Hey Hey: Global reactions

hhwFollowing last night’s ‘Blackface’ sketch on Hey Hey the Reunion, it is triggering reactions from international media.

Meanwhile the Herald Sun reports the skit was approved by producers despite some questioning prior to the show.

“All six of us discussed this at length whether or not we should put this on because we realised it may be controversial,” said Dr Anand Deva, who played Michael Jackson.

“We did go to the trouble of checking with the production staff and they seemed to OK it.”

Dr Deva said he and his friends came from ethnic backgrounds and were all too aware of racism.

“Two of us come from India and one of us comes from Lebanon so we can’t afford to be racist to be honest,” he said.

“If we did offend him (Connick Jr) we truly didn’t mean to.

A selection of international responses follows.

NYMag:
Well, this is pretty awful. On yesterday’s reunion special for long-running Australian variety show Hey Hey It’s Saturday, a group of singers calling themselves the “Jackson Jive” performed a galling version of the Jackson 5’s “Can You Feel It” in blackface makeup, to predictable boos from the studio audience. Guest American judge Harry Connick Jr. took issue, thankfully, giving the Jive a “0” and telling the tone-deaf host, “If they turned up like that in the United States, it’d be like Hey Hey There’s No More Show.”

MovieLine:
Apparently enough time had elapsed since Michael Jackson’s death that a cheeky comic tribute to him and the Jackson 5 seemed in good taste. At least it seemed that way a troupe of Aussie TV performers, who rounded out last night’s performance as the “Jackson Jive” in full-on blackface. The crowd ate it up, but an American judge who knew better ground the show to a halt until somebody apologized.

Defamer:
But what did the crowd do when they stopped the music. They booed! Harry Connick Jr, one of the guest judges gave the team a zero score and the judge who gonged gave them a one, even though the crowd was roaring to give them a 10! One female judge gave them a 7 out of 10 because she is apparently ignorant or, beause she’s a sweet female sitting between two men judging a singing competition she thought she was Paula Abdul and took a handful of pill before the broadcast, so she didn’t know better. The amazing thing is that, as the show tells us, in 1989, the same group doing a very similar act won the competition! So, in 20 years, we’ve gone from this offensive form of comedy being wildly popular to being still popular with the masses, even though some people know better. In America, blackface is one of those things that you can only show if you’re talking about how awful it is because, well, it is pretty awful. Sure, there are culture differences, but it’s not like they don’t have black folks in Australia who would get pissed off by this.

Guardian (UK):
Seemingly oblivious to the point being made, the host cheerily points out that this is a comeback of sorts – the Jackson Jive in fact performed this act on the show twenty years ago. You know, in the olden times of 1989, when blacking up was totally acceptable. Anyway… If you take a look at the mind-boggling video clip, you will note that we rejoin the show after the break, during which the host seems to have had a somewhat unconvincing epiphany.

Newsweek:
Asked to appear on the Australian variety hour Hey Hey It’s Saturday as a guest judge, Harry Connick Jr. sputters in disbelief when a Jackson 5 impersonation group entirely in blackface appears onstage. He first gives the group a 0 scorecard for the performance while the audience boos; later, at about 4:40 into the clip, Connick launches into an impassioned race-relations lecture explaining why blackface is a bad thing. “If I knew that was going to be a part of the show, I definitely wouldn’t have done it,” Connick declares on live TV. The host appears genuinely surprised.

ChicagoNow:
Shame on the host and the other judges for trying to act like this performance was acceptable in any part of the world. I seriously had to look at the calendar to see if I had somehow gone on a really bad time travel a la HG Wells. Anyone considering coming forth with the Wayans-White-Chicks-defense, don’t even bother. There is no history of “whiteface” that comes anywhere close to the embarrassment that blacks suffered during this period in Hollywood.

Examiner:
Harry Connick, Jr. was both shocked and amazed at an act that was impersonating Michael Jackson and his brothers, as he acted as guest judge on the show, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, an Australian show. Connick gave the group a “0” score for the performance, as the audience booed; later, Connick gave a race-related speech explaining why black-face is a bad thing. “If I knew that was going to be a part of the show, I definitely wouldn’t have done it.’

The Daily Swarm:
Understandably, Connick was less than amused, giving them a zero out of ten and noting that the show would be yanked from the air in America. Really, we’d like to think it wouldn’t have made the air in 1989 either.

It was also reported on the BBC, The Times, The Mirror and The Sun in the UK.

UPDATED: Meanwhile a Nine spokesman issued a brief apology this afternoon. “It was never intended to offend and we regret any offence the Red Faces act caused,” he said.

Daryl Somers told Sky News: “If there were any Australians who were offended … on behalf of the show I apologise.

“To most Australians I think it’s a storm in a teacup.”

Somers said he did not want to diminish the incident but said he believed it had been blown out of proportion.

“I think it was a light act … they were going to be gonged off,” he said.

Meanwhile Harry Connick Jr. has issued a statement to the Daily Telegraph which in part says:

“I have watched the media storm that has erupted over my reaction to the Hey Hey blackface skit.

“Where I come from, blackface is a very specific and very derogatory thing. Perhaps this is different in other parts of the world, but in the American culture, the blackface image is steeped in a negative history and considered offensive.

“I urge everyone in the media to take a look at the history of blackface to fully understand why it is considered offensive.”

You can read the rest here.

Source: Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun

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