Monday, May 08, 2006
The United States of Understanding
The familiar Reganism of "it's morning in America..." has again become the backdrop from which many in this nation still grappled with some of the same ageless societal issues that we thought someone had addressed all those years ago. The first few months of 2006 has reminded us that those issues of days ago are still with us and more so. The culture wars that can be plainly defined in this country have reached a boiling point with such flashpoints as illigal immigrantion, border and port security, entitlements, earmarks, gay marriage and yes, even racism has creeped back into the consciouness of our daily lives. As I compose this piece I can't help but reflect on the life I've lived thus far and try to assess if any progress has been made and what lies ahead for the future. I was extremely reminded of this when I was picked up a copy of the Pink Spectrum, a local alternative magazine, exclusively devoted to covering the entertainment outlets in the central Arkansas area. The cover story was promoting entertainer Shirley Q. Liquor at Jester's, an alternative bar in Hot Springs. The character portrayed by comic actor/ drag queen Charles Knipp, can be described as a "Obese Black Women of questionable literacy who has birthed 19 children and has a dimwitted view of the world." Mr. Knipp, a former preist and Quaker minister who purports to belive that his comedy takeoff is a bow to legendary lesbian comic Mom's Mabley. Plus he affirms that his legions of fans, including "SuperModel of the World", Rupaul, that this type of humor is not a throwback to the ministral shows of yesteryear, but rather is his version of edgey comedy and social commentary that we shouldn't get upset about. Adorning a pink wig, oversize wardrobe and tragic dark cosmetics covering his obvious white face, Knipp devolves into his "stepin and fetchit" peresonna thusly bringing Shirley to life. He has been touring basically gay bars and other venues for a few years and has an acerbic website with other methods of his madness. Throughout his career Mr. Knipp has seemingly engaged mostly white audiences with the "Eubonics of Ignunce" from a character who espouses philosophy ticks that range from the ridiculous to the offensive, all in the vein of attempting to get laughs. Knipp staunchly defends his characters bold statements as "race relations 101," due to the fact that Shirley is actually poking fun at White people and their missed cues about other black people, especially since he grew up around blacks for which he grew an affinity and in his words, respected. To be fair I had not seen SQL live, but I did view some video clips of his musings, website and show footage,and personally I was not amused. Of course as a fellow creative being, I respect the creative process and realize that often edgey comedy, i.e. South Park, Mad TV,the White Chicks movie featuring the Wayans brothers and Def Comedy Jam all provide avenues to express humor that appeals to certain audiences. I embrace the First Amendment rights of expression and will be the first to defend it, yet I do resevere the right to cite an act as in "Bad Taste", even though I have no objections to his performance rights. Futhermore, gay media as well as culture has had a variety of issues with it's characterization of People of Color and it's ability to deal with racism. For your information, Two San Francisco Bars were cited by the city and sued over racial profiling and discrimination in 2005! On the homefront, I also ponder the mindset of the local bar owner who would promote this type of comedy despite it's "toxically politically incorrect," approach to comedy as reviewed by the Atlanta Journal- Constitution when Shirley Q. Liquor was dropped from a local Georgia fundraiser. Did the Owners of Jester's realize that this show has been canceled in New York and Boston due to obejctions from local organizations whom objected to this type of humor. Are the Owners seriously suggesting that the community of Hot Springs would openly embrace entertainment such as this without question or is this an attempt to "shock and awe" an audience into attendance? I shutter to think so. Finally, no one enjoys a bit of bawdy comedy more than myself, however, I can't endorse or remotely support this type of gutter humor that panders to the obsurd and masquerades itself as plausible social commentary. I suggest that patrons of Jester's inquire to the owners as to there motivation for this action and react accordingly. It may be morning in America again but, I bet Mom's Mabley is probably shaking her head and rolling in her grave over how little we seemed to have learned.