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They were pranks, maintains one educated soul, as we fiercely exchanged jawdropping solid points on Showmax’s decision to review veteran comedian Leon Schuster’s content, as a precautionary measure to ensure there is no racially insensitive material.
Showmax, in clearing the air on a fierce public uproar after its decision to remove Leon Schuster movies, said their decision was undergoing a process to review the material, in case some content may be viewed to be racially insensitive.
This sent shockwaves, as those pro-Schuster claim that people were merely being oversensitive, as Schuster brought many fans – from different backgrounds – together through laughter.
While this reigns true, there’s a thin line in some Schuster movies/skits that his slapstick comedy sometimes crosses, and could be received as offensive in today’s racial landscape.
And that’s where the issue lies.
Humour from the 1990s – or yesterday’s views – unfortunately, could be ill-received today, and that’s a harsh reality that we all must accept, or perish as we could later be crucified as hypocrites or bigots.
Yesterday’s remarks, jokes, movies, alongside other comedy shows are being reviewed for the same reason. That they may not be well received and may land the channel in hot water going forward, simply because the racial landscape has and continues to change.
Some of Schuster’s shows, unfortunately, fall in that category, as they can in some instances be seen as inherently racist, depicting black people in a certain light owing to the racial stereotypes employed.
With blackface being the first undeniable question mark, cultural appropriation the second, a third could be some pranks that may have been swept under the carpet due to the country’s then racial climate. What many filmmakers could have easily gotten away with in’ 94, ’95 or ’99 could easily land them in hot water today, not only on the race field but on how they portrayed men or women, or the LGBTQ community.
We grew up on Schuster movies, laughing in rooms packed with aunts and uncles all in stitches at the hilarious reactions doctored by Schuster and his crew.
I have to however agree with Adriaan Basson, in that what may have been funny when some of us were wet behind the ears, has changed due to our renewed level of awareness.
Basson writes: “It was only later in life that I realised the inherent racism of his movies. How they portrayed black people as inferior and viewed black bodies as mere subjects to conduct humorous experiments on.” A solid point which although Schuster’s intent was apparently pure, the manner in which how content is received today, has changed.
While Showmax has temporarily removed nine of the filmmaker’s films, with blackface characters, he isn’t the only filmmaker being snubbed.
Content in the form of satirical series such as Little Britain, Come Fly with Me, and Jonah from Tonga have been flagged from Netflix due to performances by some characters in black and or brown faces. This is due to many platforms reevaluating their offerings following mass protests against racism following the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US.
The reality remains, just as all technology requires updates from time to time, in order to ensure adapted functionality, society also needs to adapt, even when some, just as Schuster, may be caught in the storm for change.
This may be a challenging transition, as some filmmakers will have to repackage their material because one offensive step could send a million-dollar production down the drain due to social pressure against it.
The world changes… and as Charles Darwin once wrote, “it is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but it is the one that is most adaptable to change” that paddles through, fluid as water through the cracks.
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