In lieu of the recent upset over the Wiz….??
But wait…She gets better!
It’s amazing that this was not considered unusual in 1938. Two years before she became an immortal megastar with The Wizard Of Oz, Judy Garland performed in blackface in Everybody Sing. This is one of the many ways that Hollywood helped institutionalize racism and there she is, America’s sweetheart, dancing around like a nappy-headed Golliwog and singing goofy lyrics about Uncle Tom’s Cabin! (The year before this, Garland did a number in Babes in Arms as a light-skinned black girl complete with an entire blackface men’s chorus.)
As jaw-dropping as this is, Garland and other performers (like Al Jolson and Mickey Rooney) obviously weren’t conscious of how history would perceive this sort of thing. D.W. Griffiths’ controversial 1916 Birth of a Nation (original title The Clansman) is regarded today as much as an example of a historically significant silent film epic as it is a record of what beastly and commonly held attitudes towards blacks, slavery and the Civil War that Americans held and that Hollywood was portraying well into the 20th Century! (The Ku Klux Klan were the good guys in what is, adjusted for historical and present day monetary value, a film that’s only truly been bested at the box office by Titanic and Avatar.)
In 1938 blackface was still a completely acceptable theatrical convention. But today’s Hollywood knows exactly what it’s doing. Case in point: This year’s No Escape, a xenophobic gore fest starring Owen Wilson in which the bad guys are hordes of bloodthirsty generic Asians from an unnamed country (it’s Thailand). Anybody who isn’t white in No Escape is deadly, faceless and you know, simply brown-skinned. Racism still lives and thrives in Hollywood.