Chris Rock’s Representation of Blacks

Although I am not an avid follower of comedians and all of their routines, I make a habit of listening to many of those that are most entertaining. One of these comedians I have seen a few clips of is Chris Rock. Several years ago I watched one of his videos for the first time titled “How To Not Get Your A** Kicked By The Police”. At the time I was not taking any classes regarding racial/social issues in the media and so I did not dwell on the issues raised in this video. More recently for the 2012 Presidential Election, I watched another of Rock’s newer videos, “A Message To White Voters”. With retrospect to the first video and the benefit of taking APA 340, both videos work hand-in-hand to provide a serious controlling image of African Americans. It also supports the idea of Whiteness and other racial ideology.

The first video, “How To Not Get Your A** Kicked By The Police”, depicts Rock giving 7 easy tips for how a black guy can avoid getting arrested by the police. It begins by building off the conceptual maps of the audience of blacks being natural criminals. The first few tips list off “Obey the Law”, “Be Polite”, and others that are in conflict to the black stereotype. Rock is giving the representation that although these are obvious things you should do; blacks do not/may not know them. Many controlling images appear in the video of blacks breaking the law/rebelling against the police and as a result getting beaten down. The last tips change direction, instead of directly generalizing blacks; he targets other groups, “Get a White Friend”, “Don’t Ride With a Mad Woman”, etc.

The second video, “A Message To White Voters”, builds the same conceptual map, but this time from the opposite side. Rock begins his message for white people stating they need to vote for a white president, Barak Obama. The rest of the video gives the “facts” as to why Obama is “white”. Instead of actually listing what defines a black guy, he focuses on the negative differences in Obama’s life. Hence since everything he does/the people he spends time with are NOT BLACK, he is therefore white. At first I thought of this video as trying to dispel whiteness. It gives whites actual attributes (even if portrayed negatively). However, I think many of the facts aren’t really specific to Whites as much as not being attributed to Blacks. One example is that Obama’s dog is not a Rottweiler or Pit-bull, appropriate dogs for Blacks; he cannot be black and is therefore White.

Chris Rock details a White Obama

Chris Rock details a White Obama

Overall I definitely realized how much mimicry and mockery are used in comedy. The only reason these videos are funny is because blacks are represented in a way that in is line with society’s conceptual maps. Unlike shows like “Bamboozled” it is not over the top and outrageous. They may not intend to influence people with these controlling images, but it is happening nonetheless. The last thing that stood out was a form of Whiteface that Chris Rock put on himself. In both videos while putting down blacks and the black community, he dressed the part and spoke like what he described as a White Guy. This even further develops the idea of negative difference. He supports the idea that one can break away from your identities by not following the stereotypes. Hence Chris Rock can be White by not breaking the law and Obama can be White by doing White things and not Black things.

“How To Not Get Your A** Kicked By The Police”

 

“A Message To White Voters”

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One thought on “Chris Rock’s Representation of Blacks

  1. I like your comparing/contrasting Chris Rock’s different videos. However, I don’t actually think the humor lies in mimicry and mockery–Rock seems to be using the stereotypes to push us to challenge some of those stereotypes. Do you think Rock’s work was forcing individuals to think differently about racial stereotypes and controlling images?

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