Hey Hey: Global reactions

By David Knox on October 8, 2009 / Filed Under News 126

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

126 Comments »

  1. Akunak Cakap February 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm -

    Daryl is a genius.

  2. Akunak Cakap February 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm -

    At the top of this it says ‘Global reactions’ which of course means shrill reactions from primarily the US, which is, after all, the arbiter of all things tasteful and politically correct in the world.

    I’m quite prepared to go along with that … as long as we don’t mention Vietnam, Salvatore Allende, Iraq etc

    Yeah right.

  3. Lauren October 24, 2009 at 5:26 pm -

    Oh come on!!! It was light-hearted! It’s not like they came in swigging from bottles of VB …. they only intended to create laughs!

    If we’re trying to create a world where racism isn’t a problem, then why complain about anything that even utters the world ‘black’ be tagged as ‘being racist’.
    Obviously I’m Australian because I don’t think this is racist (haha, not) and I completely agree with Alex T’s point of view.

  4. huh? October 13, 2009 at 2:09 pm -

    @d.no
    Australia was very much involved in WWII against Naziism and Hitler. Australia has a history there…

  5. Daniel October 11, 2009 at 8:49 pm -

    How on earth can this tribute to the jackson 5 be offensive? The crowd seemed to love it and clap along. They obviously love the Jackson music too. What about the asian-australian wearing a white face? No white people were offended? I was more offended by Harry implying back people are “buffoons”.

  6. Wayne October 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm -

    The racist view belongs to Harry and some of his countrymen based on Their perspective. This is part of what makes the mosaic world great. Here in Australia we are entering the spring carnival where many women will wear short skirts and get drunk and gamble, all of which is very offensive in some other countries. But why should We change, it’s only a problem from Their perspective. Good on Harry for stating that he felt offended, but Australians shouldn’t change their sense of fun.

  7. Chloe October 10, 2009 at 9:37 am -

    When I heard about Hey Hey doing a blackface skit, I was shocked and really thought I had been transported back in time to a day when this was acceptable. So I decided to watch and judge it for myself, and I couldn’t help but feel it was incredibly racist. America has gone through tough times trying to enlighten ignorant racists. They elect a black President, and what do we do? We make fun of them in a terrible sketch.

  8. republikraut October 9, 2009 at 10:15 pm -

    I’m sorry, but the ignorant racism I’m seeing here is outstanding.
    Blackboards in the UK are still called blackboards, and we don’t use them at all in schools anymore, we use whiteboards, and digital ones at that.

    This was racist. Plain and simple. It wasn’t ironic racism like that seen in Family Guy or South Park, it was plain old racism.

    Australia, deal with your problem. You and Spain make the Western World look really crappy.

  9. d.no October 9, 2009 at 8:54 pm -

    @huh? are you suggesting Rove in his next episode, make constant jokes about Jews and praise Hitler? Because according to you it should be ok because an Australian show in Australia by Aussie talent is allowed to make fun of another countries history.

  10. Patrick October 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm -

    Australians would not get so emotional about an issue such as the Hey Hey It’s Saturday segment because we know that there was no malice intended, the people involved in the red faces segment were from different cultures such as India and Sri Lanka. Get off your high horse your not the moral conscience of the world, I mean you only have to look at all the problems you have created in the world today…

    From A Proud Australian!

  11. huh? October 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm -

    I take it Australia doesn’t have a history with “blackface” as a racist image. If that is so…

    Australian show filmed in Australia aired on Australian TV, Australians performing.
    Why should Australians be judged according to some other countries racist history?

    If not, true enough it shouldn’t have been done.

  12. Fleur Beaupert October 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm -

    Just because Americans don’t do everything right, doesn’t mean Australians should follow their example. Just because a person is of Indian or non-Anglo background, doesn’t mean they can’t be racist.

    Daryl Somers shouldn’t assume that it’s only United States folk who found this offensive, as he said in his pathetic apology. He certainly doesn’t speak on behalf of me. So I suppose I’m not ‘most Australians’, despite having no culture other than ‘Australian’ that I belong to. I don’t accept your apology Daryl, you stupid buffoon.

    This act was racist and otherwise in bad taste because of the historical context of blackface shows in the US not to mention Australia’s own shameful context of marginalisation of indigenous Australians. ‘Blacks’ putting on white face paint can never be compared to this.

    That’s not to say this act shouldn’t have been aired. The fact that a lot of the audience was in raptures is an … interesting reflection of one part of Australian society. Spoken as an Australian of mixed white, black and Indian descent.

    I used to love watching Red Faces when I was a kid …

  13. Studley Dudley October 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm -

    To look like the Jackson 5, you have to paint your skin black

    Racism my ass !!

    Australians impersonate African Americans
    Americans incarcerate African Americans

    And why should we care what Harry WhatsHisName thinks of us ??

  14. Leigh October 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm -

    People seem to be forgetting that it doesn’t matter if it was meant to offend or not – if someone is offended by it – it is offensive. In the workplace you can not answer a claim of sexual harrassment with: I didn’t intend to upset him/her, why is this any different?

  15. Peter October 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm -

    Check out the new South Park that aired in the US this week called “Dead Celebrities” Michael Jackson’s ghost comes back and wants to be a young white child. Offensive?

  16. Allie October 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm -

    @ Lyn. Right on, your post says it all. Totally agree with you. The skit was desperately unfunny, it was in no way, shape or form a tribute to Michael Jackson, and HHIS deserves the backlash it is getting.

    @ John Jackson, if a bird puppet is your hero, dude, you need to get out more.

  17. Reubot October 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm -

    Alex m, it’s called context.

  18. John Jackson October 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm -

    @Lyn, I never found it funny (was just wanting Red to gong them earlier). Stupid, yes but no harm was meant.

    Yes, perhaps some smarter thinking should have been done beforehand, to prevent the crying from over-reactive people but I’m not about to get up in arms and over-react to something that doesn’t need to be when I’m wanting Hey Hey to come back permanently. It was off for so long, it came back.. it was great.. many loved it… so good to see Ossie again.. and I hope we see more from Hey Hey (and hopefully Ossie too – he’s my hero).

  19. Lyn October 9, 2009 at 12:28 pm -

    It wasn’t funny. It was extremely offensive & racist!
    It was not a tribute.
    A tribute comes from love, admiration & respect.
    None of that was anywhere within in this stupidity.
    Why didn’t the Producers, the host, anyone see that this Isoffensive & racist?
    Why was it allowed to go ahead?
    I am deeply offended & embarrassed for Harry Connick Jr & his band to have to sit through something so disgusting as this!
    I am also deeply offended by the ignorant, uneducated, ill-informed view that this was not racist, and that most Australians feel this was funny!
    No one speaks for me!
    I am horrified to be branded racist because I’m an Australian & this happened here, when in fact, I am offended at the stupidity of those involved!

    When will people realise this is Not funny?!!!

    Should ch9 ever consider bringing Hey Hey back in some form, they have lost me as a viewer!

  20. frankie fox October 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm -

    corey our comments are on a public forum, which is our opinion only on a subject, i will leave saving the world to you if you want to do something, otherwise as i have stated it is a public forum

  21. Alex m October 9, 2009 at 11:37 am -

    I can see why harry had that reaction but people have to remember that Robert Downey, Jr. played an African American in the movie Tropic Thunder did any have a problem with him??????

  22. Andrew M October 9, 2009 at 11:25 am -

    As Americans we find this just … astonishing. Flat-out. It’s not about political correctness. (Blackboards are still blackboards in the U.S., btw). It’s about a complete racial tone-deafness.

    Minstrel humor fell out with the U.S. public some four decades ago. Harry Connick Jr.’s impersonation on MadTV of a white Southern preacher — with a clearly white Southern accent — doesn’t remotely qualify. Neither does the blackface scene in Mad Men. (Just look at the audience’s expressions in that scene, including Don Draper’s.)

    Cultural differences aside, what’s really surprising is that a country like Australia, with a history of race problems on a par with those in South Africa and, of course, the U.S., could be so tone-deaf. The simple rule is to ask yourself: Is this going to offend a minority group? If so, think twice about it. And if you still don’t care, that’s on you.

  23. Mozzie October 9, 2009 at 10:24 am -

    Wasn’t funny 20 years ago, still not funny today.

  24. Paul October 9, 2009 at 10:16 am -

    I find Harry Connick Jr’s comments rather funny, i mean has he not watched Family Guy before, or even American Dad, these shows consistently make racist jokes and slures towards people of african, latino, asian, etc decent. It was meant as a harmless joke. People take things way to seriously. But in saying that because of the sheer fact i will now have to defend my country yet again against comments that we are all racist, i just wish they had not aired the skit.

  25. Goffy October 9, 2009 at 7:09 am -

    Yes guy, coz everyone wants to be called a racist and given Bad publicity around the world….

  26. Cory October 9, 2009 at 4:28 am -

    To all those holier-than-thou, if you feel so strongly about this then do something about it and stop whinging from your computer desks. Your comments are absolutely useless.

  27. Chris R October 9, 2009 at 3:29 am -

    the words that come to mind when I think of the so-called “Jackson Jive” is Jack Ass.

    I don’t think they were trying to be offensive so much as they were being insensitive. Then again, Australia is different than the US.

  28. Steve October 9, 2009 at 2:48 am -

    @ Guy… I’d say you’ve misinterpreted what d.no said. Also, why do people insist on labelling random things as publicity stunts?

  29. c paros October 9, 2009 at 2:46 am -

    Harry the hypocrit. Harry playing a black priest!

  30. Guy October 9, 2009 at 1:34 am -

    This is a joke. Think about it its a publicity stunt surely. I mean they chose for them out of hundreds of auditions to appear and they decided to go with them. The fact is they could have chose some other act and they went with this one. Surely they knew it was going to cause outrage. This is a classic case of going too far.

    Like d.no stated if The Chaser can pull the stunts they pulled but its “just a storm in a tea cup” i am sorry but whats the difference here. Looking at it its a joke they can get away with it. I still think its a publicity stunt. I really hope Nine dont grant them a new series. But isnt Nine also partially to blame here. They would have known. I cant believe the comments i have read saying get over it. Its harmless. Well i dont know about that. Its made world wide news.

  31. d.no October 9, 2009 at 12:06 am -

    So because it has been done before, it’s ok?

    Funny how The Chaser Boys got in big trouble by the public and media for their skit for The Make A Realistic Wish Foundation but apparently this skit is ok and it’s all just a storm in a tea cup.

    I think there are very obvious racial problems in Australia. But alas this is a tv website, so I won’t go there.

  32. snickers October 9, 2009 at 12:05 am -

    By the end of the week, this will all be forgotten.

  33. Reubot October 8, 2009 at 11:39 pm -

    I bet the people who are defending this are the same ones that got riled up about the Make a Realistic Wish Foundation.

    Ironic.

  34. Chris October 8, 2009 at 11:13 pm -

    oh get over it world. i am offended by 90% of the movies that come out of the USA, offended by poor directors and poor actors, should i boo at you and make a statement.?

  35. Laurence October 8, 2009 at 10:57 pm -

    @Steve Zannuck:

    That’s because Mad Men is fiction, set in the ’60s. Hey Hey It’s Saturday is not. Do you really think it’s racist to depict racism accurately in the eras in which it occurred? Because there are innumerable fictionalised accounts of the civil rights movement, the Holocaust and so on and so forth which would fall under the same category. Are they racist too?

    It’s also worth noting that Mad Men is an absolutely brilliant TV show and, well, the less said about HHIS the better.

  36. Alex T October 8, 2009 at 10:57 pm -

    This whole thing is utter nonsense. It was never meant to be racist, and they did this same thing before, so why would they think that they couldn’t do it again.. Talk about political corectness gone mad.. This is the same as that whole blackboard stuff that goes on in the UK.. It’s not allowed to be called a blackboard anymore, because that’s racially insensitive.. It’s a chalkboard now. People expect everyone to walk on egg shells.. Bring back hey hey!

  37. Someone BBBA October 8, 2009 at 10:27 pm -

    As I said on the other blog on this topic, there is nothing inherently racist about wearing back face paint and miming the words to a song. As such, those people who are offended by this act have only themselves to blame, because they are the ones who read that racism into what was, when viewed objectively, a completely innocent (if arguably lame) act.

  38. Steve Zannuck October 8, 2009 at 10:02 pm -

    Why is Hey Hey damned as racist when Season 2 of the Emmy Award winning series Mad Men features exactly the same thing – and gets praised?

    In Episode One, John Slattery dons “black-face” and sings “My Old Kentucky Home”. When the show was broadcast, there were no outcries in the US – no howls of racism.

    We did not have Jim Crow laws in Australia and we do not have the same sensibilities as Americans. So why do we constantly let their culture dominate ours?

    Australia is fast becoming like the PC Concentration Camp in South Park whose motto was “We tolerate everything but tolerance.”

    Why should Connick – who is a pleasant singer – a mediocre actor – and an American – becoming the arbiter of taste in Australia? This is cultural cringe at its worst.

  39. Short October 8, 2009 at 9:59 pm -

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

    That is quite an American-centric thing though. If there’s a cultural disparity at play, why does this matter to them?

    American’s slander the hell out of Sharia law in Muslim countries, things that Muslims find deeply insulting and against the law, American’s laugh about. So what is the difference? Local cultural differences make this whole thing what Daryl says… A storm in a teacup. It would be different if a bunch of idiots came out singing racist hatred songs and wrapping themselves in the aussie flag.
    I’d never heard of the term “blackface” until this whole crap blew up.

    Someone else finds it offensive, fair enough, apologies given.. just don’t make out the whole country to be racist pigs. They might be guilty of cultural insensitivities, but which culture isnt!!

  40. Stan October 8, 2009 at 9:58 pm -

    I didn’t see the whole show, but I watched the clip of the skit. It’s in poor taste, like the commercial portraying stereotypically gay characters in it (has anybody seen latest Specsavers add)? To some people it might be funny, but not everybody is laughing at it. It is like inviting a Thai Premier to a King and I show. Channel 9 should first check if the skit might offend their international guest. If making fun of people from another country at least check that your guests you’ve invited are not offended by it.

  41. Dodge October 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm -

    Porky Domesticus, that is crap! Just because the Africans that live here weren’t subject to that racism in America, does not make it acceptable

  42. Porky Domesticus October 8, 2009 at 8:06 pm -

    “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.”

    And theres the rub – this isnt where he comes from, we have no Klan, no step n fetchits, no segregation, no burning crosses, no assassinated Kings. All this kerfuffle could have been avoided if he’d realized this isn’t The South a few hours earlier! Now if these had been aborigines, or even southern Europeans or Asians, that would be different as there is a history in Aust of racism against those groups, but to Negroes we’ve done bugger all. Harry seems to be yet another superstar who thinks talent equals intellect – it does not sir, unless you are speaking of music or fame your views are irrelevant.

  43. Patrick October 8, 2009 at 7:34 pm -

    Hey Tim, well Channel 7 have shown Are You Being Served and The Benny Hill Show in recent years so you never know – Love Thy Neighbour and On the Buses could be back before you know it!

  44. warren October 8, 2009 at 6:41 pm -

    Whats he doin here anyway trying to flog off a cover album have a go mate try writing your own stuff It just blows me out why our tv shows get this affixation with b grade yanks Sure it was a bad judgement from producers cause the act sucked He said his peice after the act, instead of wasting his time with apologies he could use his time better to maybe write of his own songs

  45. dbs October 8, 2009 at 6:41 pm -

    A stunt for publicity by the producers. Disgraceful.
    We work in the business of sending messages to our audiences,
    and as producers it’s our responsibility to ensure our message
    is not misinterpreted.
    Some may think this sketch is harmless fun,
    but it also sent the message: “look at the funny black man”
    which is an antiquated attitude known to be one of the foundations of racist thought.
    The producers are to blame here.
    They’re irresponsible in allowing this sort of performance to be broadcast.
    There’s no television producer working anywhere network television
    in Australia who wouldn’t have realised the potential racist messages
    a skit like this could send.
    They’ve gone for publicity and they’ve got it.
    Shame Channel Nine, shame.

  46. stephen October 8, 2009 at 6:16 pm -

    Daryl doesn’t get it does he.

    Lets face it, racism is just a minor issue compared to his ratings.

    In fact anything is small compared to his ego.

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