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A 'Liquor' condemnation we might actually get behind

by Jeremy Hooper

The folks at GLAAD (responding to calls from activists like Jasmyne Cannick) are denouncing the popular "Shirley Q. Liquor" character caricature for "promoting and perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes." And what are those "ugly racial stereotypes," you ask? Well...

(Clip posted only for the purpose of discussion! If you need background, then watch. If you don't want to see it, then please do not click the link!!)

Of Liquor and her creator, performance artist Charles Knipp, GLAAD prez Neil Giuliano says:

"While our work at GLAAD is about promoting fair, accurate and inclusive media representations of the LGBT community, this issue has risen to a level of visibility and importance that we feel compelled to add our voice to those speaking out against this awful portrayal," Giuliano said. "Based on what we have heard from community members and read about this character, we are joining those taking a stand against Knipp's offensive caricature."

"We recognize that this performer has a right to free speech and expression, but we also have the right to condemn his performance and speak out against this harmful depiction," Giuliano added. "This performance perpetuates ugly racial stereotypes that are offensive, hurtful and simply unacceptable, and we are urging our constituents to visit glaad.org so that they can express their concerns to the venues at which Knipp is expected to perform in the coming months."

We really have nothing more to add to this, other than to say to the GLAAD kids: Just please lay off our own creation:

Suzy Q. Vodka

GLAAD Condemns Offensive "Shirley Q. Liquor" Character [GLAAD]

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Your thoughts

I don't know that I'm a fan, but I've laughed at Shirley Q's character from time to time since I was introduced to her work a few years ago by a friend in New York. I thought that the use of offensive caricatures and skits had become a relatively common comedic tool with which to reflect on social problems. Is this different because it's both race- and gender-bending? I ask that seriously.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 8, 2007 1:54:16 PM

Definitely the fact that it is a white man in black face putting out a very crude depiction of an African-American woman. It's not the gender-bending at all.

But there is certainly debate over this about about what is and is not offensive. You also have to consider comedians like Sarah Silverman, who is a white Jewish woman who says things like "I love you more than Puerto Ricans need baths." Sarah's shtick is that she says these shocking things behind the veil of uniformed innocence, and she's quite good at what she does. But she IS technically still saying crude, stereotypical things about just about everyone.

So I think there is certainly room for discussion on what is and is not offensive in comedy, and it's unlikely that agreement will be reached. Personally, however, I am not comfortable with Shirley Q. Liquor's shtick.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 8, 2007 2:01:25 PM

I find Shirley hilarious. I find John Leguziamo's stereotyping humor of gay men funny...and I have no problem with the Wayans brothers making fun of rich white chicks (except that it just isn't that funny.)

It depends on the context and the message behind it..if you listen to Shirley's act you'll see that it isn't meant to be a racial stereotype: it is a character. I know it is a fine line between the two but in this case I find it OK.

Posted by: andrew williams | Feb 8, 2007 3:03:26 PM

I have listened to lots of the act. I came up in the southern gay community, where her bits were very popular. Personally, I think the difference between Knipp's act and the others is the extremely negative connotation. The character is portrayed as poor, uneducated, etc. And it's not just a part of the act -- it is the act. Also, there really doesn't seem to be any statement being made, which I think is important when addressing stereotype through comedy.

But again, you are not alone in your thought, Andrew, and there is certainly room for debate. As I touched on earlier, it's led me to really question what I find offensive in terms of comedy and why.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 8, 2007 4:10:08 PM

I think that's the critical difference, in fact.

I have a friend who does an impression (not professionally and not in frakkin blackface). But it's of a totally different nature: more a lady who's large and in charge and takes no BS. Like quite a few women I'd like to emulate (in their forthrightness and no-nonsense stance, not their outfits :) And, of course, there's kind of a drag part to it ("Nuh Uh! Don't MAKE me put down my PURSE!")

Shirley Q's lady, OTOH, is portraying a polar opposite to that - fat, lazy, stupid. With 20 kids, etc. And that's a line of stereotype that, when you cross it, opens up a whole can o' crap. And then your question, "what is the act trying to say?" leads to a pretty upsetting answer.

Posted by: atari_age | Feb 8, 2007 8:43:01 PM

Given that we've established that this issue is really about the use of blackface and extreme stereotype, I have to wonder what black people actually think of Knipp's bit and character. Do they tend to be offended as well?

Posted by: Michael | Feb 9, 2007 2:20:23 PM

Well, gay and African-American activist Jasmyne Cannick is certainly uspet over the portrayal, as she's been leading the charge against the Liquor character. In the past, activist Keith Boykin has also expressed his negative feelings towards the portrayal. Links to both can be found below:


Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 9, 2007 4:25:30 PM

Sunday Shirley clip


Posted by: disinter | Feb 11, 2007 2:13:15 PM

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