Re: Interesting Discussion on Rochester

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Posted ByBrad on February 20, 2004 at 19:57:32:

In Reply to: Interesting Discussion on Rochester posted byFrev on February 19, 2004 at 10:42:18:

: Rochester always came across as a very positive character and in many ways was Jack's equal.

: The experience underscored the importance of Rochester to the Jack Benny show. It's a shame that the 'PC Police' might view Rochester as a negative stereotype today.

:If anyone is intolerant today, it's those who push 'politcal correctness' and treat with disdain as wonderful and positive a comic creation as Rochester and the genius of Eddie Anderson who gave Rochester life.

I'm glad the recreation went smoothly. You don't mention which script you used - Rochester's character did evolve quite a bit in the years he was with Jack.

I'm going to go out on a limb and make one single post on the subject. The stereotypes about African-Americans embodied by some of Roch's behavior were wrong then, and are wrong now. Understandable in their proper context, but still wrong.

While the character on balance was certainly positive, the stereotypical behavior was not. Many aspects of Rochester, particularly early in the series, were indeed obnoxious and racist. He was fascinated with alcohol, adored fried chicken, was lazy, etc. This was accepted then (albeit boorish in educated circles), but is certainly not acceptable now.

According to "Sunday Night At Seven", Jack was embarrassed by this aspect of the Rochester character. There is an anecdote in which he dressed down an Army sergeant in Egypt for speaking demeaningly of Roch. And there were indicents in which Jack stuck up for Eddie Anderson in the face of intolerance.

In later years, Rochester's stereotypical behavior was toned down without compromising other aspects of his character. In fact, the fact that he was always one step ahead of Jack came through even clearer without the gin, gambling, shiftlessness references.

So yes, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson was a crucial lynchpin of "Benny",and he earned his way into the Radio Hall of Fame. But the manner in which the character was written, while acceptable in the 1930s and 1940s, was still wrong by any definition. One doesn't need to be hypersensitive, or a member of the "PC Police" to see that.

'Course, you don't see the "fat" humor a la Don Wilson anymore, either. Times change, but the reason for the change I think can't simply be written off to "political correctness".

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