During its opening weekend, Eddie Murphy’s Norbit grossed $33.7 million in sales, $20 million more than second-place finisher Hannibal Rising. Murphy’s movie strikes me as another version of racism as entertainment. One of the lead characters (played by Murphy) is an overbearing, oversexed, overweight black female. Another lead character (also played by Murphy in yellowface) is an Asian male. “Oh, you ugry brack baby!” he says in the opening scenes. Pimps and gangbangers round out the black members of the cast. A laugh riot.
Perhaps Murphy doesn’t see the racism in dressing in yellowface and reinscribing Asian stereotypes. And maybe he doesn’t feel bothered by putting anti-black racist sayings into the mouth of an Asian man, exacerbating the tension felt between the communities. And Murphy has previously made it clear that fat jokes are a staple of his “humor.” But doesn’t he see the damage in portraying yet more stereotypes of black America? Is this a case of internalized racism? Or is it a merely a case of how much money talks? In any event, Norbit is a boon to white people, since its racism is sanctioned by Murphy, a black man.
Many reviews of Norbit completely failed to recognize the racism inherent in the film. The Tribune’s Michael Wilmington calls the Mr. Wong caricature “Murphy’s funniest performance here.” No mention of racism or stereotypes. The Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore, who reviews movies for families, similarly makes no mention of racism or stereotypes. Moore cautions about the following:
Violence: Comic, involving beatings and harpoonings.
Language: Too blue to be a family film.
Sex: Implied, discussed, lewdly.
He wraps up the review with the following:
Parents’ advisory: OK for 13-and-up, but not as family friendly as Murphy’s “Nutty Professor,” “Daddy Daycare” or “Dr. Dolittle” outings.
Good to know 13-year-olds can be safely exposed to comic violence, blue language, implied sex and racism.