Where is the Line to be Drawn?
Good Morning, I hope I'm not over staying my welcome with another e-mail. Maybe I
should just go straight to the "Letters" section in the future. However, I wanted
to tell you that yesterday evening - after all the thought provoking reading and our
e-mails - it all kept churning around in my head; and as I had to drive down into
Appalachia for a work assignment - about a five hour round trip - I was left with
a lot of time in the car to think about the Jim Crow Museum, stereotyping and negative
caricatures in general. Anyway, it occur to me that maybe I had not asked myself the
right questions, i.e. where is the line to be drawn; is there a ever a legitimate
usage of and/or place for the derogatory, the negative caricatures and stereotyping
outside of a teaching environment such as your museum.
And my original question about Faulkner seemed a little dumb as, yes, the "Arts"
are a teaching vehicle and there should be legitimate usages, but making the call,
and as to who can make it and in what context - that gets tricky. The current controversy
over the use of the N word swirls around us everyday (last night black comedian Eddie
Griffin was stopped in the middle of his routine). Is that conversation, an internal
"Family" affair on which I should keep my opinions to myself? ... But I digress.
Ok - so when I arrived back home last night around midnight I was wired from the
road and decided to drink a beer and watch TV and as serendipity would have it the
first thing I clicked on was one of my all time favorite movies: the great old cult
classic; a film I truly felt was full of coolness and clever humor, The Blues Brothers.
I've seen it at least a couple of dozen times, and even if I saw it at a dozen times
more, I still wouldn't get tired of it.
However, this time I immediately flashed back on the thoughts, which had commanded
my attention all day. I saw the film in a new way and was not at all sure if I liked
what I was feeling. There was James Brown as Reverend Cleophus; Cab Calloway as Curtis
the janitor who was Jake and Elwood's mentor and lives in the basement of an orphanage;
Ray Charles who runs a pawn shop called Ray's Music Exchange and Howlin' Wolf as street
musician; the interaction between Aretha Franklin who runs a Sole Cafe and her "man"
Matt 'Guitar' Murphy; band member Willie 'Too Big' Hall; the Neo-Nazis from the American
Socialist White People's Party (LOL); the Good Ol' Boys and the red-necks at Bob's
Country Bunker and the Jewish booking agent Steve Lawrence as Maury Sline - all stock
Where's the sliding scale on this? Is there one? Is it just a really cool repackaging
(30 years ago) of the same old crap; did the caricatures Archie Bunker and George
Jefferson really accomplish anything?
This morning when I woke up, I was not as sure as I was 24 hours that I could draw
the distinction between the legitimate and the perverse - if such a thing exists,
other than to hope that I'll know it when I see it; that I can recognize the underlying
intent and judge it accordingly.
-- September 6, 2007
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