first! a happy belated mothers day to all the mamas out there. if you pushed a baby outta ur peehole and lived to tell the tale, you are truly an amazing vessel, and possibly an alien. congratulations to you!
in celebration of mother’s day, tv one showed a mini-marathon of the show ‘that’s my mama,’ a black sitcom produced in 1974, then again in 1986, starring clifton davis and that dude that played sweet daddy on good times. speaking of good times… that’s pretty much what the show was. good times, only a bit edgier and sluttier, if u will. clifton is your classic tom cat who runs around w/ a different girl every night. he has a little sister by the name of tracy (she’d be the thelma of the show) who is married to a square who, at random moments, seems to reference her clothes being torn off by him. oddest thing. anyway, they both have a big ol black fat mammy-like mama (she was actually a tony nominated stage actress, but is best remembered for her role as mama), and the premise of the show is that her husband, oscar, passed away and left his barbershop for his son clifton to run.
harmless enough, right? wrong.
yo, this show is TOTALLY inappropriate. lol. i mean granted, its important to remember that im sittin here in 2009 watchin a show made in 1974, when shit was way different. just havin a black family on the tv screen was revolutionary (even if they were readin lines written by white folk), and u cld say a LOT more off the wall, out of line shit and not be arrested by the PC Police. but like. some of the stuff in that show is just…. coonish, for lack of a better term. and i wish there was a better term; i generally take personal issue with black folk branding other black folk/actions coons/coonery, because its used too quicly and flippantly. ‘black people eatin chicken in they office at work?? that’s just coonish!’ <— no its not. and that’s why i tend to not use the word. but this show… this show made it very hard for me to stay away from it. and u know what, i still wont call it coonish. its just inappropriate at times. way inappropriate.
like, i can buy that it was trying to show black people in a somewhat realistic light. black people used slang. black people did have big fat mammy-like mamas sometimes. no harm in puttin that on tv. but there was just something about the way that this is done that would definitely make me anxious about watchin this in a room full of white folks. like they might like some shit too much and id have to look at them sideways. lol. i dont get that same feel from good times, because good times at least tried to make some explicit social commentary in each episode so u knew, hey, we’re tryin to make a difference here. we’re makin a statement. drugs are a problem. politicians are cooked. boy is a white racist word. somethin. ‘that’s my mama’ just kind of… shows u a kid pop lockin and a big black lady yellin and that’s it.
i dont feel like im doin a good job explainin this, so let me tell yall abt some particular instances that really stuck to the walls of my brain.
so the show also has its resident willona in the form of a jive talkin gossipmonger named junior, played by none other than isaac from ‘the love boat.’ he’s somethin like the town crier. he busts up into clifton’s barber shop, or into clifton’s mama nem house (**sidenote: why does everybody in black tv sitcoms keep their front doors unlocked?? clifton & nem lived in a ‘black middle class neighborhood’ in DC, but come on, it’s DC. lock ur fucking door! and dont get me started on how the damn evanses lived in the PROJECTS OF CHICAGO and didnt lock they shit. realism my ass!) and i shit you not, america, the first thing he says is:
…yeah. see what im gettin at here?
anyway. he ooooooh-weees, speaks in rhyme, and dances at random moments all throughout the show. this is one of the characters that i think white people might like too much in my presence should we ever watch this show together. which we wont. as god is my witness, we will not.
that’s mild though. even shakespeare’s tragedies needed their clowns, right? so let us consider junior the gravedigger of ‘that’s my mama’ and move on.
if the show did anything to further the black position in america media, it took women’s issues, spit in its hair, pistol whipped it and threw it off a skyscraper. in two episodes i heard comments made about women that made my jaw hit the FLOOR. omg! i cldnt beleive that i had just heard what i heard!
in one episode, clifton’s friend is describing a woman who had her house broken in to and says something to the following effect: they broke in and said they were going to rape her and rob her! then they got a look at her face, then decided just to rob her instead!
i. shit. you. not. and it was followed by a laugh track!! hahaha! rape is funny! thank god for your ugly face, lady, else you woulda got DONE!
i was flabbergasted man. and then in the next episode i saw (if you’re judging me for sittin around watchin ‘that’s my mama’ on a sunday afternoon, please have some couth. im doin this for you. i do this for my culture.), clifton’s friend thinks his girlfriend is about to break up with him after she left a message for him at clifton mama nem house. to this he says somethin like: aw, i might as well go over there. if she’s gonna dump me, i want the chance to punch her lights out!
yo!! what in opressive woman beatin hell??!!
i cldnt believe it. like, good times made me pretty uncomfortable at times. but they never ever did no shit like that to my recollection.
oh, somethin else i hate about the show: everybody calls clifton’s mama Mama. like it’s her name. swear to moses, she’ll walk into a barber shop or a grocery store, and everybody’s just like ‘hi mama!’ WTF SHOW SOME RESPECT! she has a name, its Eloise!! why we always got to be the universal care givers for everybody??! why not call her mammy for shit’s sake!
oh lord have mercy, speakin of mammies and plantations and slavery and all things opressive… this is the last thing i wanted to mention.
so, in another episode they cld have actually made a good point about stereotypes and the way white ppl perceive black ppl; in this episode a white documentarian comes to visit and interview clifton’s family because he wants to do a special on black middle class life in washington dc. when the kid gets there, he starts pretty much asking stereotypical questions. about the matriarchal setup of the black family (here, eloise pretty much says, i dont know what you’re talkin abt; my husband was the head of this family til he died, and now clifton’s the head. here i was hopeful; it seemed like they were really gonna try and squash some of the bullshit). he then asks about their food, if she can show them how they prepare ‘chitterlings’ and hog maws, etc (here she remarks that her family had prime rib, baked potatoes, and a tossed salad for dinner, not no fucking chittlins and hog maws, and im REALLY hopeful now!!). clifton is pleased too, because he peeps dude’s game.
enter clifton’s uncle gus. gus is from the deep dark backwoods south. gus is a huge black man with crazy dred scott hair, a booming voice, and a love of moonshine. his catch phrase is ‘YASSUH!’ and at one point tells eloise that she looks ‘better than quittin time in the cotton fields!’
i shit u not.
so anyway. gus is a walking sterotype factory. the white producer guy is mortified and starts freakin out about how he cant put gus in the film because he’s so…. gus, and clifton is like hey man. he’s family, im not sendin him anywhere! so at the end of the episode they’re gathering around the tv to watch the debut of the documentary. turns out the only footage they used was footage of hog maw eatin, ‘YAHSUH BOSS’in gus.
in conclusion, im prolly gonna watch this shit again to see what other inappropriate cultural fails i can point out.
Tagged: That's My Mama