DVD review: 'The Jazz Singer' starring Al Jolson -
#1 Oct 8, 2007
It's funny, at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences screening the other night I was surprised at how negligible a role the blackface plays in the movie (I hadn't seen it in several years). There's no talk about it in the movie at all, and it's not done in a derogatory way-- there are no black jokes, insults, or other potentially offensive things done with it. In fact, the only time it's even addressed is when someone says he looks like "Jakie's shadow," and even then it has as much to do with the fact that he's dressed completely in black (and is no different than when someone gets covered in white paint or flour and someone else says "you look like a ghost"). It's absolutely not even remotely comparable to the attention that's put on the fact that Jakie is Jewish. And yet the person who wrote this article can't seem to shut up about it.
To me, the reason that blackface wasn't talked about much on the disk set is that it's already been talked about to death, and the results of those discussions are readily available to anyone who cares to look. I know I'd be a lot less inclined to view the extras or listen to the commentary if all it did was drone on about the black issue. Jolson puts on the blackface as a costume for a show he's performing in; every other performer wears makeup and a costume too. If he'd put on a dress and wig instead would there be a need to discuss (that's the code word here for "apologize") it?
Rather than be angered at it, black people should think of it this way: In the film, a Jewish man had to put on blackface in order to be accepted. That speaks worse for Jews than it does for blacks.
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