Racism is a funny thing

Lately I’ve been renting Harold Lloyd’s films on Netflix. I highly recommend them. Yes, they’re silent films, they’re in black-and-white (with perhaps some tinting), they’re in 4:3 aspect ratio. They’re also funnier than a lot of big eye-candy comedies they make these days.

There’s one aspect to the films that bothers me: the casual racism of that era. For example, all the black people in the films speak (or are sub-titled) with the “yassuh, massa” tone of voice; in “Feet First”, Lloyd’s character casually addresses a black man who’s helping him as “Charcoal.”

Sigh. The only way I can stand it is to treat these incidents as a historical document of racist attitudes, and to be grateful for Dr. King.

I’ve mentioned racism against blacks in the films. I’ve also noticed racism against Asians and Hispanics in some films.


One of Lloyd’s most famous films is “Safety Last.” It’s hilarious. It’s the one that contains the iconic image of Lloyd dangling from the face of a clock.

There is an instance of anti-Semitism in the film… and I did not notice it. I would not have noticed it if it hadn’t been pointed out in the audio commentary.

I’m Jewish, or at least of Jewish heritage. Why was I sensitive to all the racism towards groups of which I’m not a member, but didn’t see the racism towards my own ethnic group?

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