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05-Jun-2016 23:09 by 4 Comments

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The success of the act also led to a very particular visual shorthand for representing black people.Often referred to as the "darky" icon, featuring black skin, pop-eyes and prominent white, pink or red lips, this seems to have been directly inspired by blackface make-up.

'Blacking up' for theatrical purposes goes back hundreds of years, and was an established practice in Shakespeare's day.

Japanese blackface, one could argue, doesn't carry the connotations that made the Western version so vile.

And yet, at the same time, it does, at least to us.

It's likely to make the average Western onlooker rather uncomfortable because of the genre's history...

a history that would be largely unknown to a Japanese onlooker. Popo is undoubtedly a product of this: even though he isn't a human in the context of the series, his origins seem quite obvious.

Although Rice was performing to mostly-white audiences, there's some evidence that the character of Jim Crow was initially a sympathetic one, who used his wit and cleverness to outfox his rich oppressors – something that working class white audiences could easily identify with.

But as time went on, and others developed acts along the same lines, any positive traits the character may have once had were erased.

There is even a Japanese pop group, the Gosperats, who perform their whole act while blacked up.

The band seemed perplexed that anybody would find their act offensive.

Many early cartoons from the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers readily incorporated this imagery into their output, which has since resulted in rather conspicuous gaps in their modern-day re-releases.

It wasn't until the Civil Rights era that blackface minstrel shows began to fall from favor in the US.

Jim Crow, and other blackface characters like him, became lazy, superstitious and buffoonish caricatures: essentially, the version of the act that persisted for over a century.