Why Male Comedians Wearing Dresses Isn’t A Black Thing, It’s A Comedy Thing
Everyone does it, not only Black men.
November 18, 2019 at 6:31 pm
The other day I googled “comedians wearing dresses,” purposely leaving race out of the search, and the first page was flooded with articles like “A Black Man in a Dress: No Laughing Matter” and “Emasculating the Black Male,” as if white comedians and entertainers have never done such a thing.
Chris Rock said it best when he said, “Men dressing as women is a comedy staple, like a pie in the face.” Men wearing dresses has been around since the very early days of comedy. Cross-dressing falls under the category of slipping on a banana peel or fart jokes — it's a quick way to get a very cheap laugh.
If you take a look at comedy history, in many Shakespeare comedy plays, men used to play the women roles. I will admit that was more of a “women can’t act” misogyny thing, more than a emasculation of the Black male. And I can’t count the number of Bugs Bunny sketches where he put on a dress to trick Elmer Fudd.
But I ask: Why isn’t Hollywood emasculating the white male? Do white men ever wear dresses for success? Why is that stigma only applied to Black comedians when white ones do the exact same thing?
For every Black entertainer that wore a dress, I can name a white one to match. Eddie Murphy wore a dress, so did Robin Williams. Martin Lawrence put on a dress, so did Adam Sandler. Jamie Foxx to John Travolta, Kenan Thompson to Dana Carvey, Tyler Perry to Jim Carrey; Shawn and Marlon Wayans to Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari — and the list goes on.
It’s frustrating how the Black community looks at you if you decide to put a dress on, because none of that same energy is applied to the white comedians. My guess is that those who criticize Black comedians have never seen Mrs. Doubtfire or Tootsie. Why isn’t Robin Williams a sellout? Why isn’t Jim Carrey called gay for doing the exact same thing Jamie Foxx did in the same exact show? Why are we tearing down our Black entertainers for doing the same thing their white counterparts are doing?
There is no curse for male comedians who put on dresses. If anything, it has catapulted many careers to the next level. Jamie Foxx put on a dress in In Living Color, and he got an Oscar for Ray. Jim Carrey won two back-to-back Golden Globes after he put on a dress. Eddie Murphy recieved a Golden Globe nomination for putting on a dress in The Nutty Professor. Dustin Hoffman got nominated for an Oscar, and Tom Hanks won two Oscars after wearing a dress in Bosom Buddies.
Just because you do put on a dress doesn’t mean you’re selling out to win an award, nor does it guarantee success after. Brandon T. Jackson wore a dress in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, and his career hasn’t hit the highs of a Marlon Wayans, Tyler Perry or even his former co-star, Martin Lawrence.
I support Black males wearing dresses if the content is good. I continue to play Young Thug’s new album and patiently await the new A$AP Rocky. And despite his most recent antics, I’ve always been a fan of Kanye West, who taught me how to confidently wear pink polos and skinny jeans.
Let’s be real: If Eddie Murphy didn’t play the entire Klump family, the movie would’ve been considerably less special. The idea that Black men need to put on a dress to be successful can also be debunked here, as Murphy was hella successful before The Nutty Professor franchise. SNL, Delirious, Raw, 48 Hrs., Trading Places and Coming to America were all done before he put on the dress.
One could make the case that Eddie had to put on a dress to get out of the movie slump he found himself in. However, when Murphy put on a dress nearly a decade later for Norbit, that didn’t result in success — only six Razzie Award nominations and three wins. (For those of you who don’t know, the Razzie Awards celebrate the worst films of the year. Murphy won Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Supporting Actress for the movie.) In fact, some say the release of Norbit cost Eddie the Oscar for Dreamgirls. So in this case, some would say putting on a dress resulted in failure for Murphy.
The real problem doesn’t come from Hollywood trying to emasculate the Black male; it comes from Hollywood continuing to push forward negative stereotypes of the Black woman. Hollywood is getting a little (just a little) better at that with project such as A Black Lady Sketch Show, Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji’s characters on Insecure, Lupita Nyong’o in Us and Zazie Beetz in Atlanta, which showcase more three-dimensional Black women.
To all the “woke” people that are saying “the man is against us,” and crazy things like, “this is Hollywood’s plan to get Black people to stop repopulating” (Yes, that’s something I actually saw), this is simply not the case. Some people think a big hairy man in a dress is funny, regardless of race. And Madea, The Nutty Professor and Big Momma’s box office numbers are simply reflecting just that.