On the subject of Voodoo Tropes, today I found two interesting images in the media archives. And even though they bridge a wide gulf of social and economic changes that took place in the United States’ culture industry during the first half of the twentieth century – nearly fifty years stands between them – there is also something oddly similar about them, and about what they represent.
Look closely. Look at the faces. Is it just me, or do you see something strange about the men in these pictures? They are twins. What does it mean? Could it be that these are recycled roles? Or perhaps in some sort of ironic twist, this juxtaposition aptly demonstrates the convergence of two of the most racially disturbing icons in the history of American entertainment. So we see that the white minstrel is actually a kind of black zombie, or vice versa. Another explanation might be that we are simply looking at the same actor (a time-traveller, perhaps?) – doing what he does best: bizarre-and-freakishly-anomalous-blackface-characters-who-were-once popular-now-horribly-offensive-and-wrong. You decide. I’m going to ask my students.