Tuesday, July 7, 2009

“Ebonic” Transformers — Offensive or Oft Realistic?


I've been waiting to talk about this one until I was sure most of you had a chance to see the movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Apparently, some folks find two of the characters, Skids and Mudflap, tow twin robots disguised as compact cars offensive. Why? Because they speak Ebonics and one of them has a gold tooth—one can’t read.

Racial stereotypes have been a part of the media since its inception. Starting in the 1915 with “The Birth of a Nation” where blacks were depicted as thieves, coons, untrustworthy, decadent, servants with dominant mammies. Even back then, concerns over black stereotypes existed: The Independent Black Filmmakers were formed and produced “The Birth of a Race” as a counter to the film. The 1930s continued to see the popularity of Blackface in movies. The period of Sixties through the Seventies marked the era of "blaxploitation” films showing black characters as overly macho, overly violent, overly sex crazed, hood heroes fighting each other, the man, and just about everything in between. And even to date, movies, television, and radio are marked by the stereotypical rendition of black folk as neurotics, religious zealots, criminals, gang members, gangster rappers or athletes. And in 2005 who could forget Ja-Ja Binks of Star wars? Point is the media has always had a fascination with and disdain for African American culture, then and now. And, this love hate relationship will probably continue. So is there an issue here?

Fact is these folk exist in our community (as in all others by the way). So should we, as African Americans, get upset when these behaviors are shown? After all, I didn’t hear of anyone getting upset with any African American comics portrayal of black folk. Do any of you out there not think that Fat Albert, Mudbone, Sheneneh, Jerome, Professor Clump, and Wanda are some of the funniest and true to life characters in history?

So here’s what I think. Wouldn’t it just be better for more African Americans to do better (eat right, attend school, marry, work, save, and own businesses)? When more of us do that fewer of us will be offended and these characters will have less relevance.


Dee said...

I keep wondering if it's actually the who behind the stereotyping. You brought up "Birth of a Nation," a film ripe with negative imagery for the purpose of improving the image of the KKK.

I know black people make fun of the same tropes, but there isn't that air of superiority and denigration about it. We wouldn't use the jokes to justify a sort of umbrella treatment of all blacks as a second-class.

Iam Robert said...


You're absolutely right--the folks WHO are DOING the stereotyping are dead wrong. It's also interesting to note that many of the stereotypes about people of color are born of ignorance and fear.

But can you see my point that black folk need to stop doing some of the things that are being portrayed in the media?

Dee, thanks for visiting man...and keep on commenting!