- Are These Two Images of the Same Person?
I am a huge Seinfeld fan. I’ve seen every episode and it’s a common point of reference between my sister and I. (“Remember the one when Kramer turns his living room into a talk show with the old Merv Griffin set pieces?” or “Hey, remember when Kramer decides to wash dishes and talk on the phone while he takes a shower to save time?”) Needless to say I was pretty taken aback to hear about and then actually see live footage of actor Michael Richards losing it on stage and calling paid customers ‘Niggers’. As a man of color, it hurt me. I felt a certain sense of betrayal — to an extent.
As I perused various message boards, reactions to the performance yielded very polarizing responses. On the video game and tech-related message boards (where folks generally all have an appreciation for technology, but that’s where the similarities often end) I saw some reactions that were as racist as Richard’s act. “What’s wrong with what he said? Black people say it all the time. And they probably would have had forks in their asses.” “Those niggers shouldn’t have interrupted his act!”). On the other end of the spectrum when I perused Black celebrity news sites, I read equally racist remarks. (“Don’t you know that’s how all white people think? He was just brave enough to say it.” “We should kick his ass. ” And, my personal favorite: “Fuck Seinfeld, Elaine, George, the Soup Nazi, Larry David, Newman and anyone else connected to the show!”) OK, I made that last one up, but I’m sharing the general feeling of the comments. Between the techies and the starstruck celebrity watchers, I’m not sure who’s worse.
In my personal conversations with friends and family, thankfully they were a lot more progressive with their thoughts. None of the “kill whitey” stuff, but still echoing sentiments of disappointment. “When I watch Seinfeld again it’s not going to be the same.” “I’m not going to watch the show anymore.” While I was bothered by the performance as much as anyone else, for some strange reason, it doesn’t make me laugh any less at Kramer’s goofy entrances or his raiding of Jerry’s refrigerator. Am I more forgiving than the average person? Perhaps — but that has a lot less to do with why I’m able to laugh at Seinfeld re-runs. Initially I wondered if I had lost some link to my brothers and sisters of African decent who appeared to be much more adamant about the situation than I was. It bothered me a bit. But then it dawned on me. It’s the same reason why I’m able to watch films and television shows with other accused racists and not have my experience completely tarnished. And the sooner than more people do it, the better off we’ll all be. You see, I’ve made a mental decision that is very difficult to achieve in this age of sensational headlines, viral marketing, instant celebrities and reality TV stars. Although it was difficult, I somehow managed to separate celebrity from performance; notoriety from drama. I’ve separated art from fame. Continue reading ‘The “Kramer” Debate: Separating Art from Fame’