I’m a little late with this, but I’ve just discovered the Bed Intruder song. It’s a YouTube smash, a song on the Billboard 100, a video that’s created catch phrases like “Hide your kids! Hide your wife!” Starring Antoine Dodson, a guy who lives in the projects of Alabama with his family, this video turned him in to an international celebrity. I watched it the first time and died laughing. I think it’s catchy, clever and funny. But there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind as I watched and laughed. I was wondering, why is this funny? Why am I laughing at this poor, angry, stereotypical black man? Why are images like this still funny? It wasn’t until I was at work, watching this video with white coworkers and laughing at it, did I really start to feel weird and feel like I need to explore the implications of a video like this.
It started with a serious incident. Kelly Dodson, Antoine’s sister, claimed that a strange man climbed in to her bedroom window and tried to rape her. Police were called, the local news station was called and aired an interview with Kelly and her brother Antoine when emotions were running high. The news segment was aired and became a hit on the Internet. It was turned in to a song by a group called Auto- Tune the News. The song hit iTunes and blew up from there.
It didn’t come without controversy, mostly from people in the black community, who feel like the song and video show a stereotypical view of black people and makes light of a serious crime like rape. All of these things crossed my mind when I first watched it. What I find more problematic than the song is the actual news report. Why air all of that ranting? It served no purpose except to exploit these people who were scared and angry. Did it help that they acted stereotypically? Probably. Now this video has been seen by millions of people all over the world. By people who may have never had interactions with black people before. They may look at this video and think that this is how all black people act because it is consistent with other images of blacks. Looking at the media or types of music, black people are supposed to live in the hood, speak in specific ways, be angry and confrontational. These images will never die. But they’re getting old.
The positive side to this is Dodson is making money. He gets half of the profits from iTunes downloads. He has a website and t-shirt line. He’s profiting and that can’t be looked at negatively. If he wasn’t, then that would be another story.
I guess like all media, you have to look at things like this with a critical eye and remember that its entertainment. In this case it didn’t start off as entertainment, but that’s what it turned in to. If people keep that in mind, I don’t think it’s a problem.
So you can run and tell that! Homeboy.