Nick Cannon Dons Whiteface to Promote 'White People Party Music', Results Are Awful
Just in time for your late-Monday-afternoon cringe session: Nick Cannon has a new project/persona known as Connor Smallnut which he debuted via Instagram earlier today. There’s been a lot of buzz around this new character, not because of its creative merit or material, rather, Cannon is receiving a lot of groan-inducing attention because Connor Smallnut is Nick Cannon in whiteface. Next to the photo, which was posted earlier today, Cannon wrote, "It's official... I'm White!!! #WHITEPEOPLEPARTYMUSIC#Wppm in stores April 1st!!!!!!Dude Go Get It!!!Join The Party!!!! #GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong#FarmersMarkets #FistPumping #CreamCheeseEating#RacialDraft "Bro I got drafted!!"
My first reaction to this was, “Oh, oh no. This is going to be awful.” And for many reasons it is. The more I look into Connor Smallnut, the more I’m annoyed that the character Cannon has created in these short videos and photos isn’t engaging or funny. It’s a character you might see in a Level 1 improv class. Not something created by someone who actually gets paid to be funny.
However, there is a much, much larger issue that is taking place as a result of Cannon’s latest creation. Whiteface. It’s not even the elephant in the room. It’s the elephant in a tutu with fireworks being shot off of it while David Blaine attempts to get unchained from its tusks in the room. As a result, Cannon is being called racist and hateful by thousands of people all over the Twittersphere.
And the question of, “Is whiteface racist?” is one that can’t be answered in 140 characters. When Juilianne Hough donned blackface for her Halloween costume, that was absolutely racist and disgusting. Cannon’s whiteface is distasteful and shocking seemingly for the purpose of shocking people. And this is where things get a little more complicated: intent. There is a big difference between outright racism and satire (albeit, not very good satire). It is a difference deeply rooted in privilege and history.
Nick Cannon appears to be wearing whiteface as this Connor Smallnut character with very very clear intentions. What sort of “commentary” he’s making has yet to be wholly realized, but considering one of his clips is of Smallnut ignoring an African American man rapping about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we can make some assumptions. Oh and did I forget to mention that this whole thing is to promote Cannon’s album “White People Party Music.” So this is either the best or worst marketing scheme in ages.
Now, back to the subject of intent. When Julianne Hough wore blackface it was out of sheer ignorance and an historical, deeply embedded form of bigotry. "It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way," she bemoaned in the aftermath. Because white people just don’t have to ever think about these things, do they? There was a much much deeper implication to Hough’s actions. It’s a whole different ball game when the oppressor is mocking the oppressed.
If Cannon were a more formidable comedian and musician I just might get what he’s going for. But he is mediocre at best with both, which is one of the reasons why the stunt feels like it missed the mark by a million miles. Let's also take into consideration that in his "debut" as Connor Smallnut, Cannon recycled a joke from Dave Chappelle (Who is a much funnier and smarter comedian). And "Smallnut" is just a cheap pun. The character wasn't funny, nor was the movie White Chicks.
The whole notion of “White People Party Music” brings up its own plethora of questions. What if it were a white guy making it? Is the album a piece of comedy or is it an album meant to underhandedly (or quite forwardly, depending on the owner’s awareness) insult the people buying it? Can we all just relax and laugh about this? Wait, is whiteface racist?
At the very least, Cannon’s little promo stunt is getting a conversation going — which, I’m sure in many dark corners of the Internet is fueling some very dark and horrifying ignorance. And lest we forget that at the end of the day, Nick Cannon is just trying to sell us all something with this, which makes it all the more unsavory.
And for good measure, here's a better example of whiteface and satire: