Drawing Attention … September 12th, 2018

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Published in: on September 12, 2018 at 2:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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Amos ‘n Angie… March 8, 2013

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Amos and AndyTwo out of work white actors–veterans of minstrel shows–came up with an idea to present a pair of Negro characters who were shiftless, rather ignorant, clumsy and ill-suited for everyday life, and dubbed them Amos  ‘n Andy. Spanning four decades and being translated from radio to television, this twosome created great comedy among the predominately white community in America, and laughs aplenty.

The only difficulty is that when issues of civil rights, human respect and equality came to the forefront, Amos ‘n Andy needed to be shoved to the back of the bus. It was.

Today nearly all Americans would be embarrassed to watch or listen to an episode of the repugnant spoof. They would be shocked at the underlying meanness and condescension in the scripts. But not so–for four decades. It was a staple of American life, and along with minstrel shows, in its own way attempted to keep the darker-skinned portions of our society at bay–from ever considering themselves toe-to-toe with the white community.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with what I just wrote. Most folks would nod their heads or “amen” such a denouncement of obvious racial bigotry and the process of limiting one group of people from ascending to their rightful position.

Yet every single night of the week on TV, and in most of our movies, we continue the same assault, merely changing the characters from Amos ‘n Andy to Amos ‘n Angie. We portray the battle between men and women to be a natural phenomenon, ordained by God, a conflict with no resolution and only worthy of cynical satire, not ever to be considered a resolvable stand-off.

Sometimes the dialogue favors women, making men look dull, stupid and Neanderthal. Other times, the humor is testosterone-driven, with women appearing bitchy, unreasonable, and of course in the end, vulnerable and desperately in need of a hug.

The parallel is there–and it is rather doubtful that we will ever have civil rights, social rights or national rights for all people as long as we tolerate an ongoing squabble between half the people against the other half. Yes, as long as we insist that men and women are so adverse to one another,  the only way to handle the imbalance will be to laugh at it.

How is the old Amos ‘n Andy minstrel show like the present Amos ‘n Angie square-off between the sexes? It works on the same four principles:

1. “They are so different from us that they’re just funny.” As in the case of Amos ‘n Andy, the new portrayal of men and women being cosmically ill-suited is just a way of hiding prejudice.

2. “They don’t make sense.” The two white actors who played Amos and Andy worked very hard to make their accents almost unintelligible, portraying the deep-rooted ignorance of their characters. Likewise, nowadays tirades of either men or women on TV shows and in movies lead the audience to believe that one or the other of the sexes is stupid.

3. They are always bickering. It was a hallmark of Amos ‘n Andy. Nowadays, the way to get people to chuckle is to portray that men and women can not find any common humanity, but instead, must bicker and fuss with each other until they fall into bed and resolve their problems between the sheets.

4. Finally–and probably most dastardly–watching one of these bigoted spoofs makes the viewer walk out thinking, “They are not like us.” The best way to keep the black man from the vote and civil rights was to stand on stage and portray him as the numskull. As long as that was permitted, all the marches from Selma to Montgomery were just walks in the park. And as long as we have entertainment which insists there is an evolutionary gap between the male and female that cannot be spanned, we will continue to have unnecessary conflict which will reflect on our society as permission to segregate.

Just as it took brave people to stand up and declare Amos ‘n Andy a dangerous attack on human beings, we are going to need some very insightful folks to refuse to participate in the Amos and Angie presentations permeating our culture.

Ironically, many of the black comedians who would be appalled at Amos ‘n Andy are now jumping on the bandwagon of Amos ‘n Angie, making a quick buck off of sarcasm and cheap shots at the genders.

You can still write a funny piece based upon a man and woman discovering how to become more like one another, thus signing an eternal peace treaty of the soul. But no one wants to do that as long as Amos ‘n Angie is selling. It’s just like no one wanted to stop Amos ‘n Andy when there were advertisers lined up to support it.

I will guarantee you, in thirty years many or most of the television shows we now extol as comedic wonders will be viewed as cultural bigotry. The issue is–will YOU be one of the ones to notice before it becomes so obvious that even the common riff-raff of Hollywood has to give up the ignoble cause?

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