A Japanese comedian is being criticized for his impression of Eddie Murphy that broadcast on Japanese television during New Years Eve—because his impression involved blackface.
According to the New York Times, comedian Masatoshi Hamada was attempting to portray Eddie Murphy’s character from “Beverly Hills Cop” for a skit on the show “Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!”
Note to japanese performing in #BlackFace: #Blackness is not a punchline nor a prop. Need jokes? Get better writers. Need a black character, get a black actor that speaks Japanese. There are several! But please #StopBlackfaceJapan #日本でブラックフエイス止めて not a good look! pic.twitter.com/lN0E3bWsgY— Baye McNeil (@Locohama) December 31, 2017
meanwhile in Japan: a comedian with blackface is on a roughly 7 hour long national TV program😡🤯😠 I just wanted to end the year peacefully but no 2017 won’t let me pic.twitter.com/QrsZ7NTlBM— ぽむぽむあずにゃん (@azusayamamoto) December 31, 2017
Some, however, claim that the portrayal does not hold the same weight as an American in blackface because Japan never enslaved blacks. According to the New York Times:
Not all were critical, with some defending the comic’s depiction of Mr. Murphy. Unlike the United States, they said, Japan does not have a history of systematic discrimination against black people, and a Japanese performer painting his face black does not come with the same cultural stigma.
Others viewed the criticism as an attack on Japanese culture and art:
Have you actually paid any attention to how much detail Hama-chan(the comedian) cares about? The clothes, shoes, he really wanted to be Eddy Murphy. We can see his love and respect for Eddy Murphy’s epic comedy. BUT YOU DON’T. You see minstrel show, slaves and hate. pic.twitter.com/FfU89HJEEA— SweetHomeはそばかす大好き💌 (@photonka) January 2, 2018
just learn and respect our, Japanese traditional monomane(mocking) culture. and you'll see that it's without any discriminative meaning.— 苦味 (@2ga3) January 1, 2018
While Japan may not have enslaved blacks, BuzzFeed claims there is a long history of blackface in the country, dating back to 1845. The New York Times also says the Japanese started racially profiling blacks in the 1850s.
BuzzFeed also noted some of the Japanese tweets about the incident viewed the outrage as an attack on comedy in itself.