Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: (
About: Re: Is the message corrupting the messenger

Fri, 12 Apr 1996 09:44:33 -0400

Originally from: "Tierno S. Bah" <>
Originally dated: Fri, 12 Apr 1996 09:44:33 -0400

Andrew M. Caplan wrote:

> decides to explore his "African roots." His "Africanness" is a subject
> for (Redd Foxx's) ridicule, but at the same time, of course, it reflects
> a real concern of young American Blacks, then and now. That episode
> should be worth more than one cultural studies paper, for sure....

All Black sit-coms of the 70s (The Jeffersons and other) explore that
issue with just about the same ambivalence.
> A more substantial consideration than this, however, is the question
> of how the sit-com format deals with serious issues such as poverty
> and its attendant ills.

> Redd Foxx's character ends up marrying
> a pretty, middle-class Black woman, moves out of the slum, and opens

Again, The Jeffersons theme song happily blasts that the couple is
"moving on up to..." the upper (white) side of the town.

> All of this speaks to the weaknesses of sit-coms generally, and not
> specifically Black sit-coms; they all rely on stale, predictable jokes
> and unreasonable scenarios--that's television, and it was more true of TV
> 20 years ago than it is today.

What you call weakness, stale and predictable is actually an expression
of the dominant (bourgeoisie) culture conveying its canons to the
average viewer, who internalizes and reproduces it, knowingly or not.
Think today of gangsta rap's trash language (q.v. the movie "THE BOYS
and THE HOOD"), its debasing language, the misogyny aimed at
African-American women.

> situations and the reactions of the actors, their performance style,
> originated in the African-American vaudeville tradition (most of these
> actors, like Redd Foxx himself, had a lot of experience in this kind

True, but this does not mitigate the disjuction between their social
environment and their show business profession. Like today's Black
sports and music stars, Redd Foxx portrayed on TV the very lifestyle
that his buddy, Malcom X, systematically ridiculed and tried to change.

> a whole community of Jewish entertainers crossed over from the Borsht
> Belt to TV

Give your readers some cues about Borsht Belt.

> None of which, unfortunately, has ANYTHING to do with African cinema
> (my apologies!).

No need to apologize. Much --though not all-- that can be said about
the negative experience of African-Americans under white capitalist
hegemony applies, mutatis mutandis, to Africans. One way or another.

-- Tierno Bah

On my little knowledge I stand
To measure the depth of my ignorance.
(T.S. Mombeya)

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