Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cheech and Chong the "Black Face"s of Prohibition?

The more involved I become in the War on Cannabis, the more aware I become of how Cannabis and Cannabis users are protrayed.  I'm not just talking about how mainstream media portrays us and it.  I'm also referring to how we represent ourselves and how it affects the general opinion of Cannabis.

Not long ago (the 19th century) in the United States a new craze of comedy hit the populace.  So influential was this new form of comedy that it floated across the big water and found a home in European and Asian countries.  White actors utilized black face paint to portray blacks in theatre and eventually film.  This new theatrical practice became known as "Black Face".  The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and propagated American racist stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation" or the "dandified coon ".  (underlined quote from Wikipedia, "Blackface".)

I'm sure you've seen this image similar to this one before.  Even when I was a kid, I can remember certain Saturday morning cartoon characters that would slap on the black grease paint and paint their lips big and red to sing an ol' colored spiritual song.  Imagine the sort of racist and false stereotypes that this kind of behaviour propagates.  How can a person after being exposed to this kind of "acting" all of their life ever take an African American person seriously?   


It's the 1970's and a new comedic craze is sweeping America.  Two guys, one stage, and hours of hilarious material that addresses such issues as hippie life, free love, and drug use.  So influential was this duo, that over 40 years later, their movies are still watched and loved by the youth of a different, more digital and technologically advanced age.  No introduction is necessary, folks, you know exactly who I'm talking about. 

So, how did, and does, Cheech and Chong affect the public opinion of Cannabis and the people who use it?  After 40 years, the lazy, confused, stoner image is still doing more detriment to the Cannabis movement than the "black face" ever did for Civil Rights.  When do you ever see an intelligent, educated, hard working pot smoker on television?  It's no surprise that it's so hard for us to be taken seriously.  After watching Cheech and Chong, would you believe that "dope" had any medicinal value at all?  Would you believe that the founding fathers smoked, and grew Cannabis?  Probably not. 

Maybe, you disagree.  Maybe.  When you're smoking with your friends, when you are discussing politics or informing the masses about the wonderful plant that we love, what kind of image are you portraying?    

I'll leave you with a quote from the Charlotte Observer.  May 02, 2011.  "Some people have what I call a Cheech and Chong view of the issue," Alexander said.  "Frankly, if you look at it through that lens it makes it more difficult to take it seriously and makes it more difficult to listen to the evidence out there about its medical efficacy."                                     

1 comment:

  1. Wow, ok I had not seen the "black face" thing before and that's rather surprising and very appalling. I'm a white southern gal and to some they would be shocked that I'm appalled at it. Another stereotype I guess.

    In the defense of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, they were comic geniuses. Their stuff was fiction and they will tell you this. They've put it out there since they became serious activists for cannabis law reform after Tommy Chong's uncalled for arrest. See the movie "A.K.A Tommy Chong" for more on that. They are on major TV shows now talking about their personal views and advocacy as opposed to their comic careers. That takes guts. I tell you this simply to inform you that they are taking real life steps to help the movement and are making huge progress. They are not acting like that in their real life activism at all. Tommy Chong is a member of NORML now also. So, to spite what some cannot separate real from fiction (no, my friend, I'm not talking about you or your article here - to inform the public further of "Cheech and Chong" and reality now) they are making a good dent in the world and have a face that looks like the rest of us - pretty much normal people who wants to see the right thing done.