It appears that the attempts to remain relevant by celebs has reached new heights, or perhaps new lows in this particular case. Nick Cannon has re-emerged from behind the shadow of his Famous wife Mariah Carey with a controversial character and a new album. The album, titled ‘White People Party Music’ is slated to be released on April fools day and it is unfortunate that this is not a mere prank. Mr. Cannon decided to don “white-face” and take on the persona of a skater type dude he dubbed ‘Connor Smallnut’ while speaking in a “white-guy” styled voice. This decision has added to the already hot button topic of race relations in America. He has run with the basic marketing precept that any press is good press. Never mind that the topic of race is already a volatile and touchy subject, but Nick Cannon being racially insensitive with his new project only adds to the turmoil. This whole debacle seems designed to just get people talking about it and that in itself is not the problem. The problem it would seem is that the ramifications were not taken into consideration. His shenanigans stand to only highlight the problems in racial issues without offering any solutions. Not that anyone expects solutions from a corny comedian, but using race as a backdrop to push his project appears irresponsible and an abuse of his celebrity status.
It is truly unfortunate and quite the shame that Mr. Cannon has chosen to fall back on played out stereotypes in an attempt to remain relevant. Everybody is not comfortable or okay with this type of so called comedy. Some things should be off limits to those who are incapable of handling them appropriately and this stunt is a prime example. The weak joke of calling the character ‘Connor Smallnut’ is certainly not lost on most people. Reinforcing stereotypes with thinly veiled references to male Caucasian genitalia is infantile at best. It is tantamount to those adolescent fart jokes that only immature guys and small children find funny. He is rich, famous and successful and moves in a world that makes it safe for him to make jokes out of sensitive issues like race. The message this seems to send is that it is okay to do what you want, consequences be damned. Okay yes, he was trying to be funny but it seems he chose the wrong topic to build a comedic platform on. Everybody is just not ready for that brand of humor nor do most people find it funny or amusing.
This country has not come far enough in race relations to make it okay. A frighteningly large portion of Americans are clueless when it comes to history and would find it difficult to put this display into any proper context. He has stepped over a shifting line and does not seem to comprehend the seriousness of his actions. Race relations are cumbersome on a good day and they are just too explosive to be made fun of. The current racial climate in this country is not conducive to this kind buffoonery. Many people regardless of racial origin, are still trying to find their way out of the muck of history. They are wading through the pain, the lies, the hidden truths, the misconceptions and deceptions that are even today affecting racial relations and coloring the atmosphere of cultural perceptions. There is more to lose than to gain with this type of so called humor. Nick Cannon should have perhaps taken a moment to reflect on the ramifications of his racial insensitivity before going ahead with this new project. Now it is unfortunately too late for society to look away.
Who is going to buy this album, what demographic is being targeted? It stands to reason that most groups would find it offensive. Are white people going to be stampeding to buy this album? Are they thinking, “Finally, a black person has made music just for us to party to, Nick gets us.” Umm no, probably not. This just reeks of being unnecessary and sensationalistic. What was he thinking? Was he under the impression that “Oh, I married a half white woman and I have a lot of white friends who think I’m cool and enough time has passed since slavery and the civil rights movement so I can do this now.” Nope. Wrong again. On the flip side of that, Julianne Hough was crucified for her Halloween costume and she merely colored herself a few shades darker for a more convincing portrayal. It was clear that she was not being racist because come on, it was Halloween, she was supposed to be Crazy Eyes from the show ‘Orange is the New Black’ and the character is in fact black! It was not done out of meanness or racism, but the problem there is that the history behind black-face makes it off limits and offensive. There are subtle differences that make all the difference when whites and blacks attempt to portray one another. It is a delicate and treacherous undertaking and should be approached with caution and awareness, otherwise it can easily lead to disaster.
The racial atmosphere varies from region to region in not just America but all over the world. White people in southern states may take more offense at what Nick Cannon is doing, whereas some whites in Hollywood may actually find it funny and clever. Reactions to this stunt will range from complete outrage to total nonchalance depending on individual attitudes about race. Overall it just seems tasteless and ill conceived. Racial tensions are quite high now with recent murders and the trials going on across the nation, making America a virtual powder keg. People are not ready to laugh it off because it is just not funny. When Martin Lawrence did his white character “Bob” that was funny, mainly because Martin Lawrence portrayed a host of characters and it was within the context of what he was doing . At the time, there was not any backlash because it was a non-issue. But now, it might very well be considered an issue. Nick should know better than this. His style of comedy just cannot carry the heaviness that is race in America. He cannot pull it off convincingly because it just comes off as offensive. ‘White Chicks’ the movie was funny and at the time the Wayans’ brother’s portrayal as privileged white girls was not an issue, in the current racial atmosphere it very well could be. With that being said, Mr. Cannon is definitely not a Wayans’ by any stretch of the imagination and should step away from white-face parody.
Nick Cannon has been considered simply corny for the most part and folks are okay with that. But nooooo, he just could not stay in his comedic lane, he had to jump over and get into something that is beyond him and bigger than his Hollywood privilege. What he is doing now just makes him an embarrassment and takes away from his image as a doting father and all around good guy. He is in over his head and pretty much just looks even more ridiculous in his attempts to laugh off and make light of the controversy. You are not funny as a white skater/rapper dude Nick Cannon, you’re just not. And white people do not need party music from you, they have more than enough at their disposal. So again, who is going to buy the album and are any other races going to want to party to the music as well, even though it has been coined as “white people’s” party music? Come on, could he not do better than this? It is understandable that he wants to stay relevant and is trying to do something way out and over the top, but this was just the wrong vehicle to use at this time.
You are a mostly harmless goofball Nick, people know this and they get it. But this whole white-boy parody has crossed the line from mere goofiness to a glaring distastefulness. The eyes of the masses are incapable of rolling hard enough. Hash-tagging tired stereotypes about fist pumping, kissing dogs and eating cream cheese only makes him look sillier. It feels like Nick is laughing at and not with white people. It is as if this whole project is screaming “Hey, you guys laughed at us, now I’m going to laugh at you!” But that is a major fail because it is just not funny and it is an erroneous approach to both humor and race. What is funny is that most people are actually laughing at his lame attempt at racial humor and not laughing with him. He does not posses the comedic prowess to do it convincingly or inoffensively. Nick Cannon is just not that guy and the racial insensitivity in his new project proves it. Robert Downey Jr. was that guy and he still caught some flak behind Tropic Thunder. It just feels irresponsible on Mr. Cannon’s behalf as the father of mixed race children. The time is just not right and Nick Cannon is not the best candidate to pull it off.
By Mai Nowlin