Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface for Tropic Thunder

Orange Is The New Blackface: Julianne Hough Didn’t Do Anything Wrong And You’re All Overreacting

Hey there, easily riled-up, trigger jumping, bandwagon hopping Internet crusaders:

Calm. The. Fuck. Down.

Let’s talk about racism for a second here.

Do you know what racism is? It’s a lot of things, but mostly it’s when someone is considered to be superior or inferior than someone else based on the racial makeup of that person, including the color of his or her skin. That’s a simplified explanation, but it’s appropriate for this discussion.

Here’s a primer for you:

“Black people are better at basketball than everyone else.” RACIST
“Michael Jordan is better at basketball than almost everyone else.” NOT RACIST
“Asian women are terrible drivers.” RACIST
“Women are terrible drivers and my neighbor Mrs. Lee is the worst driver I’ve seen.” NOT RACIST (BUT SEXIST)
“All black men have larger penises than Adam Avitable.” RACIST
“All black men that I’ve slept with have larger penises than Adam Avitable.” NOT RACIST

Now, let’s talk about blackface. First, do you know what the fuck that is? It was originally a 19th century style of makeup and costuming that allowed white actors to create a stereotypical caricature of black people, typically using shoe polish or greasepaint to blacken their faces and exaggerate the size of their lips.

Blackface proliferates stereotypes and negative attitudes about an entire race of people, with no inherent nor obvious artistic value. It is, on its face, RACIST.

Ted Danson did blackface:

Ted Danson does blackface for girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg

At a private Friar’s Club Comedy Roast of his girlfriend, Whoopi Goldberg, Danson donned blackface, used the word “nigger” multiple times, and fostered black stereotypes as part of his roast of Goldberg (who wrote the material with Danson). Guests like Montel Williams and Mayor David Dinkins were offended by the material and Danson got negative press for his actions. Was this racist? I don’t think it was – I think it was in the spirit of the Friar’s Club roasts, which go over the top to offend and push the boundaries of good taste to mock, belittle, and otherwise insult the guest of honor. This was a legitimate use of blackface as social commentary and satire.

Robert Downey, Jr. did blackface:

Robert Downey, Jr. did blackface of a type

For the movie Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, Jr. played a method actor who committed himself so fully to the role of a black soldier that he underwent surgical procedures to look black. There was very little controversy about this role because Downey pulled it off skillfully and with sensitivity. The only stereotype he was perpetuating was that of white method actors who go too far to play a role that they should consider turning down. This was a use of blackface with artistic and satirical value and not racist.

What Julianne Hough did for a Halloween party, however, is NOT blackface:

Julianne Hough unfairly catches flack for her OITB Halloween costume

She is wearing a Halloween costume depicting one specific black character in the TV show “Orange is the New Black” named Crazy Eyes. She is not participating in the proliferation of a single stereotype. This costume isn’t making a statement about a particular race. This is NOT RACIST.

Crazy Eyes from OITB
The actual Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is The New Black” (right)

If Hough did this to play “a prison inmate” or “a convict”, it would definitely be racist, because the color of the skin is unnecessary for the costume. But if someone who is white (and not just white, but pale, almost glow in the dark white) portrayed a black semi-popular, semi-obscure character from a semi-popular, semi-obscure TV show and used a tint on her skin which, from the photo, served to accentuate her eyes so that “Crazy Eyes” would be more obvious? That’s not fucking racist and it’s not fucking blackface.

There were NO steretoypes being espoused. No cliches being thrown about. No ignorant assumptions about race being made. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason to consider this costume racist or even use the term “blackface” to describe it.

Unless, of course, we just want to stop considering context and reasonability and just declare that anyone who puts any color on their face of any type is racist. Unless we just want to blow everything out of proportion to such a degree that we have absolutely no perspective on what’s actually racism and what’s not and just separate everyone back into different schools and neighborhoods.

Some may argue that this is a matter of opinion. I disagree. I contend that there is nothing offensive about this costume on a purely objective, reasonable level, other than the fact that if she is going to go to such lengths to portray a specific character, she could have at done a better job tying her hair up in knots. If you’re going to commit to a costume, fucking commit!

In conclusion, remember, every time you cry wolf about racism, you shift the focus from actual issues and real life racism that continues to permeate our society and build foundations for stereotypes that shouldn’t even still exist today. And, every single time someone decides to blow something like this out of proportion and throw around terms like “blackface” and “racist” inappropriately, a black angel gets a bad credit score. (RACIST)

7 thoughts on “Orange Is The New Blackface: Julianne Hough Didn’t Do Anything Wrong And You’re All Overreacting”

  1. I was “black” for Halloween one year in Junior High. , but only because I had a neighbor “Judy” who identified strongly with the Bronx, was very tough and insisted that I be black for tricker treating with her because she missed her friends back home. Did I mentioned she decked the principle that year? Apparently she didn’t see eye to eye. She was a good friend though, I assume she returned to the Bronx.

  2. I was Tubbs last year, and my buddy was Crockett. I’m as white as they come, and not one person made a comment (to my black face) about it being racist. I’m with you on this one. Oh, and the one where we like strippers.

  3. Didn’t even hear about this “controversy” until I read about it here.

    My only problem with her costume is that she didn’t go far enough. I know white people with tans who look darker than she does there. And she has blond hair! WTF? Laziest costume ever.

    RDJ in Tropic Thunder might disagree, but she should have gone full Crazy Eyes.

    Btw, the actress who plays Crazy Eyes is amazing. I read an interview with her someplace…very cool. Hoping that her character is fleshed out a bit more in the next season of OitNB.

  4. I saw this yesterday on a friend’s wall and kind of shook my head and said nothing. It seems like people are so quick to cry racism, but if two black actors pretend to be white chicks, it’s hilarious, or dumb or anything but racist. I remember the Ted Danson thing too, and thought if his girlfriend approved, what was the problem? We are a little too sensitive as a society.

  5. I saw this, but I thought she didn’t look like the character she was trying to portray at all. If you’re gonna do a TV/Movie character, go for the gold or you’ll look like a fool.

    Now, where do you stand on the fucking moron’s that dressed in black face/tan face to be Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman?

  6. One of the attorneys in my suite (the employment one…she has the best stories) has a little boy who is good friends with (and attends school with) the son of the most well-known radio DJ in Atlanta. This boy wanted to be Mohammed Ali for Halloween last year (2012), and he wanted to color his face for an authentic look. The boy revered the boxer and wanted his costume to be authentic. He goes to a Catholic private school. The dad talked about this “dilemma” on the air to get listeners’ opinion on whether he should color his face for the costume or not, and most listeners went ape shit. It was absolutely ridiculous that they reacted in this way, just like the reaction to this costume you write about above. Ultimately, the kid ended up not coloring his face, which made his costume look half ass.

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