By now you may have heard about the backlash concerning actress Julianne Hough’s choice to dress up as Uzo Aduba’s character Crazy Eyes, on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. In case you were wondering why this caused such an uproar, it’s because the white actress Hough, wore dark makeup as part of her costume in order to appear more like the black actress Aduba. And yet if you’re still wondering why this turned into such a media and Twitter shit storm, well then you’re like me and of an opinion that goes something along the lines of dude, seriously?
Before I continue, let’s just get one thing out of the way. I am in fact, a white person. I’m not trying to pretend like I know what it is to be black in America and have to deal with a bunch of ignorant white nonsense on a regular basis but is this really one of those times? Like, honestly. I want to know. Because it seems like most of the people who are getting upset over Hough’s costume are white to begin with and it makes me want to say “chill out white people!” There’s plenty of actual racism going on in the world for you to freak out over and prove how not racist you are, but this probably isn’t your moment.
I mean, let’s break it down.
While blackface is often loosely defined as any white person wearing dark makeup in an effort to impersonate a black person, that’s not what blackface actually is. Blackface is specific to a time when white actors, after the Civil War, used greasepaint to exaggerate black features and then made fools of themselves on stage which ultimately ended up demeaning and objectifying black people. Now that shit is seriously offensive. However, a white woman getting what is essentially a heavy spray tan to more accurately portray her favorite character on an internet show isn’t even remotely the same thing. And to say that it is seems like a trivialization of what blackface was in the first place.
And let’s say that at worst, Hough was naive or just plain unaware that some people would be turned off by her costume. Is this such a misstep that it warrants an onslaught of internet outrage? Just look at how distorted the whole thing has become. A contributor to The Huffington Post compared what Hough wore to the awful costumes of two Massachusetts white men. One of which painted his face black and went as a bleeding Trayvon Martin. The other, a gun wielding George Zimmerman. She finished her article by referencing Hough in a paragraph that ended with “Halloween is no excuse for hate.” Another reporter for the LA Times made the same comparison and even went so far as to accuse Hough of being part of a conspiracy that utilizes Halloween to express the deep-seated belief that white people are of intrinsically higher value than people of color and that by dressing in blackface, her true character was revealed. Are they fucking serious? I mean, I don’t know much about this Hough chick but she doesn’t exactly give off the evil genius vibe. From what I could see of the pictures, she just looked like someone who was excited to go to a party.
Now it comes as no surprise that bloggers would take what is for the most part a pretty mundane situation and turn it into a “controversy” in order to drive traffic to their sites. Nor does it seem shocking that a few typically loud people on Twitter would make the most of an opportunity to have an opinion about anything. But is your average person, like in real life, who’s just going about their day, actually upset about this? Because no one I’ve spoken to personally seems to think it’s that big of a deal.
On the flip side, if anyone wants to argue the point that maybe black people have dealt with enough throughout history and because of that, maybe white people should extend the small courtesy of never coming anywhere near what might be considered offensive to them, then I can get down with that. But can we please not call a woman wearing a costume to a Halloween party something it’s not, a calculated plan to marginalize a minority, simply for the sake of being righteous? There’s plenty of real fucked up shit out there without having to invent it because we’re bored.