Two more thoughts on Hey Hey

The Jackson Jive

The controversy over this skit, which involved five men blacking up (and one “whiting” up) to portray the Jackson 5, rages on.

I don’t think it’s as simple as some are making out.

Those offended (especially the Americans and Brits) should bear in mind that “blackfacehas no history in Australia, and the racial connotations, including that those participating are parodying stereotypical blacks, simply don’t exist here. And certainly it appears that the partipants meant no offence. (Note: most of them are not actually white.)

Meanwhile, those annoyed claiming that people are being over-sensititive and that apologising is “political correctness gone mad” should remember that now we’re a global village. Even without the presence of Harry Connick Jr, this was bound to be seen internationally, and by people who would be offended by it.

So why are people offended? As Wikipedia notes:

Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrelsy played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide.

…and as Harry Connick Jr quite eloquently pointed out:

…I know it was done humorously, but we’ve spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart…

Society changes. Just because it was okay to show the same act in the 80s (and even in the titles of the 1999 finale) doesn’t mean it’s okay anymore.

When was it that smoking was banned in restaurants? About 2001? Today smoking in a restaurant (or even in a pub) seems totally outlandish. We’ve moved on.

I like nostalgia. But some of what was on Hey Hey in the past should have stayed in the past.

The Hey Hey mix

Beyond the current furore, I was pondering what makes Hey Hey tick. I’ve decided that it’s like a big dinner party conversation. They basically get a whole bunch of people in a room and wait for the humour to happen, guided through the show by the various segments. You’ve got the host, the assistant, the various puppets, you’ve got the voiceover man, the caption person, the cartoon-drawer, the sound-effects guy, the interjecting bandmembers and roving comic, all coming up with one-liners.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

17 replies on “Two more thoughts on Hey Hey”

Global community or not, this was intended for an Australian audience and not an American one. As you validly point out, Australia has a much different history to the US and “blackface” has no racial connotation here.

I am yet to find an Australian who took offence. Certainly not heard any complaints from our Aboriginal brothers, either.

The fact is that the humour in this skit came from the sad tragedy of Michael Jackson, who tried to desperately to deny his black racial heritage. It is a criticism of him, than of all black people.

While I disagree with racism against any ethnic group, the reaction shows the extent of US influence here. I doubt that the reaction would have been as strong if the performance offended a minority group of a different country.

It seems that while Australian culture is strong here, it has to some extent given way to American culture over the last few decades.

They may be all coming up with one-liners but none of them are coming up with any witty ones.

Why anyone thought such a lame skit could be thought of as funny and/or entertaining is a mystery. Where is the humour? I don’t understand how so many people are pleased that this show has returned to fill so many hours of airtime with such truly awful material.

The number of comments I’ve read from people celebrating the return of this show as being reason to watch tv again astounds me; especially as we’re currently in the midst of a golden age of television. Raise your standards, middle Australia – you’re embarrassing yourselves.

Let’s face it, it was unlikely that the performers intended the skit to be racist- this was just plain dumb! I guess they re-performed the skit as part of the nostalgia bit, and I agree with you Daniel that some things in the past should stay in the past! It makes you wonder who was the genius at Somers Carroll who thought this bit would be great! Not only was this a dumb skit, it was awful! Then again, it was Red Faces- not exactly the zenith of Australian talent! I mean, last week they had a kid smearing Vegemite on himself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Though I respect Harry Connick Jr, despite shilling for Connex:
and can understand him being upset, as a New Orleans native, but might like to reconsider his indignation and sanctimony given this little clip from his past:

With regards to the overseas coverage of it, they have taken this way out of context! Without understanding our culture, they have gone and made unfounded statements- from the UK media to the fountains of all knowledge- the ladies of the View:

With all of the criticism, the one overseas media personality who actually got it right and stuck up for Australians, and was highlighted on Channel 9 news tonight, was none other than the man with the number 1 rated cable news show in the world- Bill O’Reilly! On the episode of ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ that aired at 11:00 this morning (9/10/2009) on the Fox News Channel, he had a segment, ‘Culture Warriors’ featuring Gretchen Carlson, co-host of ‘Fox and Friends’ on FNC and Margaret Hoover, great-granddaugher of 31st US President, Herbert Hoover. They normally discuss cultural topics, and they spoke about the skit- watch the following clip from 3:35:

You’ll find Carlson and Hoover, who I mostly agree with, get it wrong completely here, not understanding the nuances of our culture, and Hey Hey! O’Reilly gets it spot on- Australia and America are very similar culturally, and that this was not indicative of racism, just a stupid decision! He later on at the end of the episode, on his e-mail segment, which I happened to have had one read a few months back (a pinnacle for me- how sad!!), read an e-mail from a Perth resident pointing out that he neglected to mention Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan, which he promptly corrected, and praised Aussie Diggers involvement- two times in one episode sticking up for Australia!! And for those of you who are eager to dismiss O’Reilly and Fox News, yes I am a FNC junkie, and watch O’Reilly daily, and for all the criticism of him being a “controversial right-wing” commentator, as James Talia said on tonight’s Nine News, he is quite fair to both sides of politics, even though he does lean conservative. Fox News seems to be the only decent news channel, covering all sides, despite what people say, and its US ratings reflect that:

As for the future of Hey Hey, I think it would work, but not on a weekly basis. Maybe every half-year, who knows!? Certainly we as a country have moved on from it, and I watched and loved it every Saturday, but can’t imagine watching it regularly now! Sure, it bright back good memories, but we need fresh, decent TV!

As a side note- we had Plucka Duck play soccer when I was at high school about 13 years ago- boy did he swear like a sailor, in spite of his quiet demeanor! And if any one remembers Hey Hey comedian Paul Calleja- he was my high school drama teacher!

Bert Newton calling Muhammad Ali “boy” during the 1978 Logies is on Youtube. Surprised no one had bought it up in the media.

I realise that this skit was not intended to be offensive and that the performers were not aware of just how offensive it would be to the American audience. We might think that what is considered offensive in our respective cultures would be almost the same. As an American I am not at all surprised at the reaction it has caused in my country and I thought Harry was very restrained in his reaction. Most any American asked would tell you that this sort of performance would be unthinkable in the US today.

But why isn’t your country up in arms at the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, too, Jed?
I’m not trying to start an argument here, btw, just trying to understand why 5 guys in Australia cause such a shyte-storm yet the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival – which is huge and yearly – doesn’t cause a hiccup.

Smoking in a restaurant might seem totally outlandish to you, but its legal and accepted elsewhere. Even in Australia (NSW in open air sections of restaurants).
Oh how easy it is to judge others (he says tongue in cheek). What a media beat up its been. Slow news week.

Tim, actually the Bert Newton thing did get a mention on one of the TV news reports.

Brian, yeah smoking is still legal in outdoor sections of Victorian restaurants. I was referring to the ban in smoking indoors in restaurants.

Bert Newton, I hear you say:
I like the boy!! Once again, he had no idea about the significance of it!

Well then, compare that to this:

This is former DEMOCRATIC US President Jimmy Carter referring to President (then Candidate) Obama as a ‘black boy’! Yes, the peanut farmer, the same guy who brought about the oil crisis in the ’70s, champion of all liberal causes, calling his future successor a ‘boy’! And there’s no way he couldn’t have known it’s meaning- he’s from Georgia, the heart of the Deep South!! Though I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt- it could have been a slip of the tongue! Or a Freudian slip- who knows?

Andrew your right wing roots are showing. Check your sources. Carter referred to Obama as a ‘boy’ when speaking about him as a child. Last time I check male children are still referred to as boys regardless of their ethnicity or race.

Actual quote from Carter said on the Jim Lehrer news hour during the time when the Democractic nomination process was still underway:

JIM LEHRER: And do you think that—if it happens that he is elected, or even just being nominated, is—will send positive ripple effects throughout the country on the race issue?

JIMMY CARTER: Around the world. Around the world. And I think it already has sent a wave of approbation and admiration in many countries around the world, just knowing that this black boy who grew up with just a loving mother and grandparents—and that was about all he had to start with—does now have a chance to become the nominee of the Democratic Party for president.

He is clearly referring to Obama as a child. Something which can be ascertained by inserting the word ‘child’ instead of ‘boy’ in the quote. The meaning remains unchanged.

Funny? No. Not really.
Cheesy? Tacky? Silly? Yes.
Stupid decision making on behalf of the producers? For certain.
Offensive? Only to those who chose to see it as offensive.

I didn’t. People need to take this skit IN CONTEXT and stop shoving PC crap all over it. Look at it in context.

Facts: It was for a reunion show with the original people who did the skit 20 years ago doing it again specifically for the reunion show. There was no malice intended. It was a pisstake of the Jackson family and not meant to be representative of black people as a whole.

Theory: “OMGWTFBBQLOLQANTAS!11!!!!1!!! They’re making fun of black people!!!” Yeah, they were. A high profile bunch of eccentric, black NITWITS not but the black population in it’s entirety.

Ren’s Theory: HCJ (whom I love) simply had to say something. His father was a major player in the fight for black rights. This clip could not be seen worldwide without him saying something about it because once it got to the rest of the media (and it would have regardless), HCJ would have been raked over the coals if he’s stayed silent. And we would have been labeled racists anyway.

Personally I find it hilarious that the Americans are getting so worked up over a concept that they invented in the first place. If anyone should be ashamed that “blackface” exists at all, they should look within their own borders.

I’m taking my Gollywogs and going home.

I think those who are ‘offended’ by it are just showing their own suppressed racism. If you saw it for what it was, a tacky take on the Jackson’s, then colour didn’t even come into it.

Only just read about this.

I can see why what was done could conceivably cause offence but it does seem to me to have missed the point of the skit somewhat, ie to make a comment about Michael Jackson rather than “black” culture.

It is a **long** time since this sort of thing would have sat comfortably on British television, though, perhaps due to a perceived over-sensitivity to the British public.

That said, the BBC churned out for years a quite bizarre variety programme called the Black & White Minstrel Show, which would seem inconceivable to day anywhere, much like Daniel’s comment about changing attitudes to (say) smoking.

YouTube, as ever has plenty of clips from it, though, eg

The French, with somewhat “different” attitudes to everything from humour to race, were happy to put out a comedy sketch sending up a South African television news bulletin which provides an interesting comparison:

I once saw a clip from a Nigerian television drama set in colonial times though in which they’d “whited up” a black actor to play a British colonial official. Now that *was* bizarre……. :-)

I’m amazed that the topic is still being discussed! I had forgotten about this the last time I posted! The YouTube video that follows is of a US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from July of this year. It is chaired by the chairwoman of the Committee- Democratic Senator from California, Barbara Boxer. She is hearing testimony from the head of the Black Chamber of Commerce, Harry Alford, with regards to the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill, and on how it would affect African-American businesses.

Anyway, she knows that he is against the bill, and is trying to convince him that it is best for African-Americans. In order to do this, she cites a report from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in favor of the bill. She then cites a report from a group called The Hundred Black Men of Atlanta, also favoring the bill. It is here that he starts to see where she is heading with this. She is trying to convince him of the bill’s benefits, by referring to other black organizations who favor it. In other words, she thinks that he should like it because other blacks like it! He takes offense to this, and rightfully so, and begins to challenge her on it! Bear in mind that Boxer is a liberal Democrat, and chooses to continue down this racial line, insisting that he should fall in line with other blacks. He continues to eviscerate her, and she continues to trip herself up even further! He finishes by saying how awful the racial tone that hearing developed.
So as to make myself clear, I am NOT, repeat, NOT saying all liberals are racist, as is usually said of conservatives! I do not presume anyone is or isn’t racist based on their race or politics. I am, though, pointing out the hypocrisy of someone who claims to be racially tolerant, but feels the need to frame a conversation based on someone’s race. As Australians, we pride ourselves on being multi-cultural, and of all backgrounds, but rather than treating each other as Aussies, we look at the racial aspects of it! And I should know- as the son of Italian migrants, I spent most of my life thinking of myself as Italian, and disregarded the Aussie part, even though I was born and have spent my whole life here! It has only been the last few years that I have realised that I was wrong in my thinking for much of my life, and realised that I am far more Australian than Italian! I am fiercely proud of my heritage, taking pride in the traditions of making wine, sauce and salami, but take greater pride in this country and its accomplishments!
And for all those people who take offense so quickly at words- I am not fussed by racial terms, though I admit it has never been directed in my way in a negative way! One of my favourite shows at the moment is Kingswood Country, in which Ted Bullpitt insults wogs, micks (Catholics) and Falcon drivers! And guess what- I am proudly all those things- and I love Ted!
I think what I am trying to say, is that by constantly referencing race, we perpetuate the race industry! I pray for the day that we don’t refer to ourselves as hyphenated Australians- just Australians!

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