I feel guilty laughing at previews for the movie Tropic Thunder. There's something about Robert Downey Jr. in blackface that makes me really fucking uncomfortable. So I randomly called my Stepdad, who is African American, to see if he had anything to say about the movie. I wanted to get his opinion on it from a personal standpoint, but also to see if he could attempt to gauge the local black community's beliefs about this movie as extrapolated from the opinions of him/some of his friends.
His basic reaction was that the movie is not offensive, but instead looks "hilarious," and that he will be going to see it ASAP.
I told him that I felt uncomfortable about it; he responded, "I think, honestly, that 'good' white people feel guilty about slavery so they're overly sensitive about anything pertaining to race: kind of like a guy who's a feminist and refuses to laugh when girls call each other 'sluts.'"
He said that a lot of his black friends are also excited to see it, while his white ones seem ambivalent. He continued, "I'm sure there are some black people who think it's offensive and I'm like: Dude, shut up! First of all, it's a movie, and second of all, that's how we sometimes act. It's only offensive if it's not true... so I think it's going be hilarious."
Then he continued, "Now, can you laugh at it? Hmmm... I don't know. Maybe with a black guy on your arm."
So what do you think? Offensive or no? I fully admit I'm overly sensitive about race issues (ahem, okay, ALL issues) but that is probably because my Stepdad and Stepbrother are black and I feel like I have to defend them when people are being even slightly racist, though feeling guilty about slavery is probably something ingrained in us in grade school and not necessarily a bad thing.
If I laugh at the preview, am I just appreciating something that is funny and, as my Stepdad says, 'true?' Or am I helping to support and perpetuate stereotypes that are societally harmful?