Wednesday, September 11, 2013

eddie cantor, friend or foe?

Okay, today I'm getting back to my Study of A Queer History of the United States. I left off talking about Julian Eltinge and his career as a female impersonator. But if someone could build a career impersonating the opposite sex what about another race? Eddie Cantor was famous during the same time period for his blackface impersonations of African-Americans. He had a ''pansy-like Negro'' character he was well known for that was ''slight and effeminate and wore white rimmed glasses with a mincing step.'' Most African-Americans would take instant offence at such a character but I ask myself the question ''Whats the difference between impersonating a women and impersonating anybody else?'' And why did Cantor choose to make this character a pansy-like Negro who was slight and effeminate? I think any kind of impersonation amounts to caricature in the end, no matter how ''real'' the impersonator tries to be. And the truth is that there are some African-American Gay men who are pansy-like and slight and effeminate. Cantor may be judged as a racist today, and for all I know maybe he was, but one can also look at his character as having given visibility to an otherwise invisible minority within a minority, whether he intended to or not!

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