Sept. 24 update: Good news — CBS appears to have pulled all of the Farnfucious clips off their YouTube channel.
It’s hard to believe that a major U.S. broadcast network can get away with it, but there it is on YouTube: “Farnfucious Say,” a regular (apparently) skit on the “Farnsworth & the Fox” show produced by CBS. The show’s co-host, “Farnsworth,” is a puppet a la “Sesame Street” and the “Fox” is (not surprisingly) a woman cast for her sex appeal.
“Farnfucious” — they couldn’t even spell the pun on Confucius correctly — is a puppet character with Fu Manchu mustache and traditional Chinese-looking garb, talking in a slimy broken Chinese accent the way white people like to parody Asians speaking. The puppet is introduced by a woman’s voice speaking in the same cheesy accent intoning, “And now, anothah episode… of Farnfucious!” and afterwards the outro: “Words of wisdom… from Farnfucious!” Continue reading →
Growing up, I didn’t think much about it, but seeing old Westerns now, it’s amazing to me that movies got away with casting white people in the roles of American Indians or Mexicans — almost always as “bad guys.”
Seeing these movies today, you could tell they’re not ethnic actors, and could almost see the smudges from the makeup smeared over their faces and hands. It wasn’t any more sophisticated than the blackface makeup white actors wore to play African American roles in silent movies or the early talkies, wide-eyed, shiny black visages like masks, singing about “mammy.” You don’t see that any more, at least, not with blacks and Latinos.
Hollywood also has a long and tiresome tradition of “yellowface” — having Caucasian actors portray ethnic Asian roles. And, unfortunately, you can still see that on the big screen today.
The most famous early examples of yellowface are the various actors from Warner Oland and Boris Karloff to Peter Sellers who played the evil, inscrutable Fu Manchu; Oland and Sidney Toler as the detective Charlie Chan in a series of hit movies; and the German-born, diminutive Peter Lorre as the Japanese detective Mr. Moto in another string of movies.
Even the great Katharine Hepburn, one of my favorite actresses, put on yellowface, to play a Chinese woman in the 1944 movie “Dragon Seed.” Continue reading →
I missed this NPR report a couple of weeks ago, about the impact of the character Long Duk Dong from the 1980s hit movie, “16 Candles.” I had heard a promo for the report while driving but got home before it came on.
I finally went back to check it out and it’s worth hearing.
The link to the report is at the top of the page; the text on the page is the report’s transcript. Be sure to check out the extra interview clip with Gedde Watanabe, the Japanese American actor who played “the Donger” — he doesn’t really have a clue, unfortunately. And check out the comic that’s included, “Donger and Me.” Continue reading →
Audrey Hepburn, one of the great, classic actresses of Hollywood of the ’50s and ’60s, may have died in 1993, but she’s alive and well in American pop culture. Her name, and the 1961 film with which her face is most associated, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago, and coincidentally, a TV series’ plot later that week involved three women dressed as Hepburn’s character from “Tiffany’s,” Holly Golightly, robbing a bank with her trademark sunglasses hiding their identity.
This week, The Gap began airing a pretty cool TV commercial that takes a Hepburn dance sequence from her 1957 musical co-starring Fred Astaire, “Funny Face,” and sets her moves to AC-DC’s “Back in Black.” The commercial is pushing the retailer’s new line of skinny black pants. Hepburn’s character, a Greenwich Village beatnik who becomes a Paris model, is wearing hip skinny black pants in the dance scene. Continue reading →
Is it just me? I really think “Ask a Ninja,” a free video podcast that consistently ranks among the top-5 popular video podcasts on Apple’s super-influential iTunes store, is dumb. Really dumb. Continue reading →