The backlash to Leslie Jones's forced breeding segment on Saturday Night Live centers on three complaints: forced breeding jokes aren't funny, diminishing Lupita Nyong'o's beauty isn't funny, and acting like a caricature of a black person isn't funny.
On Saturday, Jones made her debut on "Weekend Update" as an image expert commenting on Lupita Nyong'o crowning as People's Most Beautiful Person. Jones was one of the three black women added to SNL (two as writers, one as an actor) after criticism of the show's lack of black women reached a fever pitch, and this was her first time on camera. She joked about how she would have been "the No. 1 slave draft pick,” because of her size and strength, whereas in modern times she's single for those same reasons.
Where is the rape idiots. I said nothing about rape you fucking morons. I was talking about being match to another strong brother.— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) May 4, 2014
...several people would (correctly) argue that forced breeding between two individuals is not consensual sex. Still, it's possible to understand the commentary Jones is making about female beauty and black female femininity without thinking the skit was great. The accusation that the skit makes light of rape, which The Washington Post notes, is unfair, even if the objection to the word mandingo is warranted. The problem with the skit is the way Jones embodies the worst black stereotypes in her delivery of the performance.
"While I am typically disinterested by the concept of putting on a 'good' face for White folks, it was appalling to see this sister gleefully acting like she was auditioning for Birth of a Nation 2: We’s Really Like Dis!" writes Ebony's Jamilah Lemieux. She added that black woman shouldn't be "making light of their pain for an audience of White folks, or anyone else, for that matter." XoJane managing editor Rebecca Carroll wrote that "this felt not so much like pushing the boundaries of political correctness as pandering to Lorne Michaels and the white SNL cast and audience."
This is one of the reasons Dave Chappelle quit Chappelle's Show — he wasn't sure the white people around him were laughing for the right reasons, and it made him uncomfortable. He was worried he was giving ammo to racists. That's at the root of a lot of the discomfort over this skit. Even if you get the commentary on beauty and slavery, it feels like the skit panders to a white audience at the expense of black people. That audience will always be there, and has every right to be, but Jones has to step it up.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.