The Greatest Blackface of All Times?

Lethal Weapon 5 featuring a blackface Murtaugh

A rerun of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from the other night made one of the most interesting points I think I’ve ever come across about Star Wars, though I’m not certain they meant to, or if I’m reading too far into it.

The episode, essentially, tried to answer a singular question, though its important to know the set up before knowing the question. Here’s the set-up: Mac, Dennis and Frank made Lethal Weapon Five, with Mac and Dennis playing Riggs and Murtaugh, respectively. They’re contemplating re-shoots, as halfway through the movie Mac and Dennis switch characters, with Dennis taking over Riggs and Mac playing Murtaugh. Dennis played Murtaugh as a white man with a black voice, while Mac plays Murtaugh in black face with black voice. The question then becomes, which is more racist?

Lots and lots of funny dialogue insues, and the Lethal Weapon Five parody, when shown, is funny, though I was sort of let down in spots. Actually, Mac’s portrayal of Murtaugh really isn’t that different from Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in Tropic Thunder (which was freakin genius), but its still funny and both guys, though extremely broad, actually do a good job of mimicking Danny Glover’s age weary sergeant.

Now, here’s what I found to be a very interesting point, but again, I’m not sure if they meant to make it: while discussing the history of white actors in black face, Frank points out that he thought James Earl Jones was actually a white guy because he voiced Darth Vadar. That was funny, but it made me think: is Darth Vadar the greatest black faced white character in the history of movies? I mean, he’s a white guy, underneath a a black mask that everyone in the entire galaxy fears, and his voice is that of a towering black man. See what I mean?

I doubt Lucas actually set out to do that, but is Vadar really that different from Al Jolson?



See what I mean?

Another nice touch of the episode was having an Insane Clown Posse obsessed kid wanting to wear his clownface at school, but by the end of episode, and having sat through Lethal Weapon 5, decides to wear blackface instead.

Other hilarious bits of dialogue completely unrelated to the Darth Vadar thing:

Regarding the power of performance and acting, and in defense of his portrayal, Mac says of Ian McKellen: “In The Lord of the Rings movies, Ian McKellen plays a wizard. Do you think he goes home at night and shoots lasers into his boyfriend’s asshole?”

Frank says using black face is all about “getting the right color shoe polish”.

Dennis says that the Wayans Brothers performances in White Chicks was “reverse black face”, and finds C. Thomas Howell offensive in Soul Man despite saying the following about his choice of using black voice: “What that white man doin’? See? That’s just how black people talk. That’s not racist.”

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