ABC Family recently announced the production of a new show based on the life of Nicki Minaj. In light of this news, Ellen DeGeneres decided to share a "sneak peak" of Minaj's show with her studio audience.
In the sketch, a young Nicki Minaj (with an exaggerated backside, seemingly stuffed with padding) interacts with her parents whose butts are so big, that they constantly knock over random items in their home.
The 90-second sketch was void of humor but managed to mock an entire race of people.
If the actors ditched the butt pads and the sketch had involved a short, clever script or a young actor who actually mimicked Minaj's larger-than-life stage persona, the audience's laughter would have been warranted. However, the sketch's one shtick was Nicki Minaj's anatomy. A concept that could have been great instead degraded Minaj and all of the Black women like her.
Some may wonder, "What's the big deal? Nicki Minaj has made a living off of her sex appeal." It's so easy to fall into respectability politics when it comes to women's bodies, especially a Black woman's body. "If she didn't want this, she shouldn't have done that." Her career spans almost a decade, yet the image of Minaj promoting her single Anaconda (released in 2014) has become immortalized. While she has always promoted her sexuality, she has also proven herself to be multi-faceted. Who would have thought that a Black woman could spread eagle in a thong while still promoting feminism?
As I type this, Minaj has yet to respond but that doesn't matter. Whether or not Nicki is offended by the portrayal or never comments, the sketch is problematic and feeds into a stereotype of Black people as nothing more than their physical features.
"It's not that deep," you say, "It was only a joke." I beg to differ and offer the case of Saartjie Baartman as proof. Saartjie was an African slave who was paraded around Europe in the early 19th century and treated as an attraction for White audiences. Her curves were the subject of speculation and after her death, her body became the property of the Museum of Natural History. As tragic and grotesque as Baartman's story is, it is just one of many that contributed to the fetishsization of black bodies.
For centuries, White people used the anatomy of Black bodies to dehumanize us and rationalize slavery. Today, we are free but our bodies are still under attack.
So no Ellen, this particular clip did not "boost my mood."