A little late, but I must speak on the latest Eddie Murphy-in-a-fat-suit vehicle, "Norbit." From now on, when it comes to race, pop media must be judged as either part of the solution or ...."Norbit"
The numbers (courtesy of Rottentomatoes.com) speak quite loudly for themselves. "Norbit" has grossed just under $100 million since opening seven weeks ago and held a spot in the top-ten for all but one of those weeks.
This bit of dialog from the climactic scene also speaks loudly. Rasputia, played by Murphy under what looks like 300+ pounds of fat suit, is about to bash in the brains of her ineffectual (read nerd talking, submissive, dim but kind) husband Norbit (also Murphy) with a shovel in the public square. Suddenly we hear a shout from off camera. It's what appears to be a little old Chinese man (yeah, Murphy, again):
Old Chinese Man: Whale ho!
Rasputia, in mid-downstroke, pauses:
Rasputia: Did I just hear somebody call me a whale?
The Old Chinese Man is brandishing what looks to be a harpoon longer than he is tall.
Old Chinese Man: Yeah, and you a ho' too!
And with that he launches the harpoon, hitting Rasputia dead in her rear aperture.
Old Chinese Man: Yessss! Right in the blow-hole!
As the old man does an end-zone dance, Rasputia, now fully realized as a grotesque cartoon character, runs fast-forward zigzags around the square with the harpoon up her butt.
Of course, I didn't pay money to see this. I was watching a bootleg DVD on the TV as I waited for a haircut at a Dominican barbershop in the Bronx. Most of the patrons and all of the barbers were immigrants who know little English and even less about whatever nuances of African-American culture Murphy (with producer, story and writer credits) was trying to exploit.
Given it's minuscule production values (hell, Murphy plays three of the seven major characters) I shudder to think about the message "Norbit's" huge profits have already sent the marketplace.
But what really makes me cringe is the message "Norbit" sends to people like those young Dominican men about who African-Americans are. Many of those Dominicans would appear to be African-American themselves, until they opened their mouths. But Norbit is just another reason to never make the mistake of calling one of them black.
Hell, I wasn't too proud to be black myself as I slinked out after my haircut.