Japanese TV has come under fire after one of the country’s most famous comedians donned blackface on nationwide television on New Year’s Eve.
Masatoshi Hamada, one part of comedy duo Downtown, wore blackface for their New Year’s Eve special Gaki No Tsukai Ya Arahende to emulate Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, sparking a wave of outrage through the outside world.
The duo, comprising of Hamada and Hitoshi Matsumoto, are thought of as one of the most influential comedy duos in Japan – doing stand-up and hosting variety shows.
The incident has now restarted conversation around Japan’s history with blackface, with many branding the skit as racist and inappropriate.
meanwhile in Japan: a comedian with blackface is on a roughly 7 hour long national TV program??? I just wanted to end the year peacefully but no 2017 won’t let me pic.twitter.com/QrsZ7NTlBM
— ぽむぽむあずにゃん (@azusayamamoto) December 31, 2017
I love Japan My home of 13 years. I want the best for her. The nightmare scenario is: Opening Ceremony #2020TokyoOlympics, Japan naively sends a #Blackface doowop group out to pay homage to black athletes. What a fiasco that'll be! So I implore you please #stopblackfaceJapan now
— Baye McNeil (@Locohama) December 31, 2017
Hamada in blackface……im not one to get offended by shit but god damn, japan needs to know that blackface is pretty fucking inappropriate. https://t.co/X1wM3oiL13
— Phoenyx ✌? (@phx787) December 31, 2017
While blackface in any context is a problem, some defending Hamada’s use have noted how Japan doesn’t have the same troubled history with race like in the US.
Getting upset about Japanese doing blackface on a comedy program is like getting upset with a cow for farting. They simply lack the background to see what’s wrong. Also, I’m interested to know if blacks in Japan really even care. Only comments I see are from white or Japanese
— Lloyd Vincent (@lloydvincent) January 2, 2018
The fact it’s being used as a comedy tool however is still an underlying issue, with Japan’s history with blackface harking back as early as the 1860s.
Japanese resident Baye McNeil took to Twitter to voice his concerns, writing: ‘Blackness is being treated as a tool for comedy, for laughs, and that impacts how I’m perceived and treated on a daily basis here.
‘Do you think these comedians care about that? I doubt it. They should. The quality of my life is affected by them.’
Blackface however is unfortunately still an issue in the rest of the world too, with model Sophie Applegarth recently defending her choice to ‘impersonate’ Serena Williams.
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