I have been on sets before when a director says ‘can you make it more ethnic?’ I always say ‘can you demonstrate to me how you want it done?’ That usually ends it.
Reading this article by Jabari Asim made me think about another pernicious aspect of the “sassy fat black women” stereotype, which is that almost any strong or angry character played by a fat black actress is going to come off as the stereotype, even when that’s unfair. Years before she starred in “Community,” Yvette Nicole Brown’s photo from a Dairy Queen commercial illustrated this New York Times article about the stereotype.
But the photo, from a Dairy Queen commercial about a guy who repeatedly drops his carry-on luggage1 on another passenger’s head, is a marginal case at best.
Brown’s job in this commercial is to be comically enraged. She uses wide eyes and an angry voice to do this. I don’t think a big white guy, given the same part, would have performed it differently. But when Brown did it, her photograph was published in the Times as an example of a troubling racial stereotype. That can’t be fun.
As Ani remarks in the comments of pre-Racialicious:
I would be pretty sassy and annoyed if a someone’s large carry on bag was repeatedly dropped on my head. I didn’t think her reaction was totally out of line for this type of situation. […]
I am not saying terrible racial stereotypes don’t happen, but does context (ie carry-on being repeatedly dropped on head) ever trump that?
Obviously, the stereotypical casting of fat black women as “sassy” happens a lot, and should be criticized. But I also don’t want a situation where an actress like Brown automatically gets criticized if she ever plays strong or angry.
Anyhow, great quote, isn’t it?
- It took me a few moments before I got why Youtube’s suggested next video to watch was Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” [↩]