Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Comedic Appropriation

Muhammad Rasheed - In D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation film, the black-faced White actors that were hamming it up displaying their version of how buffoonish Black people are supposed to be, used many moves that are currently associated with the comedy style of the most popular member of the Three Stooges, Jerome "Curly Howard" Horwitz.

Based on the historical track record of a race-based hierarchical caste system like the USA, which of the following  scenarios do you think is most likely true?

  1. As a very impressionable 12 year old when The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, and since the film proved to be SUCH a phenomenon, Curly took on the buffoonery displayed by the over-enthusiastic racist actors for himself, and practiced them until it became his signature style.

  2. The comedy style tropes we associate with Curly were always how goofy and athletic White vaudeville comedians made fun of Black people at the turn of the century. The popularity of the Three Stooges allowed the actual origins of Curly's style to be swallowed up in history since anyone doing it during the golden age of television would then be seen as performing a 2nd rate Curly impression.

  3. Curly’s style came from White vaudeville comedians, who in turn appropriated it from an unsung Black comedian, whose name is now lost to history.

MEDIUM: Scanned pen & ink cartoon drawing w/Adobe Photoshop color.

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