Also, Jewish Mothers Are Not Necessarily Domineering

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The New York Times frets about commercials featuring big black broads with attitude. Apparently many overweight African-American women are quite sedate, while some thin ones have been known to raise a ruckus. The Times worries that commercials for Dairy Queen, Universal Studios, and Captain Morgan rum suggest otherwise. Although the spots do not seem to have generated any complaints from viewers, the Times was able to locate half a dozen critics. "Despite the popularity of such characters among blacks," the paper reports, "the use of the image of big black women as the target of so many jokes is troublesome [troubling?] to some marketers and media scholars"—all of whom the Times has rounded up for our convenience. The thrust of the criticism seems to be that it's OK for blacks, but not for whites, to laugh at Big Momma–type characters and to produce commercials featuring them. Conveniently, most of the critics are black advertising executives who sell their expertise in racial sensitivities.

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  1. Yet another reason to never click on a NYT.com link again. (Never mind actually buying their rag…)

    The Times has become a self-parody of leftist media — not quite as disreputable as your local Worker’s Weekly News, but they’re striving hard in that direction.

  2. (1) The NYTimes is rather silly when it comes to this type of thing. McDonald’s might be trying to sell me on the idea that big black women exhbit X and Y traits, but McDonald’s is also, in the same ad, trying to sell me a coaster shaped shit-disc as a hamburger. I have no doubt (nor opposition) that big ad agencies have figured out which buttons are pushed by having big black women in TV commercials.

    (2) In partial defense, this story is in the Media and Advertising section of the paper which is editoral-based rather than straight reporting, no? You may argue that the NYT is biased, but you can’t use this article to prove it. We already know their editorial page is relatively left.

  3. Yeah, that’s some namby-panby sensitivity right there, Hands.

    But Sullum’s dismissal of this raises a question: “Despite the popularity of such characters among blacks,” the paper reports, “the use of the image of big black women as the target of so many jokes is troublesome [troubling?] to some marketers and media scholars”

    I refer to the stuff on my head as “thick, greasy, black dago hair” on occasion, but if you were to call my mother a dago, I’d likely pop you in the mouth.

    Is that double standard really a problem?

  4. The thrust of the criticism seems to be that it’s OK for blacks, but not for whites, to laugh at Big Momma?type characters and to produce commercials featuring them. Conveniently, most of the critics are black advertising executives who sell their expertise in racial sensitivities.

    Good god, don’t get me started on reverse racism.

    Yesterday my friend and I were walking to our cars in a predominantly black neighborhood late at night. A black youth a few yards away yelled, “white trash” loudly with intention of our hearing it. I’m quite certain that the same kind of behavior exhibited by a white person towards a black person would be met with a body riddled with bullets.

    Yet another reason why I don’t believe in “urban culture”. There is no such thing.

  5. The issue is the normalization of the plus size.

    If America ever needed Dick Gregory, we need him now.

  6. i like big butts and i cannot lie…

    keep bawlin’ baby.

  7. Does anyone besides the pundits really pay any attention to advertising? Conjuring a reportable ‘issue’ about an ad might be an effective PR strategy for getting someone to notice it…

  8. “Is that double standard really a problem?”

    In the context of advertising/movies/television, yes it is, since the viewer often has no idea what race the writer/director/producer/etc. of the product is. It’s absurd to suggest that someone who watches a TV ad and isn’t offended by the image in front of them is entitled to subsequently become outraged because of the race of the person who produced it. Either the image is a vicious stereotype or it is not, regardless of who produced it.

  9. “I’m quite certain that the same kind of behavior exhibited by a white person towards a black person would be met with a body riddled with bullets.”

    Well it could be, and it might even be more likely that it would be, but your level of certainty about it is excessive in my opinion.

    I’m a white person who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood. As far as my neighbors go, the attitudes towards me seem to run the spectrum, though for the most part people are quite welcoming. But I’ve encountered some people who respond with barely concealed hostility for no apparent reason, and I assume that it comes down to race.

    It would probably be harder for me if the neighborhood were more marginal in terms of crime and poverty, but it’s the kind of neighborhood that real estate agents describe as “up and coming.”

    My general observations are that black Americans tend to be more boisterous that white Americans, that black women might tend to be more boisterous than black men but I’m not sure, and that the size of the black women doesn’t have much relationship to their level of boisterousnous. My next door neighbor, who is black and not large, is very boisterous, which seems to be a part of her character and general charm.

    My thinking is that, for the most part, black Americans have more to occupy their minds with than large, boisterous black women as portrayed in television commercials, unless these portrayals really do cross some line into blatant offensiveness, which I couldn’t really pinpoint without an example.

    I will say that the McDonald’s commercials in which black people refer to McDonald’s as “Mickey D’s” are a pet peeve. I don’t know if black Americans refered to McDonald’s as “Mickey D’s” prior to those commercials, or if they do now. My suspicion about the implication in the commercials, that blacks regard McDonald’s with fond and familiar affection, is fabricated regardless of how frequently blacks patronize McDonald’s as compared to people of other races. It really rubbed me the wrong way. If it rubs many others the wrong way, the main conclusion I’d draw is that the commercials were bad.

  10. Speaking of the normalizaiton of the plus size, I was looking at this the other day. You have to scroll down a bit.

    http://www.pocketcalculatorshow.com/boombox/golden1.html

    I’m not sure the Fat Boys would really stand out as all that fat nowadays.

  11. van, my wife (non-black, FWIW) has always called it Mickey D’s.

    And my Australian friends call it “Mackas” – but then, they chop up the language in ways that make your head spin, so that may not be a valid reference point. Ask me in the arvo.

  12. Yo mama so big, she got a wooden leg with a kickstand!

  13. As long as government doesn’t get involved, I don’t really give a fuck what silly stereotypes McDonalds uses to sell its alleged food. It’s their advertising dollars, not mine.

  14. “the use of the image of big black women as the target of so many jokes is troublesome [troubling?] to some marketers and media scholars”

    I think the preferred usage here is “be some trouble.”

  15. I will say that the McDonald’s commercials in which black people refer to McDonald’s as “Mickey D’s” are a pet peeve. I don’t know if black Americans refered to McDonald’s as “Mickey D’s” prior to those commercials, or if they do now. My suspicion about the implication in the commercials, that blacks regard McDonald’s with fond and familiar affection, is fabricated regardless of how frequently blacks patronize McDonald’s as compared to people of other races. It really rubbed me the wrong way.

    I can’t speak to the current state of affairs, but the nickname “Mickey D’s” has been around for at least 30 years. That’s what my (very white) mother always called it when I was a kid in the 80’s. So I’m not really sure McDonald’s is so much trying to create a stereotype as it’s trying to appear hip (and failing).

  16. Let’s not forget everyone’s favorite example of McDonald’s outreach into the black community:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/15/I%27d_Hit_It_-_McDonalds_banner.gif

  17. Clean Hands and Stretch, thanks for the info. I don’t necessarily think it’ll stop driving me nuts, but I guess that’s the nature of a pet peeve.

    As for the Aussies, yeah, both they and the Brits have that weird predilection for creating cutesy abbreviations for every last thing and I don’t understand it. Sharon is “Shazza,” sandwich is “sandy,” etc. I suppose it’s part of their character and charm. It’s weird though, my mom is English from a totally working class background, and neither she nor her elder relatives use that language. I learned of the abbreviation thing from watching Eastenders. It took me a while to catch on.

  18. You mean it isn’t Arc D’Or?

  19. nobody,
    I’ve been called a n***er in a predominantly white bar in Boston, no bullets flew and my response was “It’s sand n***er, you fucking moron.” The ignorance of some people is amazing sometimes.

  20. While it’s true that black folk face sundry hurdles and discrimination, the fact that they can say “nigger” with impunity is ample compensation.

  21. Mo, I’d never call you a S-N.

    Now, camel jockey…..

    Kevin
    (Stout-swilling potato-eater)

  22. The issue is the normalization of the plus size.

    And why is that an issue? Tim, that sounds like a statement that’s teetering on the edge of a moral panic.

  23. So what’s funnier…The NYT deeming something so trivial–don’t want to upset media scholars, now do we?–as worthy of an article or the banner ad for “Classic Maureen Dowd” above said article?

  24. I think it’s funny that the NYT and the various academics they interviewed are slapping their heads and realizing that humor relies on stereotypes. If you have a problem with stereotypes, you have a problem with humor. (And opera. And movies. And basically all forms of culture.) I’m thinking of P.J. O’Rourke saying that ideologues always want humor to “make a point,” but laughter is involuntary and points are not.

    Now what’s funny is how labored attempts to avoid stereotype end up unintentionally retaining a kind of after-image or impression of the original stereotype by carefully scissoring it out and leaving a neat hole in its exact shape. Dick Gregory was always pretty funny about these sorts of things — newspapers in the 1950s that would write about so-and-so, “who happens to be a Negro,” and stuff like that.

  25. Do these large black women in these ads always have some sort of issue with the person behind the counter over their change or some other perceived slight? Because that is something I see on a daily basis. I was always confused by this repeated occurance until I asked a “LBW” and was informed that indeed they are constantly being short changed by “whitey”. Who knew?

  26. “Is that double standard really a problem?”

    Yeah. It isn’t OK to segregate acceptable speech by ethnicity. If we both use a word in the same benign spirit yet you are offended because, say, I’m not Italian, then you are a racist. I understand this is a commonly accepted, mostly harmless form of racism. But it is racism.

  27. Regarding the normalization of the plus size — I do think that standards of normal body weight are based on Caucasians. Many people of African descent seem to be genetically predisposed to be larger than those of European descent. I have even read somewhere, and I can’t remember where, that in some regions of Africa, large women were regarded as more beautiful and were more likely to be chosen as wifes or concubines by high-status men, thus largeness was selected for by men more capable of providing for their offspring, etc. Anyone else familiar with this idea?

    In any case, it does seem pretty clear that many blacks are on average more muscular than whites, and muscle weighs more than fat, etc. again… My niece, who has black ancestory on her father’s side, is clearly much more muscular than her mother (my sister) or me. She carries weight better than we do and is probably healthier at a higher weight than if she tried to gauge what size she should be based on her mom’s size or mine.

    Regarding the “n” word and “white trash,” the “n” word does seem to be more incendiary than “white trash.” They are both offensive when intended to offend. It interests me is that many college-educated white liberals would never say the first but will say “white trash” with a sneer in what they would regard as polite society without thinking anything of it. It bothers me because just about everyone on the paternal side of my family would fall neatly into their classification of white trash, but hey, I live in the SF Bay Area and they don’t know they’re writing off half my family as garbage right to my face. There’s another pet peeve of mine.

    I think it’s fine that blacks have reclaimed the “n” word, just as homosexuals have reclaimed “queer.” The fact that I don’t get to use them too is ok by me. I believe that falls under the general concept of cultural competence.

  28. “I was always confused by this repeated occurance until I asked a “LBW” and was informed that indeed they are constantly being short changed by “whitey”. Who knew?”

    I’m a white guy, and yesterday, I gave a bank teller 9 twenties and asked for a one hundred dollar bill and eighty dollars in quarters. He gave me the quarters and said have a nice day. I mentioned that I’d given him $180.00 and all he had given me was $80 in quarters. He replied, “I didn’t give you the hundred dallar bill? I said no and that I was willing to be searched if he didn’t believe me. He said, “Oh, I guess I forgot.”

    So my question is: do you think it was an honest mistake on his part or are there teller scam artists working at banks?

  29. Regarding the “n” word and “white trash,” the “n” word does seem to be more incendiary than “white trash.”

    That’s not what I was suggesting, though, van. I was saying that it is much more likely for someone who is white and insulted by race to react politely and rationally (and ignore the offense), while urban “culture” would dictate that the offended react violently. Also I should add that in my situation, the insult was completely unwarranted and thrown in our direction unprovoked. I suppose “white trash” would say the same thing to unassuming, unoffensive black people walking through their predominantly-white neighborhood. So my complaint is with ignorant people in general.

  30. Mr. Shortchange,

    I feel your pain. Today at lunch I gave a cashier $20.10 and he tried to give me back $7.90 in change when he really owed me $8. I was like, “bitch, I gave you a twenty and a dime!!”.

  31. “That’s not what I was suggesting, though, van. I was saying that it is much more likely for someone who is white and insulted by race to react politely and rationally (and ignore the offense), while urban “culture” would dictate that the offended react violently.”

    I understand that. My comments about ‘n’ and ‘wt’ were more general and not specifically directed at you. I do still think that the degree of certainty you expressed in your original post was way excessive.

    And actually, I should have said that there are times when I don’t like hearing black people use the “n” word because the timing can be inappropriate — for example, on a bus crowded with people of different races. But mostly I feel sorry for those kids, because they are lacking a sense of social norms and even “cultural competence” that will work against them in life. But the other night when I was in my neighbor’s house and they used the word, the context was totally different. Everyone was among friends, they weren’t showing off, they weren’t trying to offend anyone, and they certainly did not offend me (the only one with real potential to feel marginalized in that particular situation).

  32. Anyone who thinks it is irresponsible to use a stereotype in a 30-second commercial without also balancing that stereotype with a stereotype-buster is just plain nuts.

    It is a commercial damn it, not a miniseries.

  33. “I feel your pain.”

    But do you think the teller is a scam-artist? I’m asking in all sincerity here. It really did make me wonder. I mean, if I had not noticed the missing hundred until later and then went back to the bank and said, Hey! you guy’s shorted me a hundred bucks, do you think they’d believe me? I had an experience where a cash machine didn’t dispense the cash but still deducted it from my account. It took weeks to get my money and in that case, I at least had a paper trail.

  34. But do you think the teller is a scam-artist? I’m asking in all sincerity here. It really did make me wonder. I mean, if I had not noticed the missing hundred until later and then went back to the bank and said, Hey! you guy’s shorted me a hundred bucks, do you think they’d believe me?

    It’s quite possible he was. It’s also possible he was a run-of-the-mill dishonest person, or even that he made an honest mistake. I try to be pretty careful about these things since I was once an innocent victim of identity fraud. (Only one to my knowledge, anyway…hopefully no more than that isolated incident).

    Of course they wouldn’t believe you if you’d said they shorted you a hundred bucks — unless the guy really did make an honest mistake and the drawer was over by that specific amount.

  35. Mr. Shortchange,

    I think it’s most likely that your unusual request to exhange 9 twenties for 1 hundred plus eight rolls of quarters messed with his head. I realize it might sound like a stretch, but in general I think mental confusion is a more likely explanation than a deliberate scam attempt on the part of bank teller. I can recall once writing a $100 check for cash and asking for $10 to be in quarters, and the teller gave me a 5 twenties plus a roll of quarters. I remember this because I was really struggling financially at the time, but was a good samaritan and returned to the bank when I realized her mistake to return the $10.

  36. Mr. SC,

    The person was quite possibly trying to rip you off. This is a very old scam.

    Most people are thieves by nature; how else do you explain the current state of taxation?

  37. Smacky / Van

    Thank you for your insights.

    Best Regards,
    Mr. Shortchange

  38. “Today at lunch I gave a cashier $20.10 and he tried to give me back $7.90 in change when he really owed me $8.”

    I had a similar experience not long ago, in a grocery store- I eventually had to give the cashier, an extremely attractive young girl, a remedial math lesson using her pen and the back of the receipt. If she was actually trying to scam me out of a quarter, instead of just being dumber than a bag of potatoes, she should quit that job and push off for Hollywood right now. They can always use actresses with that kind of talent.

  39. As a white writer:

    • If I invent black characters who act “black” then they are steriotypes, and I’m racist.
    • If I invent black characters who don’t act “black” then they’re oreos, and I’m racist.
    • If I avoid the hassle and don’t have black characters, why then I’m obviously racist.

    So I fool them. I invent characters who are black, but I don’t tell the readers what color they are.

  40. I am disappointed. Nobody’s mentioned Jimmy Castor’s Zappa-esque classic The Bertha Butt Boogie.
    http://www.lyricsdownload.com/jimmy-castor-bunch-the-bertha-butt-boogie-part-1-lyrics.html

  41. I remember the Bertha Butt Boogie well. I thought it was hilarious when I was 9 or so. I haven’t come across that one in years. I did find “Troglodyte” on some 70s compilation once, though.

  42. “I was saying that it is much more likely for someone who is white and insulted by race to react politely and rationally (and ignore the offense), while urban “culture” would dictate that the offended react violently…So my complaint is with ignorant people in general.”

    So “urban” people are more likely – no, not more likely, are dictated by their “culture” (as opposed to their plain-old, no-scare-quotes culture) – to be ignorant people. While white people – the opposite of “urban” people, if I read you corrrectly – are more likely to be polite and rational.

    Loud and clear, nobody. Loud and clear. And you say that “reverse discrimination” is what really gets your goat? My, that is shocking.

  43. &#9786: “Great Scott! Those bed-wetting crypto-Commie huff-and-puffs at The New York Times have gone and done it again!”

    &#9787: “How dat, Marse Hollingsworth?”

    &#9786: “Once again, they’ve gone and tried to deliberately manufacture a racial controversy where none exists! They — er, freshen up my martini, would you Roosevelt?”

    &#9787: “Yes suh.”

    &#9786: “Thank you. Good man. Where was I? … Oh. They’ve taken offense at the frequent portrayal of African-American matriarchs as full-figured and ebullient. Moreover, those pedants of PC-dom think that African-Americans should take grievous umbrage as well. And, heavens to Murgatroyd, if they didn’t turn over every stone and stoop in the Ivory Towers of academe until they found a handful of pinchfarts who agreed with them!”

    &#9787: “You doan say. Mmm mmm mmm.”

    &#9786: “I don’t mind telling you, Roosevelt, such flagrant muckraking flumgullery really dessicates my brie!”

    &#9787: “Shame on dem. Why, Marse Hollingsworth, my own momma was big and feisty. Why, I lub doze charactuhs!”

    &#9786: “As do I, Roosevelt! As do I!”

    &#9787: “Dey rings of authenticity and speaks to the Afficun-American ‘sperience!”

    &#9786: “Indeed! Well said! Only a humorless knave would think otherwise. Why, I daresay the vast majority of humor relies on stereotyping of one sort or another. All in good fun, of course.”

    &#9787: “‘Deed, suh.”

    &#9786: “Still … I suppose one could take it too far.”

    &#9787: “Mmmm hmmm.”

    &#9786: (stares into fireplace)

    &#9787: “Say, Marse Hollingsworth, dids you have some serious point to make?”

    &#9786: “No, just playing with HTML and being a dick.”

    &#9787: “I hopes Marse Cavanaugh doan ban us.”

    &#9786: “That is a sentiment, old fellow, with which I am in complete and total accord.”

  44. Don’t be sorry. Frickin’ righteous!

    But I don’t get it. Are you implying that there is some racism afoot?
    Heavens to Murgatroyd, indeed!

  45. Since (I presume) Jacob’s not British I’ll let him off missing this 1980s Jewish Mother advertising reference, but in the UK it’s one of the all time most well known campaigns.

    I like phord’s point:

    Now what’s funny is how labored attempts to avoid stereotype end up unintentionally retaining a kind of after-image or impression of the original stereotype by carefully scissoring it out and leaving a neat hole in its exact shape. Dick Gregory was always pretty funny about these sorts of things — newspapers in the 1950s that would write about so-and-so, “who happens to be a Negro,” and stuff like that.

    Many years ago a friend of mine decided to make his point by yelling questions at a Parliamentary committee from the public gallery until he got chucked out. Something about military adventures I seem to recall … but the most memorable part was the way the Guardian newspaper wrote it up. For whatever reason they felt they had to mention he was black. They landed up with “a well spoken young black man” which in context was so transparently an hilariously awkward locution produced by the need to soften the blow about skin colour.

  46. L O friggin’ L, I’m Sorry!!!

  47. If I invent black characters who act “black” then they are steriotypes, and I’m racist.
    If I invent black characters who don’t act “black” then they’re oreos, and I’m racist.
    If I avoid the hassle and don’t have black characters, why then I’m obviously racist.

    In a cynical mood, I suspect that this no-win situation is the point. It’s like 55-mph speed limits. Everybody breaks them, so everybody is breaking the law, which means that anybody can be pulled over “legitimately” if the police officer doesn’t like their skin color or pot-leaf bumper sticker or the smart look on their face. When you create conditions that ensure that everybody is a wrongdoer, it gives the police much more power. In matters of racial representation the “police” are members of the scribal class — journalists and academics. If you are a music critic and you really hate some guy, you can nuke his ass and insinuate that he’s a racist. (This isn’t 1994, so we don’t come right out at and say a guy is racist, we just let people draw their own conclusions.) This confers great power on the critic, because being a racist is maybe the worst thing you can be. And that power is easily had, because the no-win logic of racial representations means that everyone potentially a racist. Except, of course, for those who carefully cultivate the appropriate postures of racial sensitivity and come to be accepted as certified non-racists. In academia (where I work) everyone aspires to this condition and its attendent power, and it leads to weird moments of conversational one-upmanship. I recently got in a conversation with a friend about the Looney Tunes short Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarves and was joined by another colleague, who, sensing that I actually thought some of the gags in that cartoon were funny, couldn’t resist the opportunity to make the “who farted” face and utter something prim about not finding that sort of thing funny at all. Score! You win! Because what are you going to say in that situation?

    Maybe Marshall McLuhan’s line: “Moral indignation is the standard technique used to endow the idiot with dignity.”

  48. This is my fault. I just had to reveal the black smiley face to the general public, rather than e-mail it directly to smacky (I think that’s who wanted it). Now we have minstrel shows on Hit & Run.

    I am oppressed by Southern guilt.

  49. I’ve been called a n***er in a predominantly white bar in Boston, no bullets flew and my response was “It’s sand n***er, you fucking moron.” The ignorance of some people is amazing sometimes.

    And you didn’t blow yourself up?

  50. Test,

    That’s just wrong, man. As penance, you must turn the Wheel of Doctrine until you achieve enlightenment:

    ?

  51. phord,

    *hearty laugh*

    Yes, those silly ethics. What an outdated throwback.

  52. ?

    God will get you for that, smacky ?

    Huh. According to my reference material, there isn’t a black frowny face. That’s got to be significant, in identity politics terms.

  53. “I was saying that it is much more likely for someone who is white and insulted by race to react politely and rationally (and ignore the offense), while urban “culture” would dictate that the offended react violently.”

    OMG! As the kkkids say.

    A random bit of context:

    We of the CHURCH OF THE CREATOR are not hypocrites. We openly state that some people need killing, that killing has always been with us and will always be with us….Killing our enemies, too, is under certain circumstances a necessary measure for the survival of our own race. Therefore we condone it, and it, too, is no sin in our religion.” (Ben Klassen, The White Man’s Bible)

  54. Don’t be sorry. Frickin’ righteous! … But I don’t get it. Are you implying that there is some racism afoot? Heavens to Murgatroyd, indeed!

    “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”

    — Mark Twain

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