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Modern Minstrelsy

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Oh no you di'in't!

When characters enact stereotypes for the amusement of others. Named after the 19th century entertainment phenomenon of Minstrel Shows in which white performers in blackface give comic performances, and later, black performers in blackface. The basic format continued well into the film era, resulting in Uncle Tomfoolery.

Any show aimed at an in-crowd can fall for this unintentionally, particularly if satire acquires a Misaimed Fandom. The movie Bamboozled is based on that premise. Sometimes comedy is intended in the format of "We're laughing with you, not at you," but somewhere out there, someone is laughing at you. In other cases, it's a matter of tokenism gone bad, combined with stale comedy, and possibly resulting in an Ethnic Scrappy.

The minstrelsy is often, but not always, played by an actor who is not part of the targeted group. These acts will often involve Blackface, Yellowface, Brownface, or other types of Fake Nationality. If the actor is part of the targeted group, expect members of the group to tell him to Stop Being Stereotypical. If the targeted group ends up liking the show, see Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales.

Sometimes what otherwise might be minstrelsy actually works, basically through Refuge in Audacity. But other times, it just results in a lot of Race Tropes playing out with Unfortunate Implications.

No connection to Papa Lazarou. Nor to Wandering Minstrel.


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  • Lucky The Leprechaun and his Lucky Charms cereal.
  • Many commercials feature loud black buffoon characters. Offenders include the Too Dumb to Live black dad pouring a whole bucket of sprinkles into an ice cream sundae in the Verizon Wireless commercials; the overweight, truck-driving Deadpan Snarker Soul Brotha beer distributor walking into baseball stadiums converting the fans to Miller Lite beer; and the luggage man in Southwest Airlines hollering, "Grab yo' bags! ISS ONNNN!".

     Comic Books 
  • Asterix is made of this whenever the Gauls go to another country. Editions used to be run with a foreword by the authors insisting they're making fun of the stereotypes rather than the people, but in practice, the stories do not feel like parodies, though not usually very offensive. The comics were pulled from school libraries in the UK because of this but returned due to outcry from nostalgic parents. Tends to inspire a lot of Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales in terms of the books that use stereotypes more gentle and harmless, such as Asterix in Britain (Stiff Upper Lip), Asterix in Switzerland (Yodel Land) and Asterix and the Black Gold (All Jews Are Ashkenazi); or too stupid and extreme to take seriously, like Asterix in Corsica (The Mafia), Asterix and the Goths (Imperial Germany) and Asterix and the Normans (Horny Vikings who eat everything with creme sauce, Normandie being a dairy-producing region), but the creators were no strangers to furious letters from people from these countries.
  • An in-universe example occurs in The Boys, when black superhero The Deep is unamused by his new Unfortunate Implications-heavy outfit, asking if it comes with a watermelon accessory.

     Fan Works 
  • The KanColle fic Things Involving Shipgirls That Are No Longer Allowed has Revenge, who, for unknown reasons, is portrayed here as a loud, brash, hip-hop blasting woman who speaks in a bastardized version of AAVE. Sample line of dialogue: "'Chu touch mah mo'fukkin' ass agen, an' Ah'll do da same thang to yo' overly thick skull!"note  Though it's subverted in one instance when she learns that Wisconsin made a rap album, making her too furious to keep up the ebonics, most of her appearances play the trope straight.

     Film — Live Action 
  • "Crocodile" Dundee plays with this, both straight up and subverted. A relatively innocuous case, unless you use the movie as a reference work about Australia. The late Steve Irwin played a similar schtick.
  • The Pirate Lords in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End are all rather... ethnic. Chow Yun-Fat commented in the press about being a "good boy" and portraying the Orientalist stereotype that was his character. Most of his role was cut by Chinese censors.
  • Spike Lee's Bamboozled is a scathing satire of Modern Minstrelsy, taking aim at the cynical (white) minds behind the entertainment.
  • Tyler Perry's films are accused by critics of reinforcing stereotypes with his Madea films. In fact, throughout the 2000s, black comedians appearing in drag as stereotypical fat black women became a trend with Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and the aforementioned Tyler Perry.
  • Borat and Brüno (2009), two mockumentaries by Sacha Baron Cohen, are provocatively constructed as minstrel shows of people living in third world countries and gay people, respectively. The real targets, however, are the people fooled by the routine.
  • One of the terrorists in Executive Decision was played by standup comedian Ahmed Ahmed. After Ahmed moved from acting to standup comedy, he addressed his role in the movie in light of this trope.
  • Acknowledged In-Universe in Sorry to Bother You. The protagonist, Cassius "Cash" Green, finds himself at a party full of rich white folk who pressure him to rap even though he doesn't know how, simply because rap is stereotypically associated with black people. Eventually, he gives in to peer pressure. After stumbling on a couple of awkward rhymes, he eventually just screams "Nigga shit!" over and over again as the all-white crowd joins in. Notably, before this moment, Cash had to constantly speak in a "white voice" at his job. This scene was the one time where the crowd made him act stereotypically black for their amusement.
  • Invoked Trope in Loqueesha, in which the white male lead pretends to be a Sassy Black Woman on the radio because supposedly his "sagely life-changing advice" would go unnoticed it came from a white man.

     Live Action TV 
  • The Misaimed Fandom aspect is strong with Will & Grace's gay minstrelsy. A substantial segment of its audience doesn't support gay rights, gay marriage, gay love, or gay anything. They just like laughing at the quaint homosexuals. The show's sizable gay fanbase, however, appreciates the sympathetic characterization and relatively sparing use of stereotypes - Will is a successful lawyer, not (say) a fashion designer.
  • Parodied with a vengeance by My Way Entertainment, in a spoof of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. The skit goes beyond the simple ethnic color-coding to reveal that the Black Ranger is a crack dealer and the Yellow Ranger speaks largely in takeout/massage solicitations. Oddly enough, the evil clone of the Black Ranger uses quotes such as "Oh yeah, chicken and watermelon!" and "Now it's time for the black-on-black crime!"
  • Dave Chappelle saw later episodes of his own show as this, which caused him to become disillusioned with the project and eventually prompted him to suddenly shut it down just before the start of a planned third season. The specific moment that Chappelle began to feel his show had crossed to The Dark Side was in the "Pixies" sketch, depicting pixies representing racial stereotypes telling regular people of various races to live out those stereotypes. The pixie for black people, played by Chappelle, is a ridiculously offensive shuckin'-an'-jivin' blackface minstrel. Chappelle reported watching a white crew member's reaction to the bit and being made deeply uncomfortable by his laughter.
  • Monk has an unspecified anxiety disorder (although he's described in promotional materials as "obsessive-compulsive") that seems to combine symptoms from every last one in the book according to the Rule of Funny. Flanderization of his symptoms, and constant rounds of bringing him a step forward only to traumatize him further by the end of the episode, have driven any pretensions to realism or sympathy into the ground.
  • The "Asian manicurist" as portrayed by Alex Borstein as Ms. Kwan, later renamed Ms. Swan on MADtv would count, though Bornstein would later try and blunt criticism of the popular character via reworking the character so that she was smarter than she seemed AND revealed (in a one-off sketch) that she spoke perfect English and only acted like a dumb foreigner so that she could troll people for shits and giggles. Said to be based on Björk.
  • Beauty and the Geek. Brainy, socially inept men and ditzy glamour girls. Frequently subverted, though, when the beauties find themselves out of their element and look like, frankly, clueless nerds, or when the geeks manage to come across as savvy. Subverted again when a female geek and a male beauty show up, causing even more cracks in the stereotypes to show.
  • The Big Bang Theory is often accused of this on two fronts:
    • Stereotypical nerds, who can't even talk to their neighbour without being absolute freaks. Everything they do is to make them seem pathetic, useless, elitist or to attempt to look like One of Us. Fortunately subverted later on by making them all more socially apt and finding girlfriends, though this could be read as Character Development turning them into "normal people".
    • Neurodivergent critics of the show argue that it perpetuates stereotypes of autistic people for the sake of comedy via the portrayals of Sheldon and Amy. Sheldon is particularly accused of this, being depicted as having odd patterns of thought, difficulties at socializing and conventionally expressing affection and general emotion, rigid body language, flat tone of voice, narrow, niche interests, sensory hypersensitivities, and savant-like capabilities in unorthodox fields. All of this is exaggerated for comedic effect, and its parallels with ableist stereotypes of autism (not only as a result of its exaggeration but also its implication that Sheldon is nothing more than a nuisance at best and a burden at worst) give many autistic and otherwise neurodivergent viewers considerable pause.
  • The Spirit of Jazz from The Mighty Boosh, a demented Voodoo god of jazz, as well as the two guitar players Rudi and Spider — who were broad Latino stereotypes — were all played by White guys (wearing black or brown makeup ). Then again, Boosh has a very small cast so those actors tend to play everyone.
  • Fiona Glenanne of Burn Notice has been accused of this. She's an Oirish, Hot-Blooded ex-IRA terrorist whose prime source of income is running guns and whose contribution to every planning session is to suggest the application of excessive violence. All that, and she's played by an English actress, too.
    • Most of this trope actually disappears by the second episode, but is reinforced by the opening narration which is taken from the pilot where it was in full display. The sudden loss of accent is lampshaded as her deliberately fitting into American / Miami culture — not that she has a remotely Miamian accent, though. The actress has explained the change as Executive Meddling.
  • The show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and the Spin-Off in America have been accused of intentionally highlighting extreme Irish Traveller lifestyles and making them seem abnormal.
  • 2 Broke Girls has often been accused of this, given the characters of Han (a numbers-obsessed Asian diner owner who started off speaking pidgin English) and Earl (an older, soulful black man who spoke often of his past affairs with women and smoking weed).
  • Hiro Nakamura of Heroes certainly seemed to have started off this way; even Masi Oka admits he's fulfilling a lot of Asian stereotypes in the role (despite wishing Hollywood's portrayal of Asian men would Stop Being Stereotypical). Asian and Nerdy? Check. Poor grammar and pronunciation? Check, at least at the start (he loses much of the accent after the first season, and Future Hiro has no accent at all). Over-enthusiastic and gullible? Check. However, he turned out to be an Ensemble Dark Horse in both America and Japan, the latter at least in part because of the former.
  • A direct example took place in an episode of Gimme a Break!, when Joey performed at a show in blackface, much to everyone's shock and surprise.


     Professional Wrestling 
  • Pro wrestling is the only genre where the Wild Samoan is not just expected, but a gimmick the fans have openly embraced, mainly because the trope namers were so talented and their family so pervasive among the various members of the National Wrestling Alliance, former or otherwise. That said, Pro Wrestling ZERO1 and TNA did come under fire for trying to force the wild Samoan gimmick on Samoa Joe.
  • Whenever the United States starts experiencing some negative Values Dissonance with another country, you can bet that WWE will trot out unflattering caricatures of the disliked nationality, who are always heels (except when WWE visits their supposed home countries, where they'll temporarily become good guys). Usually these "foreigners" are portrayed by Americans or Canadians, though sometimes from the very ethnic group they are parodying. And yes, if these wrestlers do have ethnic ties to their characters, the "heel heat" can get to them outside of Kayfabe. Examples include La Resistance (French), The Iron Sheik (Iran), Muhammad Hassan (Arab), and sundry Nazis(Jon Heidenreich was lucky enough to have this shot down in favor of being a poetry-writing Cloudcuckoolander), Communists(Nikolai Volkoff), and Yellow Peril Japanese(Yamaguchi San).
  • Santino Marella does this for Italians, though he's mostly been a face.
  • WWF\E's Divas playing up really degrading sexual stereotypes, the late '90s and early '00s being their lowest point. Mud Wrestling is one thing but when Ivory, a defender of substance matches, is suggesting there are one too many, when Stacy Keibler is getting title shots through bra and panties matches with the angle being she can't wrestle well enough to win in a standard one fall, when the women's title belt is defended in a water pool, you've definitely reached this point.
  • Cryme Tyme played up long-stale black thug stereotypes for laughs.
  • Grizzly Redwood actually had a career in Ring of Honor dating back to the "Top of the Class" days, but all anyone remembers is his "World's Littlest Lumberjack" gimmick.
  • R-Truth raps on the way to the ring and shouts "Whassup?!", which itself is pretty mild compared to his bad-toothed "Pretty Ricky" gimmick. And during his brief Face–Heel Turn, he adopted what came off as an uncomfortably literal minstrel shtick: "I'm a gewwwwwd R-Truth!"

     Stand Up Comedy 
  • Chris Rock has retired his famous stand-up bit "Black People vs. Niggas" for this reason, as he felt it gave actual racists the sense that their thoughts on black people were being validated. His stand-up album features him doing this bit followed by a white fan coming up to him after the show and enthusiastically saying "I hate niggas, too!", followed by the sound of a punch.
  • Jeff Dunham has puppets that consist of a terrorist, a pimp, a talking Mexican pepper on a stick, etc.
  • Patton Oswalt has a routine that tells the story of a movie audition he went to where he read for the Gay Best Friend. In the routine, he explicitly compares the stereotype to blackface.
    "Microwave popcorn and red wine, STAT!"
  • Ahmed Ahmed, for the Axis Of Evil Comedy Tour, had a bit about how he had to stop acting and focus on comedy because they kept casting him as an Arab terrorist. His stand up includes a bit where he got a role by trying to dial the farce up.

  • The Producers (as well as its film adaptation) does this with homosexual stereotypes, to such a ludicrous extent that there's no way any contemporary audience could think it was intended in seriousness. (Right?)

    Video Games 

     Web Original 

  • Hetalia: Axis Powers features an entire cast of Nations as People, with each nation being built around their national stereotypes. Depending on how you take the jokes, it can veer towards this (for example: America is loud and obnoxious, and constantly eating, while Italy is a Lovable Coward who tries to solve many problems by cooking for others or surrendering to them.
  • Umlaut House turns the bisexuality of half the cast and homosexuality of another quarter into an Overused Running Gag, especially the clearly unbalanced, comically promiscuous original main character. Still, between the author's claimed bisexuality; the Mad Scientist, college, and The Men in Black humor; and the welcomeness of any (especially male) non-Ax-Crazy bisexuals, many readers are willing to give him some slack. It's toned down in the sequel, at least.
  • This is apparently why the Fuhr has essentially disowned Boy Meets Boy, not linking it from any of her later comics.

     Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks has the rappers Thugnificent and Gangstalicious serving as targets for criticism of materialistic, style-over-substance excess of Gangsta Rap, to the point that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who, in this show, was not killed, but put into a coma by his shooting in Memphis) wakes up and delivers "The Reason You Suck" Speech condemning lazy, ignorant Black pop culture. Similarly, the show describes the "Nigga Moment", instances of young Black men acting like violent idiots and the inevitable consequences.
  • Speedy Gonzales cartoons feature many lazy and often drunken Mexican background mice. Speedy himself is a complete inversion of the other mice's negative stereotypes, making him very popular in Latin America because of his heroic qualities.
  • Drawn Together is one of many who take the "we're not making fun of the people, we're making fun of the stereotypes" stance, repetitively citing how much crap they put on Jews when the co-creators themselves are Jewish.
  • Family Guy sometimes delves into this.
    • Especially when it comes to the Irish, partially because very few people - even if they actually are Irish - still get offended by that.
    • The show also frequently pokes fun at Jews, which quite often inches dangerously close to outright anti-Semitic jokes with very little sense of irony about them. Mort Goldman in particular goes from a more rounded character to an excuse for the writers to toss in some Jewish jokes in later seasons.
    • The show's portrayal of Christians is also consistently negatively stereotypical. Although it was somewhat toned down after the poorly received "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven".
    • Muslims and Arabs are slightly less frequent targets of jokes on the show, but almost always appear as Middle Eastern Terrorists when they do show up.
    • The show relies heavily on black stereotypes, especially when it comes to anything involving Cleveland, who at a certain point more or less became a vehicle for them. Much like the shows' Jewish jokes, it often feels like there's little irony about them.
    • Anytime Asian characters appear, it's usually for the sake of ethnic jokes based around common stereotypes, from tiger moms to bad driving, to being loud, pushy, or stoic, and in a way that some feel comes dangerously close to outright bigotry instead of having a sense of irony to it. Like Mort and Cleveland, "Asian reporter" Tricia Takanawa is a vehicle for said jokes.
    • The treatment of Joe and other physically disabled people in general since the show's uncancellation is something to behold. Whereas earlier episodes poked fun at his handicap but still portrayed him as a heroic, honest, and ultimately good person, later episodes have jokes such as Peter banning Joe and his paraplegic friends from his new restaurant simply because "cool people don't use wheelchairs", in spite of them providing him with plenty of business. It's no wonder plenty of fans believe Joe to be the show's most mistreated character after Meg.
  • Sealab 2021 even poked fun at itself for doing this. In a lounge song, no less. "Too dumb to be sarcastic so we keep provoking / make fun of minorities because of our inferiority / but it doesn't matter, we're only joking!"
  • Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from The Simpsons has been accused of this.


Video Example(s):


Krusty's Asian Impression

Krusty does an Asian impression on stage during his stand-up comedy. Obviously, this wasn't received well.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ModernMinstrelsy

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