Alright, so I don’t really like Megyn Kelly, but I’m gonna at least half defend her. Last Thursday, Megyn was fired from her show after saying “Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween? When I was a kid, it was OK as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
What she said stirred up a ton of controversy, and was probably not the smartest thing to say, but did she deserve to be fired over it? So there is some speculation that her ratings were low, and that NBC was looking for an excuse. I’m going to assume for this blog, that she was let go solely based on the statement above.
I don’t think she should have been fired for it. Let me explain. Blackface, initially wasn’t just the act of painting your face black and pretending to be black, it was specifically that with the intention of mocking/stereotyping the race. CBS did a great piece about the history of blackface, but unfortunately they did drop the ball when mentioning Megyn Kelly’s case. You see, they bring up their piece in regards to her remarks, and say so explicitly, however there is a bit of a gap that isn’t bridged.
Megyn, said “As long as you’re dressing up as, like, a character,” and that’s something that is missing from this conversation. Now, I would personally say, it’s in bad form to do so, even with this caveat, and I think it stems from that initial history of blackface, but to conflate the two, which it seems her words did accidentally, while her intention was pretty clear doesn’t do, is dishonest. The case that Megyn Kelly was talking about was a Real Housewife, who had dressed up and darkened her skin in order to play Diana Ross, and an example that’s been given a lot of attention over the last several years is Juliana Hough dressing up like the character of Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren. In both of these Halloween costumes, white women seemed to admire the people they were dressing as, and it didn’t seem an attempt to mock, or stereotype, but were going for some form of authenticity in their costume. So their intention is about as far as possible from say, when a sorority or frat have a ‘blackface’ party.
Intention isn’t everything, and so we can definitely make the argument, that these are still bad ideas for costumes, and should be discouraged, but intention should bare some weight in how we as a society handle the situations. Now, perhaps Megyn Kelly would argue that intention should make or break whether or not it is an acceptable costume, and I don’t agree with that, but I do think it’s an discussion worth having.
People are acting like Megyn Kelly was endorsing or ok with Blackface in it’s traditional sense, but now that the term has come to encompass much more, it’s important to realize that, and weigh that. Should she have apologized? Yeah, because it seems like she genuinely misspoke, but the intention of what she mean is there, this isn’t a case of her saying “um… that’s not what I meant” when it clearly was, if you look at the words that she said, she meant something different.
The last thing that I want to mention, is that on Thursday night, NBC aired their Halloween episode of Superstore. Now, I love Superstore, so I’m not trying to throw them under the bus, but if you go watch Superstore from Thursday, you’ll hopefully see that NBC clearly screwed up with Megyn Kelly. You see that episode, is about cultural appropriation, and PC culture, and deals with the nuance of whether or not something is intended to be celebratory or derogatory. Now, they don’t have anyone in makeup to appear to be other cultures, but they show a white man dressed as a ‘rasta guy’ and when he learns where the line is, he becomes ‘Bob Marley’ so that everything is ok.
If you were completely unaware of the Megyn Kelly situation watching Superstore, you’d see no issue, but I watched it fully aware it was the same network, and fully aware of what she’d been fired for, and it didn’t take away from the episode, but it did show a huge amount of hypocrisy, on the network’s behalf.
Did she deserve to get canceled, or fired, or whatever word they’re using for this? If her ratings weren’t good enough, absolutely. Did she deserve to have this used as the reason, and painted as a racist? I don’t think so.