Spending Currency You Didn’t Earn.

So, SNL seems to be getting better. And the last episode had some generally pretty funny moments, though I had mixed feelings about this blaxploitation skit featuring Nicki Minaj.

For those who can’t watch it, this gist of the clip is this: Minaj is the bride of Frankenstein’s monster, in a blaxploitation film that’s somewhat reminiscent of Young Frankenstein. It relies heavily on Sassy Black Woman humor. After Minaj reveals herself to be outspoken, guest host Jesse Eisenberg (as Igor) explains where he got various parts of her body, including her mouth, which came from “a ho who didn’t know her place” (Jay Pharaoh as Dr. Frankenstein responds, exasperatedly, “Igor!” and Eisenberg quickly amends, “that’s how she described herself, master!”).

I laughed at the ho quip, partly because it was unexpected from Eisenberg, and partly because it was a dead-on insult of that genre and era. See, on its face, I found the sketch amusing. It really worked as an effort to pillory blaxploitation with some (but not much) hyperbole.

But obviously, a few things didn’t sit quite right. The gratuitous shots of Minaj’s ass, for one. Not because those images weren’t in keeping with the material, but because seeing her in that role reminded me that there is no way they could have done that skit unless they put one of their other actresses in black face or brought Maya Rudolph back (and put her in browner face). Including Rudolph, who is biracial, there have been four black actresses over the 36-year run of the show.

My problem, above all, is that SNL hasn’t earned the currency it’s spending in this skit. When portraying black women, the show has to go to the well of putting Kenan Thompson in a dress, or bringing in musical artists. Normally, I don’t really mind, because I’d rather see as little representation as possible than bad representation. But the blaxploitation skit was funny, and Nicki Minaj was good in it. Why not bring in a funny black woman to expand the repertoire of the show? For example, while I criticize Thompson occasionally, having him in the cast makes skits like the Tyler Perry Weekend Update interview, which was absolutely hilarious, possible.

At any rate, I’ve always maintained that some of the funniest people I know are black women — but that’s because I know a lot of black women. It’s simply not that hard to find funny women if the circle of people who influence you extends beyond white males.

Crossposted from SOH.

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