What in Minstrel Hell Is This?

[Content Note: Racism; body-shaming.]

Yesterday on her show, Ellen Degeneres aired a "comedy" segment in which she purported to be previewing a scene from the upcoming sitcom based on Nicki Minaj's early life. She introduces the (fake) clip while sitting in front of a screen showing a large image of Minaj from her "Anaconda" video, where she is on all fours. It has certainly become an iconic image of Minaj, who has done and said a lot of other amazing things, but the point of showing this particular image in this particular moment is to highlight that Minaj has a big butt. Because, if you're an Ellen audience member, and you don't know that one thing about Nicki Minaj, you won't understand the sketch. Which is one joke, over and over, about Nicki Minaj, a powerful and influential black female artist, having a big butt.

image of a black man, a black girl, and a black woman, all sporting large fake butts, in a still clip from the described video
[The video has been removed from YouTube. You can view it here.]
Ellen Degeneres, a thin white middle-aged woman, sitting on the set of her show, with the above-described image of Nicki Minaj, a curvy black young woman, prominently displayed behind her: "I have one more thing that I think will boost your mood. It was just announced that Nicki Minaj is producing a sitcom based on her childhood growing up in Queens, New York." [audience laughter at the juxtaposition of the image and, apparently, the suggestion that Nicki Minaj is producing a biographical show] "It, uh, yeah this is true! It's not on the air yet, but I called in a favor, and I was able to get us a very exclusive sneak peek. This is totally real, not something we put together as a joke. It's a real clip from Nicki Minaj's... Again: Real."

The clip begins to roll. Exterior of a suburban house (that would not be found in Queens, btw). Cut to the interior, and a black mom is standing in a living room, her lower body concealed behind a couch. She finds a pair of misplaced girls' sneakers and says, "Nicki Minaj, come down here right now!" A little black girl comes down the stairs. She has a giant fake ass. The audience roars. In case you didn't get the joke, the little girl bends over, with her ass to the camera, so you can get the full scope of her oversized ass.

From there, the clip rolls forward as expectedly. Mom comes out from behind the couch revealing that she, too, has a huge fake ass. She knocks over a vase with her unwieldy ass. Dad comes in and he has a huge fake ass, too. He knocks over a lamp with his ass. As a typical sitcom scene plays out, they all knock stuff over with their asses. They all try to sit on the couch together and can't fit. The family dog comes in, a black dog, and the dog, too, has a huge fake ass.

The audience finds all of this uproarious. The clip ends, and we cut back to Ellen who is sitting onstage laughing.
This is some rank racist shit. How this was conceived, produced, and aired as a "comedy" sketch in the year of our lord Jesus Jones two thousand and fifteen is unfathomable. I am not operating under the misapprehension that we are living in a post-racist world, but I did imagine that there might have been at least one adult human being on Ellen's staff who realized that diminishing a prominent black woman to nothing more than the size of her ass, then suggesting all black people have huge asses, then conflating black people with dogs, under the auspices of "comedy" is not, in fact, humor but is instead a terrible, reductive, racist shitshow.

Degeneres has a history of fat hatred and body shaming, so I'm not even a little surprised that she'd find this acceptable, but I hope she's getting lots of feedback letting her know that it really fucking isn't.

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