Last weekend’s Saturday Night Live “Bride of Blackenstein” skit, featuring rapper Nicki Minaj, caught my attention well before criticism surfaced.
In the skit, Minaj embodies almost every stereotype of a black woman. As a black woman, I usually cringe when we are portrayed as the loud, sassy, unsophisticated, immature, oversexed, ignorant girl next door. Think Halle Berry in B*A*P*S. I say “girl next door” because this image continues to be the go-to black female character for many television and film producers.
So was I outraged when I saw the Nicki Minaj skit? Not really. While much of the writing was a bit insulting to me, I get that that’s typical Saturday Night Live. And as a regular viewer of the show, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve laughed when they have insulted or made fun of black people … including Oprah Winfrey, former New York Gov. David Paterson and Tyler Perry.
Now, I do think that there are times when skit comedy, situation comedy and stand-up comedians go too far. But I don’t believe this was the case with the Blackenstein skit. In fact, I don’t think it was any more insulting than the Bunifa Jackson skits on In Living Color back in the day, or, more recently, skits like the “Make You Wait Hair Salon” on the Chris Rock Show. Is it only OK when the insults are black on black?
Honestly, the outrage over this Minaj skit might be more effective if it were targeted at reality shows such as Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta or VH1’s Basketball Wives. These overwhelmingly popular shows are far more damaging to the image of black women than a five-minute skit on SNL.
Thanks to the talents of professionals like TV producer Shonda Rhimes and director Sanaa Hamri, there is more balance in how black women and men are portrayed. But the fact that no black people were nominated in major categories for the Oscars or SAG Awards — and Halle Berry and Idris Elba were the only blacks nominated for this year’s Golden Globes — reveals that we still have a long way to go.
Part of the solution could be throwing support behind projects that give black characters more depth, like Berry’s latest movie, Frankie and Alice, or the canceled Undercovers on NBC, which wasn’t the greatest production but represented a bold move by the network to feature two black lead actors. If we supported these efforts the way we support everything Tyler Perry does, we could make an incredible difference in improving how black people are represented in media across the board.