We have been working diligently, putting our creative minds to work in drawing connections between Dante’s Paradiso and Morrison’s Paradise. In our most recent class days working on the final project, the word “comedy” came up a few times, and bounced around my head for a while. Of course it was partially because we were working with the Divine Comedy, but the word continued to bounce around when we were drawing connections to Paradise and African-American writing, so I figured there must be a connection. There was.
The word “comedy” is a little tricky since its literary definition contains stories with happy endings while its contemporary definition refers to any form of entertainment that makes people laugh. Regardless, it is truthful to state that Dante addresses political, social, even religious issues to his audience through a comedy.
I pondered it for a while then drew the connection between comedy and African-American expression, remembering that comedy is a very popular outlet for Black people. When Black people attempt to address political issues through music or film, their work is usually either white washed or turned down from the beginning. Through comedy, however, African-Americans are able to address all of the injustices and ideas that they wish to address, as long as the presentation is comical. I feel that this is good in the sense that it allows Black people to express themselves and be heard in the mainstream, but also restrictive because the important content being expressed under a genre that is meant to entertain rather than inform, travels as comedy as well. The media really is the message.
When we turn on our televisions, almost everybody we see on the movies, commercials, and news outlets are White. Black people have very limited ways of being heard. It’s great that we are making strides in the social media industry, but the fact that White people are still in control of American media (which influences the entire world) is very dangerous for the image (and well-being) of Black people.
The importance of Toni Morrison’s work extends beyond her creativity and literary excellence; it would change the world if Black people decided to read her novels. They will be informed and enlightened in ways that their previous sources of entertainment could not (would not) allow.
I will continue to develop this idea, incorporating research and alternative viewpoints. But for now, enjoy this Dave Chappelle skit.