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on the boats and on the planes

by mg at 01:30 AM on February 26, 2002

It’s Black History Month here in the states. There have been all sorts of wonderful events to celebrate.To commemorate the contributions African-Americans have made to history, culture and society, there have been events showcasing traditional food, music, and arts.

Even with all there has been, there haven’t been any TV specials. At least none like they have for Christmas, or any of the other holidays. There is no Peanuts special celebrating black history month. There was never an episode where Franklin teaches the rest of the gangs about the true meaning of Black History month by quoting from Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech. No claymation adventures, no “very special” episodes of Sesame Street, and no Rudolph guiding runaway slaves through the night to their next appointed underground railroad safe house. Not even a Fat Albert special.

Most of the Christmas specials we’ve come to know and love were first broadcast decades before most of you reading this were even born. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer premiered in 1964, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown in 1966, How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1966. Back then, black folks had barely broken into America’s pastime, baseball, much less America’s TV viewing routine.

Over the years sensibilities have shifted. Now, we’re all aloud to drink from the same water fountains. Yet, for some reason, there still aren’t any black holiday specials.

There are some high-brow documentary shows, mostly on PBS, like the Huey P. Newton I watched a couple weeks ago. There is even the occasional major network dramatization like the Rosa Parks that I categorically avoided (it was on CBS). Still no, there is no pre-nut job Samuel L. Jackson performance that brings families together families around the tube on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, unlike the pre-nut job Charlton Heston performance in The Ten Commandments that brings together families around the tube every Easter.

That very fact has forced some local stations here in New York to celebrate black history month in their own way. This Saturday, they ran an Eddie Murphy marathon. First, 48 Hours and then Coming to America. I’d hardly consider 48 Hours suitable black history month material, considering Nick Nolte’s character is unabashedly racist, and never redeems himself, bur Coming to America is another thing altogether.

It was written by African-Americans and stars an all black-cast (except for Louie Anderson, who can hardly be considered a member of the species, much less of any specific race). The story is all about an African prince who comes to America to experience the culture and lifestyle of an average man. You’d think this is a perfect movie to celebrate black history.

But, I’ve got to say that Eddie Murphy is as much a cartoon as Franklin, maybe even more so. Coming to America is as big a misrepresentation of black culture in America (Jerry Curls, working at McDonalds, living in slums) as it is of Africa (elephants and giraffes wandering around and tribal dancers everywhere).

Now, maybe I shouldn’t say a thing. Not being black and all myself, I’m not the right person to say who should or shouldn’t be a representative. But I can say it sure does give a bad rap to the fine Borough of Queens, New York.

Murphy’s character comes to Queens because he thinks that is the proper location to find the consort for a king. Except for one lucky woman, all he finds are skanky hos. My neighborhood may be infamous for it’s transvestite prostitutes, but they are all high-class wo/men. When Murphy, and his attaché, Arsenio Hall first arrive in Queens, their baggage is immediately stolen. I’ve had a lot of things stolen from me, but never my luggage. They then find a nice apartment, replete with giant rat. Now, I’ll admit I had a bit of a mouse problem several months ago, but rats? That the kind of thing you’ll only find in The Bronx.

Queens is home to both New York City airports. There have been two World Fairs held in Flushing Meadow Park. The New York Mets play here. The U.S. Open Tennis tournament is held here. There are people from more nations living here than are represented in the United Nations. Queens may be home to some of the most working class neighborhoods in New York, but also some of the richest neighborhoods too (sometimes within a few blocks of each other). Manhattan may be where it’s at, and I wont try to say Queens is better, but, borrowing from the recent Olympics, it certainly deserves the silver medal.

So, there you have it – how Coming To America does a poor job representing Queens-Americans, and a call to the claymation artists of America and the estate of Charles Shultz to get working on a special in time to celebrate next year's Queens History Month.

comments (3)

i went to dinner with a friend last night. after the meal he didn't order dessert, but i did. when the waiter brought it to me, he placed it in the middle of table with two spoons in the dish, one on my side and one on my friend's.

while walking away, he looked at us and said, "i'm not gonna ask."

i'm not gay!

my friend said, "what the hell are you doing?" when i buried the other spoon with ice cream.

by -- BB at February 26, 2002 10:07 AM

What about that claymation show on Fox with Eddie Murphy?

by MrBlank at February 26, 2002 10:52 AM

that was brilliant.

my favorite thing about black history month this year was when, on february 1st, tnt aired "gone with the wind".

maybe next february they'll show "the green mile". or d.w. griffith's "birth of a nation".

by miss b at February 26, 2002 3:35 PM

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