We can no longer call “Rock of Ages” the worst decision of Julianne Hough’s career. For reasons only she understands, the actress opted to go to a Halloween party dressed as “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black. Problem being, the character is portrayed by a black actress, so Hough thought it would be OK to color her skin.
Let’s say Hough is painfully unaware of the history surrounding blackface. I truly believe that’s the case, or she would have seen this as career suicide the second she had the idea. But she went with a group of friends, all dressed like members of the Orange is the New Black cast. Nobody, not one of them, said “Hey, Julianne, that is probably not a good idea.” Where was her agent, for that matter? I wouldn’t ordinarily recommend somebody run their Halloween costume choice past their representation. But if this is what Hough and her friends came up with left to their own devices, somebody should be monitoring them.
It creates so many uncomfortable questions. Did no one in the group have an actual black friend that could go with them? How did many methods of altering her skin color did Hough go through in her mind? This isn’t just throwing a sheet over your head and calling yourself a ghost. A long thought process had to go into this. Did during that time did it really never, not once, occur to her that someone might take this the wrong way?
In a Twitter apology, Hough said she was a huge fan of the show, Uzo Aduba and the character she has created. She explained it was never her intention to be “disrespectful or demeaning.” But that is exactly what blackface is. Not surprisingly, as I’ve read stories about this, I’ve run across numerous people who don’t see what the problem is. Many ask how this is less offensive than Michael Jackson altering his appearance to look whiter. One person brought up the Wayans comedic vehicle “White Chicks.”
I found “White Chicks” as offensive as Hough’s act, for some of the same reasons. And Jackson was obviously going through serious issues with his body. If these are the best examples you can find to defend your position, it should be abandoned.
In 2013, even if you are unaware why blackface is offensive, you should be aware that it is. Then just google “minstrel show,” or “Al Jolson.”