Couldn’t Do It Today

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

I see Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” has recently been added to Netflix Instant. I watched part of it and was struck by the bit you see above, which occurs right at the start of the performance. You couldn’t do it today, of course. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t been retconned out of existence, like the Jacques Cousteau-Louis Malle documentary “The Silent World” or Disney’s “The Song of the South.” (Actually, I see that “The Silent World” has finally been released on Blu-Ray. Worth taking a look, especially if you have an interest in fishing with dynamite.)

So was Murphy some kind of anti-gay monster or have the lines of the playing field simply been redrawn? If the latter, are the new lines fair or too restrictive? And how do we judge the folks who played under the old rules, using the old lines?

I don’t have the answers. But I enjoy stuff like this. It reveals the loose threads of culture past, threads our present tailors can’t quite account for or explain.

This IMDb thread makes for interesting reading.

I love the guy who says: “I’d like to watch this but I’m not really into watching the homophobia section. Running Time-wise what part should I skip?”

Oh, dearie me, I’d love to read ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ Can you tell me which pages contain the N-word so I can endeavor to skip over them?

This one’s a hoot as well: “How is it honesty? Just because he says what he’s thinking? Its homophobia and homophobia is the result of poor education and bigotry in society.” 

Do you reckon this guy always speaks in public service announcements?

Remember: Only you can prevent bigotry in society!

The 1983 version of Eddie Murphy would have mocked these guys, probably using that clenched-ass voice he was fond of using when skewering white people. The post-80s Murphy simply apologizes. It’s hard to blame him.


About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Humor, Language, Performers, Politics and Economics, Sex and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Couldn’t Do It Today

  1. Heh, funny that you mention THE SILENT WORLD b/c I watched MURMUR OF THE HEART last night and, after the film, I was reading about Malle and came across that movie.

    “Couldn’t Do It Today” could be a continuing feature around here. As I mentioned in my little write-up, that’s one of the first thoughts that struck me after watching GOING PLACES.


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      I love “The Silent World.” Still, parts of it are appalling. They literally dynamite a coral reef (or something like that) in order to collect specimens. And then there’s the part where they run over a baby whale with their propeller, and in order to get revenge on the sharks that come to feed on it — revenge for the death they caused — they slaughter all the sharks. Environmentalism, ’50s style.


  2. Fenster says:

    “Couldn’t do it today” ought to be a recurring feature. We could unload all kinds of bad stuff under the guise of culture criticism! An example: can you do Arab terrorists any more?


  3. Faze says:

    In all seriousness, I was deeply offended by this Eddie Murphy bit when it first came out. Jackie Gleason and Art Carney were comedy heroes, and to see the characters they created portrayed as sexual deviants infuriated me. Up until that point, I’d been a huge Eddie Murphy fan. But I switched this thing right off. Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton were brilliant, subversive comedy creations, and, unlike Mr. T, didn’t need taking down. When you think of all the fatuous show-biz icons Eddie Murphy could have gone after in the 1980s, the fact that he would choose go perform character assassination on the blameless Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton suggested to me that this was a man perhaps without a soul.


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      Oh, I don’t think there’s much doubt that Murphy is fairly soulless. There’s something unsettling, almost off-putting, about his whole act.

      I commend you for your white knighting on behalf of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton.


  4. Callowman says:

    He did pretty good impersonations of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, though.

    Right after AIDS surfaced – when its transmission wasn’t understood, but it was known to affect homosexuals, needle drug users and Haitians, I remember some comic doing a long, earnest intro about the horrors of th disease, then finishing, “But you know what the hardest thing about getting AIDS is? Convincing your parents you’re Haitian.”


  5. agnostic says:

    “Only in the Eighties” is closer to what’s going on than “couldn’t do it today.” With the understanding that we’re talking about a period that began in the later, less uptight years of the ’70s and spilling over into the early ’90s.

    It’s difficult or impossible to find similar subversive, anti-establishment mass phenomena within Midcentury pop culture. (Mass phenomena, not intermittent offhand remarks.)

    You’d have to go back to the Roaring Twenties and the popularity of blackface to find something similar, sticking it to earnest do-gooders by making a joke of their cause. Not out of mean-spirited-ness either, just playing around in a profane way to show that their cause isn’t sacred.

    That faded out during the ’30s and was all but invisible by the ’50s. For a “mind blown” discovery, look up the history of the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to see how quickly the climate changed. It went from playfully razzing the pimped-out ghetto blacks in 1929-’30 to sticking it to the rich whites in 1946.

    Freewheeling times like the Twenties and the Eighties are natural hotbeds of challenging out-of-touch experts, while folks in conformist times like the Midcentury and Millennial eras are either going to politely keep quiet (Fifties) or get into a status contest over moral repugnance (2010s).


  6. agnostic says:

    On that note, look at the treatment of Jews and anti-semitism. In the Twenties, The Great Gatsby shows Meyer Wolfsheim as a familiar stereotype, an amoral schemer looking to better himself by forming contracts that are forbidden by normal society. The Black Sox scandal hit only six years before the book was published, and a Jewish crime boss played a major role. So, why hold back?

    Fast forward to the end of the 1940s, and there’s a sanctimonious best-selling novel and hit movie adaptation (starring Gregory Peck) about the unending plague of anti-semitism, and how it feels to be Jewish in a world run by elitist goy snobs — A Gentleman’s Agreement.

    Forget about all the Jewish Commie subversion during the ’40s — it was those elitist goy snobs who were going to ruin America. Even after the trial of the Rosenbergs in ’51, where was the pop culture phenomenon to say “We told you so” or “Not so sacred and infallible, are they?” or whatever?

    We may not have seen someone like Meyer Wolfsheim in the ’70s or ’80s, but Woody Allen built his fame on portraying the stereotypical Jew as a character with profound flaws in need of redemption by becoming more like the Gentiles. Not because they were without flaws, but because they felt when their acts were wrong and needed atonement, rather than trying to rationalize them away. His character didn’t want to stand apart from them like the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers, who never lost their sense of superiority over the uptight elitist goy society.

    Since the ’90s, we’re right back to the unending evils of anti-semitism, sacred Jews, and celebrating Jewish neuroticism and maladaptation.


  7. plwinkler says:

    Eddie Murphy knows whereof he speaks. He suffered a personal scandal when he was caught picking up a tranny hooker at something like 3 a.m.


  8. Toddy Cat says:

    Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, nothing about any remaining anti-Gay prejudice is as dangerous as what the “progressive” crowd feels entitled to do in opposing it. It’s also odd that we’re all supposed to be so tolerant and open minded these days, but in the last thirty years, mentioning what exactly it is that homosexual men do with each other has become taboo, which is a big part of the reason that the Eddie Murphy routine is now so un-PC. Interesting.


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