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Jeffrey Williams Jr
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
Jeffrey Williams Jr
(A Comic Legend Dead)
“We do not die because we have to die; we die because one day, and not so long ago, our consciousness was forced to deem it necessary.”
Antonin Artaud (1896 - 1948)
Bernie Mac is dead at 50. That was very shocking news when I first learned about it through my AOL welcome screen. Initially my jaw dropped in astonishment. I couldn’t believe he was dead. I had been a long time fan of Bernie’s comedy but then something struck me. AOL provided You Tube links to some of his stand up comedy, most notable his stand up act from 2000’s “Kings of Comedy” tour. In it I was reminded of just who the world had lost.
We are all aware that it is common ideology to say "don't speak ill of the dead." It is also complete and utter bullshit. In Shakepeare's famous Julius Ceasar, Marc Antony says "the evil men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with the bones." So let it be with Mr. Bernie Mac. Are we to not speak ill of Hitler or Gobbels or Stalin or Mao because they are dead? I think not!
So where then do we draw the line? Bernie Mac chose to live his life as a public figure so his life is subject to public comment or scrutiny. Also, like any other life, public or private, it is not excused from the truth. The truth is never altered by death. The truth about Bernie Mac is that he used his platform to belittle others and spread hatred under the disguise of humor. Mr. Mac called his young nephew a “faggot” in the now famous “Kings of Comedy” stand up routine.
What would that boy experience when he is old enough to see his uncle refer to him in such a derogatory manner? Worse yet, what would his friends and associates say? How would he ever be able to hold his head up with pride and say: “Bernie Mac is my uncle and he infamously called me a faggot in front of the entire world!”
There were performers in Germany during the Third Reich who did the same regarding the Jews. After the war, they were not excused because they also got laughs. Leni Reifensthal, who was undoubtedly a gifted film maker - perhaps even a genius - had no career after the war because she had made the Nazi’s most famous propaganda film, Triumph Of The Will, and when she finally died, it was that film and that association that dominated her obituaries.
She was a genius, yes, but she used her gifts to foster evil and there is no forgiveness for her. So let it be with Mr. Bernie Mac. He was a gifted performer without a doubt but he used those gifts to foster prejudice and homophobia to millions around the world without guilt or shame.
One must ask themselves what I’ve asked myself after his passing: how many gay school kids suffered taunts the day after one of his shows? How many gay bashers were reinforced and encouraged by his bigotry? We can't know the numbers but we know they are there. Say something "nice" about Bernie Mac? Certainly - he is dead. Harsh comment? Yes. But unfortunately that is the nicest thing that could be said of him.
Formulating polite lies about his memory serves no good purpose but instead sends the message that what he did was in some way acceptable and OK because it generated a laugh. It was NOT OK and that is the truth. I prefer to serve the truth rather than shallow "good manners" and I advise everyone else to do the same.
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© 2008 Jeffrey Williams Jr
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