The Jackson Jive: Wikis

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The Jackson Jive was a controversial comedy sketch performed on a special reunion episode of the Australian television program Hey Hey It's Saturday on 7 October 2009. The sketch, in which six participants in blackface performed a song by the Jackson Five, attracted international media attention, with both condemnation and defence. Most of the coverage was negative. The skit started off a debate about racism in Australian culture and society compared to other English speaking nations. American musician Harry Connick Jr. appeared on the program as a guest judge and panned the skit; he and his band performed later on in the show. With the media attention, the original clip of the skit has now become a popular viral video, as well as an internet meme popularised by sites such as 4chan and Ebaumsworld.

Contents

The sketch

Hey, Hey, It's Saturday!, broadcast on the Nine Network, featured a popular and long-running segment called Red Faces, a talent show.[1] Performers Suresh de Silva, Joseph Macdessi, Harry Koumoukelis, Mark Sader, and David Jefferson dressed up as the Jackson Five in matching blackface outfits and wearing large afro wigs. They also made their teeth out to be extremely white.[2] Anand Deva performed as an adult Michael Jackson, painting his face white.[3] At one point, a cartoon suddenly flashes on screen with the words "Where's Kamahl?" They sang the Jackson Five's hit 'Can You Feel It' in a jive style.[4]

The performers are all from Sydney, and they work there as physicians.[1] Times Online has described Deva as a "prominent Sydney-based plastic surgeon". The group had performed a similar sketch on Hey Hey It's Saturday in 1989, when they were all medical students. [5]

Reactions on the program

Guest judge Harry Connick Jr., an American musician who originated from New Orleans and whose band contains several African-American members,[3] gave the performers a '0' score.[6] He appeared visually uncomfortable throughout the skit.[1] He said, "If they turned up like that in the United States, it’d be like Hey Hey There's No More Show."[4] He also stated that he would not have agreed to be on the show had he known beforehand about the sketch.[6]

Connick's Australian co-judge, seated to his right, awarded the performers a '7' score.[7] This judge, Jacki MacDonald, had originally intended to not participate in the show, but decided to after seeing the success of the first reunion episode. Her showing here was her first appearance on television with host Daryl Somers in 21 years.[1] In grading the 'Jackson Jive', she remarked that "I thought you were very cute".[7] Regular judge Red Symons, famous for giving low scores, awarded them a score of '1.'

Daryl Somers stated that nobody had intended to deliberately offend the viewers, the guests, or the audience. He described the sketch as a "bit retro".[3] Somers apologised to Connick on air after a brief station break, and he said that he had forgotten that blackface has a different cultural background in the United States compared to Australia.[7] Somers had been genuinely surprised by Connick's reaction.[8]

Other responses

The controversial sketch happened at a point in which many Australians had expressed concern about an underground wave of racism in Australian society.[2][3] Overall, Australians responded far more positively than residents of other English-speaking nations.[2] Internet surveys done through News Limited-related agencies and Twitter stated that many Australians considered the sketch to be a funny and inoffensive tribute to Michael Jackson's memory. Some Australian political commentators remarked that only political correctness had been upset. In the United States, however, many internet based commentators reacted very negatively.[3] Many internet commentators also panned the sketch in the United Kingdom.[8]

Caroline Overington of The Australian compared the sketch to the incident in the 1970s in which television personality Bert Newton turned to Muhammad Ali and said "I like the boy" and also brought up the context of recent anti-immigrant violence in Melbourne. She labeled the sketch "backward and racist".[3] Lane Brown of New York described it as "pretty awful" and praised Connick's on-air criticism.[4] Connick later said, "I did not ascribe any motives to anyone, nor did I call anyone a racist. The blackface skit was a surprise to me, and I was simply shocked to see this on TV."[3] Dr Anand Deva tried to apologise to Connick face to face immediately after the show ended. After he was not able to do so, he told The Daily Telegraph that Connick "is taking it the wrong way."[1]

Marina Hyde of The Guardian sarcastically opened her column: "To Australia, the world's most savagely self-parodic country, where there is news of an important breakthrough in race relations."[7] ChicagoNow columnist Kyra Kyles wrote: "Australian blackface performers need a gut punch . . . big-ups to Harry Connick Jr for reading these clueless fools the riot act." Writers for Newsweek condemned the sketch.[8] Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, and Sherri Shepherd of The View also criticised it. Good Morning America and the CBS Early Show aired segments on the controversy. A CBS News reporter stated that the skit makes "Australia look like the land that time forgot."[9]

Fox News commentators Bill O'Reilly, Gretchen Carlson, and Margaret Hoover criticised the sketch. Hoover remarked, "Here's the deal with Australia: Australia's a little bit behind the US insofar as their civil rights movement. It has started, but it started a little bit behind ours." O'Reilly remarked, "Australia and America are very similar... this is not representative of Australia, this is just a bad decision by stupid producers."[9]

Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, defended the skit. She has said, "It was just a bit of fun... a tribute to Michael Jackson and I think from an Australian audience point of view, they see the lightness of it." Acting Victoria Premier Rob Hulls labelled the skit as offensive. He also stated that Australia is not a racist country.[8] Australian feminist Germaine Greer condemned the sketch as a “piece of shit.”[2]

Australian television personality Sam Newman, who has used blackface in his acts before, has stated sarcastically that the sketch would "arouse moralists". He argued that it is not truly offensive. Kamahl, an Australian entertainer who was mentioned in the sketch since he is of Malaysian ethnic heritage, referred to it as "a desperate attempt at notoriety and publicity". He has also said, "Hey Hey is devoid of any real wit. It's desperate. It's toilet humour and it should be flushed."[8]

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Reaction by the performers

Suresh de Silva has publicly responded to the criticisms. He stated that "The worst consequence of what we did is that the skit has raised the question of are Australians racist. We're genuinely horrified that our mistake could cause people to think that... Australians care more about ability than race." He also identified himself as having Sri Lankan ancestry and the other performers as an Indian-Australian, a Greek-Australian, an Irish-Italian-Australian, and a Lebanese-Australian.[3]

Silva has said that his group would not have performed the sketch in the U.S. He commented as well, "I suspect things are probably a bit different in America in terms of what that [black face] means".[5]

Reaction by Jackson Five members

Marlon, Tito, and Jackie Jackson felt shocked after they were informed about the skit. Marlon Jackson thanked Connick for speaking out. He stated that the performers probably had not intended to be offensive and remarked, “Man, if they turned up looking like that in the United States!"[6]

Legacy

Golliwogs within a store's shelves (Note: This picture is from the United Kingdom).

The Nine Network's administration immediately issued a public apology for the sketch.[1] The network's head of programming, Len Downs, has said the controversy will not effect whether or not his network will continue running Hey Hey It's Saturday next year.[8] This second reunion episode of Hey Hey It's Saturday attracted record ratings of 2.3 million, compared to the 2.1 million who watched the previous week.[3]

The controversy surrounding the sketch has caused 'golliwogs', plushie toys for children, to be relocated within Australian stores so that they are harder to see. Generally, they can no longer be seen from store windows. Alan Williams, owner of Boast Decor at Southgate, has said, "Children should not be bothered by issues surrounding the colour of the toys they want to play with".[10] Australian-American independent journalist Jeff Koyen has praised the change in attitudes towards the dolls as a result of the controversy. He has referred to them as "those Sambo-stylee dolls whose big fat lips, wide white eyes and eager smiles have made generations of white people feel better".[11]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Evelyne Yamine; Gareth Trickey; Chris Scott (October 8, 2009). "Hey Hey sees red over black face Jackson 5 act". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,28383,26181042-5013560,00.html. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  2. ^ a b c d Mascarenhas, Alan (October 21, 2009). "We're not racist, we're Aussies". The Global Post. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/asia/091020/racist-race-cronulla-beach-lebanese-arab-riots. Retrieved October 21, 2009.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Caroline Overington (October 9, 2009). "Hey Hey It's Saturday blackface skit makes some red faces". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26185614-2702,00.html. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  4. ^ a b c Brown, Lane (October 7, 2009). "Harry Connick Jr. No Fan of Australian Blackface Michael Jackson Tribute". New York. http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2009/10/harry_connick_jr_no_fan_of_aus.html. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  5. ^ a b Tedmanson, Sophie (October 9, 2009). "Australian TV show Hey Hey It's Saturday in racism row over 'blackface' skit". Times Online. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article6865623.ece. Retrieved October 21, 2009.  
  6. ^ a b c "Jackson Brothers Respond To Australia’s ‘Jackson Jive’ Blackface Controversy". Access Hollywood. http://www.accesshollywood.com/jackson-brothers-respond-to-australias-jackson-jive-blackface-controversy_article_23983. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  7. ^ a b c d Marina Hyde (7 October 2009). "Harry Connick Jr weirdly unimpressed by Australia's blackface Jackson 5". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2009/oct/07/harry-connick-jr-blackface-jackson-jive. Retrieved 18 October 2009.  
  8. ^ a b c d e f Siobhan Duck; Xanthe Kleinig (October 9, 2009). "Julia Gillard defends Hey Hey blackface skit". The Courier Mail. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,,26186302-952,00.html. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  9. ^ a b Rose, Kate (October 9, 2009). "Hey Hey blackface skit sickens the world". The Courier Mail. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,,26186634-952,00.html. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  10. ^ Ryan, Kelly (October 16, 2009). "Golliwogs banished after Hey Hey It's Saturday blackface row". The Herald Sun. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/golliwogs-banished-after-hey-hey-its-saturday-blackface-row/story-e6freuzr-1225787352611. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  
  11. ^ Koyen, Jeff (October 15, 2009). "The blackface backlash continues: Golliwogs removed from store shelves". True/Slant. http://trueslant.com/jeffkoyen/2009/10/15/the-blackface-backlash-continues-golliwogs-removed-from-toy-store-shelves-window-displays/. Retrieved October 18, 2009.  

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