mistrust:

Ben Rosen
12-21-2008, 01:03 PM
if it was written now and it was an artistic choice by the artist and it wasn't a story of actors who had to wear blackface, then yeah, i'd have trouble reading it. i don't think i would.

John M. Coker (Johnny C.)
12-21-2008, 01:10 PM
If you read a comic where all the black characters - including the protagonist - were done in blackface to represent the time period (a story set in the late 1800's-early 1900's) and perceptions of black people ... would it offend you, or would you not care as long as it wasn't done TO offend?

Or would you simply not read it at all because it used blackface?

If that is indeed the intent of the story, then I would say that the idea definitely has merit, and could work. It could be used as a neat little bit of commentary. Just as, if you were doing a story set in Shakespearian times, and all of your female characters were drawn as men dressed as women. For me, it boils down to one question- does it say something, or is it a stunt?

Wigner's Friend
12-21-2008, 01:15 PM
For me, it boils down to one question- does it say something, or is it a stunt?

And there's your answer.

c.rob
12-21-2008, 01:33 PM
Did you see something that set this off?

stevapalooza
12-21-2008, 02:19 PM
I don't see color so I wouldn't even be able to see the book on the stands. It would just be a blank space on the rack to me.

Ryan Elliott
12-21-2008, 02:23 PM
If it was done to represent the time period, as a story in a story kind of thing, it wouldn't bother me. Because that's the way things were back then. We can't change them, as they were back then, we just have to know better.


But if it was used seriously and part of a point, then it wouldn't bother me.

artimoff
12-21-2008, 02:25 PM
I have no problem with any of that type of stuff.


http://www.playahata.com/images/otherpics/amosandy_cartoon1.jpg

You could do a Falcon Vs. Black Lightning story like that today & I wouldn't be offended. I'd think you were stupid, but I'd still read it.

RebootedCorpse
12-21-2008, 02:32 PM
I hate seeing the rasist images in the Spirit. Really kinda ruins the comic for me.

Mark4myself
12-21-2008, 03:31 PM
I heard a podcast person comment on how they were thrown by an issue of Cap by the racist comments made by Arnim Zola directed towards the Falcon. I personally have no issue with it if it's part of the character's essence a la Zola or the Red Skull. As a historian I am all for the honesty and truth of portraying things as they were. So a period piece in which blackface is present would not bother me unless it was done in poor taste, for shock value, or inaccurately. It is a part of our culture for better or worse and from accepting it we can understand and learn from the mistakes of that past. So in short, I'd have no problem with it if done honestly and tastefully.

Donal DeLay
12-21-2008, 04:59 PM
If that is indeed the intent of the story, then I would say that the idea definitely has merit, and could work. It could be used as a neat little bit of commentary. Just as, if you were doing a story set in Shakespearian times, and all of your female characters were drawn as men dressed as women. For me, it boils down to one question- does it say something, or is it a stunt?

Here's why I ask: It most certainly would not be a stunt and would be meant as a statement on perceptions of black people in that time period. It's the story of Jack Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world at the age of 32, after 14 years in boxing. His entire life in and outside the sport was spent fighting racism and oppression. Several quotes of him saying "I am ordered by no man. I am NOT a slave." when he was told to stop dating white women - which in those times a black man was hung by the neck if there was even a rumor. Yet this man was openly flaunting his interacial relationship. Pissing people of the time off.

He was refused a title shot simply because he was black and the white champions refused to allow the possibility of a black man becoming the champ.

Using blackface would definitely be a statement on the extreme racism of the times, not used for the sake of shock, and not demeaned in any way. Which would make it difficult to pull off because I wouldn't want it to be an obvious in-your-face statement.

The Robert Johnson story I'm also planning isn't going to use this aproach to represent black people. Racism isn't a part in that comic.




Did you see something that set this off? No, just something that came to mind as part of a story I'm working on.


I hate seeing the rasist images in the Spirit. Really kinda ruins the comic for me. If you're talking about Ebony White, the blackface stereotype was done in that instance to contradict the racist perceptions of how that type of person/character should act.

i.e. a black person in those days was considered cowardly, unheroic, and bumbling. Eisner broke those stereotypes by having Ebony be heroic, and affirmative.

Kedd
12-21-2008, 05:48 PM
title must be: unforgivable blackness

Donal DeLay
12-21-2008, 06:11 PM
title must be: unforgivable blackness
Taken.

Kedd
12-21-2008, 06:16 PM
Taken.

Dammit. I forgot about the PBS doc by that name. Either way, good source material if you're trying to get that made.

jamestolliver
12-21-2008, 06:51 PM
Depends how it was handled, I think. If it was very clearly *about* perceptions as opposed to the author having those perceptions, then sure, I wouldn't be offended, as long as it wasn't being employed in a problematic way. I thought Bamboozled was interesting, for instance.

I agree. If the cartoonist is attempting to comment on the racial perceptions vs realities at that time then I see would not be offended at the symbolic use of blackface. That said, it of course should be treated in a delicate way.

However, it is possible that I would be offended but perhaps that could also the creator's intent. Sometimes intentionally offending a reader can cause them to question their own beliefs and ideas and allows for discussion.

EmarAndZeb
12-21-2008, 06:53 PM
Hypothetically, if I saw a book that did that? I might understand what the creator was trying to do, but damn, the writing would have to be working hard in order for it to look like more than a gimmick.

You're essentially talking about one-upping Spiegelman in the "subverting assigned iconographies" department. You're also talking about doing it in the context what is arguably the biggest hot-button identity issue in American culture. Props for ambition; but it will only be a letdown if your thesis in doing this isn't more profound/nuanced than just "these people were seen as these caricatures back in those days, and, look, they totally weren't!"

Maybe your thesis is better than that; obviously, I can't know. But you owe it to yourself to set the bar on that pretty freaking high. As Marcdachamp said, you're asking for controversy. Only do this if you're damn positive that the artistic payoff is worth the kind of headaches and flak that you will incur for doing this, and that there is absolutely no other way to make your point.

jamestolliver
12-21-2008, 06:58 PM
Hypothetically, if I saw a book that did that? I might understand what the creator was trying to do, but damn, the writing would have to be working hard in order for it to look like more than a gimmick.

You're essentially talking about one-upping Spiegelman in the "subverting assigned iconographies" department. You're also talking about doing it in the context what is arguably the biggest hot-button identity issue in American culture. Props for ambition; but it will only be a letdown if your thesis in doing this isn't more profound/nuanced than just "these people were seen as these caricatures back in those days, and, look, they totally weren't!"

Maybe your thesis is better than that; obviously, I can't know. But you owe it to yourself to set the bar on that pretty freaking high. As Marcdachamp said, you're asking for controversy. Only do this if you're damn positive that the artistic payoff is worth the kind of headaches and flak that you will incur for doing this, and that there is absolutely no other way to make your point.

Honestly, that is my main problem with the idea. It just seems like that artistic argument has already been made. I guess I'm waiting for "what's next" or "what now"; so you've made this artistic statement about race, what are you going to say now? Here, I think, is where the strength of the creator and his/her work comes into play.

PimpSlapStick!
12-21-2008, 07:16 PM
Do your self a favor and avoid the subject altogether


That's all I'm gonna say on this issue, period

LenNWallace
12-21-2008, 08:06 PM
It's a very, very, VERY risky line to tow, and if you choose to do it, then whatever point you're going to be attempting to make will have to be extremely well done and on point.

JamesV
12-21-2008, 08:13 PM
I think if you do something like this, it really really has to hammer home the point you are making, as to help over shadow the gut reaction. I think you almost have to acknowledge it in the work itself.

For instance, if you have a specific art style for Jack Johnson in private, around peers, around people who see him as a person versus Jack Johnson in "black face" when he is around racists, the public, etc.

stevapalooza
12-21-2008, 08:31 PM
Even without the offensiveness I don't think the device would work. It sends too many mixed messages. Youre trying to denounce racism yet you're presenting every black character in racist terms, portraying them as inhuman others and encouraging the audience to see them as racists do. Those images would work against your text, not with it. It's also just overkill.

Jef UK
12-21-2008, 08:46 PM
Using blackface would definitely be a statement on the extreme racism of the times, not used for the sake of shock, and not demeaned in any way. Which would make it difficult to pull off because I wouldn't want it to be an obvious in-your-face statement,

Using blackface would not really be a statement on the extreme racism of the times, whether you want it to or not. I don't think you're thinking critically enough about how blackface operates or what it would mean for a (white) cartoonist to use it in a story about black people.

Jef UK
12-21-2008, 08:47 PM
Even without the offensiveness I don't think the device would work. It sends too many mixed messages. Youre trying to denounce racism yet you're presenting every black character in racist terms, portraying them as inhuman others and encouraging the audience to see them as racists do. Those images would work against your text, not with it. It's also just overkill.


What Steve said. It doesn't make sense as a device the way you think it does.

TIP
12-21-2008, 09:37 PM
Howabout Egg Fu? Could you do something like this guy over the course of a year and a half? A nice 'stached quiche perhaps?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/cb/Wwoman158.jpg

nick maynard
12-21-2008, 09:37 PM
you're definitely running the risk of offending some people anytime you use stuff like that.

but for me, blackface ALONE isn't offensive. a story is racist whether or not it involves blackface or not.

my advice is that it MIGHT be more trouble than it's worth.

c. page
12-21-2008, 09:45 PM
yeah, i'd definitely suggest not doing it. your writing would have to be top notch for it to work, and even then, you may not be able to hit it right. frankly, i think as a storytelling device, you're better off leaving it alone.

Donal DeLay
12-22-2008, 05:20 AM
Dammit. I forgot about the PBS doc by that name. Either way, good source material if you're trying to get that made. Yeah, it's a good documentary. I'm re-watching it.


I think if you do something like this, it really really has to hammer home the point you are making, as to help over shadow the gut reaction. I think you almost have to acknowledge it in the work itself.

For instance, if you have a specific art style for Jack Johnson in private, around peers, around people who see him as a person versus Jack Johnson in "black face" when he is around racists, the public, etc. The dual-use, and acknowledgement of it has crossed my mind and I'm looking for a way to make that work. There is a question in my mind on having a Chaplin-esque type moment near the end where he sits in front of a mirror before his title match and "removes the blackface". Because it's near that point in his career that a lot of people stop seeing him as a black man boxing and start to see him just as a contender for the title.


Using blackface would not really be a statement on the extreme racism of the times, whether you want it to or not. I don't think you're thinking critically enough about how blackface operates or what it would mean for a (white) cartoonist to use it in a story about black people.

Trust me, I'm thinking real hard about the entire thing. To the point of doing two versions and letting youse guys decide which is better when it's done.

TRILL, THE CARBON BASED LIFEFORM
12-22-2008, 06:01 AM
I don't think your original intent would matter to most people, Donal.

Ashwin Pande
12-22-2008, 06:13 AM
I think the problem is that you're white. If you were black then you probably wouldn't face the same criticism. I've always found this to be a weird thing. Logically it's idiotic but we don't always function logically.

Personally, if you're doing it to represent the racism of the time I don't see a problem with it. The blackface and golliwog images are reprehensive but if you are able to use it well and pull it off then it could work.

cPol
12-22-2008, 06:34 AM
Unless you're Alan Moore, you probably can't pull this off.

Donal DeLay
12-22-2008, 08:51 AM
I guess I'll just have to do the two versions and see which one reads better.