Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comments From The Viewers Of The Video "T-Paining Too Much: The Meme-ification of Charles Ramsey"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post features 26 selected comments from the video comment thread of Jay Smooth's [illdoctrine] video blog "T-Paining Too Much: The Meme-ification of Charles Ramsey".

Click for that video, for my transcription of that video, and for related links.

The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural reasons.

(These comments were posted on that video's viewer comment thread from the date of the video's posting May 8, 2013 to May 13, 2013. The comments are presented in chronological order with the oldest comments posted first. The numbers are given for referencing purposes only and the commenter's screen name is given after that assigned number. To date [May 14, 2013 at 9 PM EST] there are 145 comments to that video).

Comment #1: bbbnnnlll
"To me, the autotuning is just a part of the larger trend of exploitation, mockery, and caricaturizing of black people like Antoine Dodson, Sweet Brown, and now Charles Ramsey."
Comment #2: [Reply] craigslist176
"If you have watched the popular autotune videos you would know that it extends beyond the African American community, as illdoc1 also acknowledged in this video."
Comment #3: DUGMAC1973
"It was only a matter of time. Every sensational news story, especially those that feature such interesting characters, tend to gravitate towards focusing specifically upon the cast, as opposed to the story. The fact that this guy is not particularly articulate, not aesthetically pleasing to the eye and non-white automatically makes him a target for all kinds of crude stereotypes and generalisations. This seems to be the norm for the way the media operates in the States. I fear it will get worse
Comment #4: nibunni
"it doesn't have to be "focused" on them for it to be problematic. that anyone is tying to make commodity and make jokes at the expense of someone else for something like being uneducated or "unekmpt" is inherently manipulative and there's really zero way around that whatsoever. It's not about "what else is autotuned," it's the racism/classism involved in why the seemingly uneducated are specifically targeted for humor - especially when they are black."
Comment #5: facephoenix
"It did bother me because if he was a well kept blue collar Caucasian I think they would be handing him a medal and talking about how great he was but with a ton more respect. Maybe we [society] are too ravenous for a quick laugh to notice that a man stepped out of the "Mind your own Business - Isolationist" Mind State we have as Americans and helped a person in need. Would they have done this if an EMT in Boston had his same personality during the bombing? I doubt it."
Comment #6: homosaur
"Preach it Jay, I don't understand why the sh&t on its own wasn't enough, why does it have to become a ridiculous character thing? Charles Ramsey doesn't deserve a meme just because he had a great one-liner. And let's be clear, that was a massively amazing one-liner."
That "s" word was fully spelled out in that comment.
Comment #7: Sumkilla
..."Some problems are perceived, and some problems are actual. This strikes me as a "perceived" problem. I'm a little more concerned about the self righteous ppl who are calling this guy a minstrel & these videos racist b/c there's a working class black man being made fun of. There are assumptions being made about why ppl find him funny (even in this video's comments). To me those assumptions are more racist than any meme I've seen so far. That strikes me as more of an "actual" problem."
Comment #8: Jake Stephens
"I've never been one to like the auto-tuning of people to poke fun at them, when really there should be more dialog about what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. Also, not a fan of "Auto-tune The News". I just don't care for it. News is meant to be news. But that's just me."
Comment #9: MouseAria
"Thank you so much for saying so eloquently what I wanted to. I think this trend is specifically problematic when you think about how race factors in, and how a lot of memes surrounding black people are in a sense laughing at them, in a 'oh those crazy black people' kind of way, which is entirely and completely f***ed up. Instead of appreciating Ramsey's courage, people are laughing at his elocution, or the lack there of, which is anything but endearing and is just plain racist."
The asterisks are used because this pancocojams blog is supposed to be profanity free.
Comment #10: Roxie21
"I don't know if the meme is taking us to weird places or just truly revealing how weird/classist/racist it's been this entire time."
Comments #11: Lovelyn Bettison
"Glad you're back. I've missed your videos. I think the whole autotune thing is tired. I feel like it's usually used to make a joke out of poor, black people and makes light of the real issue"
Comment #12: Carlyle V.Smith
"Well said. I agree dude is funny but shouldn't be objectified like he, and others, have."
Comment #13: xXMissFoxyXx
"Completely agree. It gives me a slight chill to see how completely detached from the reality of the situation so many people are. It's not a movie and Charles Ramsey isn't some comic relief character to leaven the mood for the audience. Those women were raped and tortured for a DECADE."
Comment #14: iomegapencils
"While I agree with your points on the whole youtube-meme-machine-dickridin­g phenomenon, I feel like the gregory brothers version wasn't in such bad taste. What happened in Cleveland was horrifying, to the level of being literally dumbfounding. Sometimes humor can be a tool to pull that kind of stuff down to a level where we as humans can actually look at it and deal with it. In my case, I watched that video and was laughing WITH Charles, not AT him, which to me is what makes it non-Chappelle."
Comment #15: silvike
"It's interesting that you bring this up. Being from Sweden, we don't get the same news coverage about what happened as you do (obviously) so after hearing you out, I went to check out the interview with Charles Ramsey and what hit me was that I saw a man who was tired (probably because everyone wanted to talk to him right away), still very perplexed over what had happened and what had been going on right infront of him without him knowing and dealing with being on national tv."
Comment #16: silvike
I didn't really see the funny part in this and I think it's because in my country, but I think in general for all of Europe, making fun of people on the news has not become a part of our culture (yet), not even on the internet, in fact, it would be frowned upon. I loved the Martin Luther King tune by the Gregory Brothers, and Antoine dodson was borderline not ok (but sounded great) but after that, I stopped listening. I do think that if we start making fun of everything, we'll end up"
Comment #17: silvike
not feeling anything about anything in the end, some news aren't meant to be laughed off so we can feel better, some news are meant to shake us up so we'll take action for things to get better. We just had a father forgetting his child the car for 8 hours while working (he forgot to drop him off att the kindergarten) and he died from heat stroke. This has launched a debate about parents being over stressed, schools not warn when kids don't show up. News help us evolve."
Comment #18: Anne Shelly
"I don't see a problem with it if the person gets something out of it. They are real. There is nothing ghetto or stereotypical about them."
Comment #19: Anne Shelly
"The thing about it is that they pay these ppl for memeing them and I'm not going to knock anyone's money.

Moreover, black ppl need to think about what offends us and what doesn't. Ppl find these ppl embarrassing or perhaps stereotypical when they are real ppl commenting on something real that happened. There's nothing stereotypical about that. We'll support terrible black movies and agree to be stereotypical black characters on shows and support those shows. But these REAL ppl are embarrassing?"
Comment #20: WernerVonWallenrod
"I was blissfully unaware of any autotuning of this guy. I knew of the news story, heard the 911 call (which, seriously... why are 911 calls being released as public entertainment? How is that okay?), and thought he was charming and funny like everybody else. But somehow I missed the following stuff that you're responding to. Maybe you're just on the wrong internet. ;)"
Comment #21: Big Bambu
"The reason people become memes is because they have qualities that are laughable. The point of a meme is to laugh at a person's looks or behaviour."
Comment #22: Leslie T
"Given that the minstrel show and laughing at black people was one of the first forms of entertainment in America, it almost kind of makes sense that people have made a meme of Charles Ramsey. You ever been around someone who laughs a LITTLE too long at a joke? After a while, they're laughing at something else.
These people are laughing at their stereotypical view of BP and how they perceive/want us to be. Who knows, I can't really get in their head. But this isnt just surface humor. FACT."
Comment #23: Heather McManus
"Great to have a new post form you, especially one focused on a topic that I have had a hard time articulating my discomfort about to other people in my life. Very well said! Do you happen to have a transcript you could easily post in the comments that I could quote from?"
Comment #24:ktownshutdown21
"The biggest difference to me is that people GENUINELY respect Ramsey. With folks like Antoine Dotson or Sweet Brown, you could argue that it was a case "LOL look at these craaaazy black people!" But Ramsey...that was a MAJOR thing he was able to do and people GET that, 100%. Go through any comments section of any interview or article of the guy; there's nothing but straight up admiration for him.

The "white girl" line was MEANT to be a joke/quip by him instead of unintentionally becoming one."
Comment #25: Bob Urell
"Oh, thank God. I thought I was just being a fogey when I couldn't find the funny in the million versions of Mr. Ramsey singing an interview. The man did something when confronted with another human being in need. A lot of people wouldn't have. He deserves our respect."
Comment #26: Alanna Frank
"I honestly was so uncomfortable about the whole thing. I got Antoine made sense...but this Charles Ramsey thing wasn't even funny to me. It kinda just broke my heart instead...He saved lives and he put himself in danger...real danger to save people he didn't even know. I'd say that should be applauded and not made fun of. I'm tired of my people getting shot down"

This excerpt is presented for background about what some are referring to as Charles Ramsey's "meme-ification" and the "trope of the hilarious Black neighbor":

The internet's instant meme-ification of Charles Ramsey: The backlash By Lauren Hansen | The Week – Wed, May 8, 2013

"Does a Cleveland man's dizzying ascent to viral stardom expose America's racist underbelly?

No sooner did America hear about the miraculous story of three long-missing women being freed from captivity in a Cleveland home did Charles Ramsey, the neighbor.

Ramsey was one of the first to provide reporters with an eyewitness account of the rescue of Amanda Berry who, along with Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, had been missing for a decade. (Read more about their rescue here.) Ramsey offered America a candid, self-effacing report that immediately caught the eye of thousands upon thousands of people all over the world. Like any good story, Ramsey peppered his tale with details ("I was eaten' my McDonald's") and offered a humorous analysis of an otherwise unbelievable situation: "Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something's wrong here. Dead giveaway." ...

"What's really getting everyone's attention isn't his intervention in saving the women's lives," says Roger Ratchet at Gossip On This, "it's his wide-eyed, tactless, and ebonics-peppered speech that has everyone in stitches."

Ramsey is not the first black American to be thrust suddenly into the spotlight this way. Remember Antoine Dodson of "Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife" or Sweet Brown of "Aint Nobody Got Time for That"? They also gave equally frank local TV interviews that were manipulated, memed, catch-phrased, and forwarded around for entertainment...

In the eyes of many critics of these memes, the common denominator among Ramsey, Dodson, and Sweet Brown is that they are poor and black. And to some, this kind of meme-ification reveals America's racist underbelly. "Laughter directed at Sweet Brown plays into the most basic stereotyping of blacks as simple-minded ramblers living in the "ghetto," says Aisha Harris at Slate. The root of such jokes are "disrespectful at best." Harris continues:
It's difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform. [Slate]

Indeed, Ramsey's race and class are central to his temporary celebrity, says Gene Demby at NPR. And these memes are patronizing. Demby continues:
"Amid the hood backdrop — the gnarled teeth, the dirty white tee, the slang, the shout-out to McDonald's — we miss the fact that Charles Ramsey is perfectly lucid and intelligent"..."

Click for a post about Sweet Brown.

I believe that it's significant that some people who have been "memed" such as Antoine Dodson & Sweet Brown, although it appears not Charles Ramsey, actively participate in their meme-ification, after the fact by encouraging the public to remember their one liners that made them famous.

However, notice how in subsequent television appearances Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson don't show up with their hair covered by a scarf (which is a typical bedtime night hair care custom for African Americans.) Instead, their hair is worn in appropriate going outdoor styles and their clothing is also appropriate for television show appearances. In his subsequent interviews, Charles Ramsey, also "upgraded" his physical appearance by wearing suitable outdoor clothing and not a white t-shirt, and covering his hair with a baseball cap.

My point is that if any of these persons who became internet sensations because of their unexpected interviews were truly wanting to be stereotyped as ghetto clowns, they would have continued to wear their hair covered with a scarf or their hair out (unbraided?)* as was the case with Charles Ramsey. And they would have continued to wear the types of clothing that they wore when they were unexpectedly caught up in that crisis which resulted in them being interviewed. In other words, the way they were dressed-including their hair- would have become a costume.

Thank goodness, it seems that none of those persons who have been "memed" have gone that far, and it seems from the linked article's update that Sweet Brown (and presumably the other persons who have been memed) have lawyers to protect their public images from being abused by those who would make money off of them. Good for them.

*I wonder if Charles Ramsey's hair was that long because he wears his hair in cornbraids and the braids were taken out in preparation for rebraiding.on interviews, he covered his hair with a baseball cap.

Thanks to Charles Ramsey for his heroic actions. Thanks to all those whose comments I quoted in this blog post. Thanks also to Jay Smooth for his insightful and thought provoking video.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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