Thug Notes: Racist Reinforcement of Stereotypes, or Ironic Subversion of Expectations?


As for this corny “thug notes” shtick (which just as corny as the wisecracking Eye-talian “goodfella” or the Heeb who keeps talking UP and throwing his hands around, or the A-rab who fucking screams and shouts all the time), I don’t like it. It’s just Zip Coon all over again, but tailor-made to an allegedly “liberal,” open-minded white middle-class audience. I’m sure plenty of conservative assholes like this kind of crap, too, but that’s not the point. The point is that this is just another popular show that presents black Americans as irrelevant, vulgar and foolish clowns, however articulate and nuanced they may be in their thinking. Moreover, why the “thug” stereotype, anyway? Is this supposed to be “funny?”

The above analysis of Thug Notes, as an “ironic subversion” of racist expectations from non-blacks concerning our intelligence, is belied by the fact that Sparky Sweets (aka Greg Edwards) doesn’t write this stuff: Jared Bauer, the show creator and Joseph Salvaggio, the researcher, write everything. Jacob Salomon is the producer and designer. Two Jews and an Italian producing neo-minstrel rap crap for some poor misguided colored cat. What else is new?

The Humble Blatherskite

Ever since I first watched the Thug Notes analysis of “Othello,” I’ve been feeling a bit uneasy. Even while laughing at the thoughtful and Ebonics-laden catechizing, I kept wondering, “Is this racist?”

The series features a cliché black man, Sparky Sweets, Ph.D., simultaneously speaking the dialect associated stereotypically with African Americans, (“Gangsta”-type talk) while performing keen and penetrating literary analysis. The character is brilliantly played by comedian George Edwards. It’s both very funny and very shrewd, so what’s not to love? Why does laughing at it make me feel mildly ill?

Well, firstly, “thug” is a rather charged word, and it’s gained more voltage in the past couple of months as unarmed black men are gunned down and posthumously labeled as “thugs.” Now, the Thug Notes branch of the Wise Crack YouTube channel was started in June, 2013; Trayvon Martin was killed the 26th of February, 2012. I’m not…

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