‘You Can Do It!’
Rob Schneider’s History of Being Racist: From Brownface to His Civil Rights Tweet
Among the million reasons Schneider’s tweet explaining civil rights to John Lewis was insane: his long history of perpetuating racial stereotypes. A look at the worst offenses.
Over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, cockroach actor Rob Schneider—yep, somehow, he’s still around—explained civil rights.
He of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo fame took a break from shooting recent films such as OMG, I’m a Robot! to chime into an already unbelievable exchange between President-elect Donald Trump and civil rights legend (and current congressman) Rep. John Lewis, a fiery conversation that certainly would never have found clarity without “that guy is from those Adam Sandler movies, right” weighing in.
Lewis had poked the Trump bear with his refusal to attend this week’s inauguration and telling Meet the Press that Trump is not a “legitimate president.” Trump roared his mighty-ish roar via, of course, a Twitter tirade insulting Lewis’s character and legacy that read as embarrassingly obtuse on the weekend honoring Martin Luther King Jr., whom Lewis marched next to and crusaded alongside.
That’s when Rob Schneider tapped out the President-elect and decided to join the fight.
“Rep. Lewis,” he tweeted. “You are a great person. But Dr. King didn’t give in to his anger or his hurt. That is how he accomplished & won Civil Rights.”
Forget that Schneider is wrong—anger and hurt were the winds pushing the sails of the civil rights movement. Forget that Schneider thought he, the “Hot Chick,” was more of an authority on Dr. King’s philosophy and action than Lewis, the man who sat at the table with him.
What in the world would convince Schneider that he was qualified to make such a declarative and patronizing statement on the subject?
To be fair, Schneider might actually be an expert on race. He has appropriated, bastardized, and offended almost all of them.
He is currently employing that practice on the Netflix streaming comedy Real Rob, which is a thing that exists for real. It is best known as the first thing you see on those “Every Netflix Series Ranked From Worst to Best” lists.
The series is based on his life as a showbiz man married to a Mexican-American wife and raising their two-year-old daughter, roles played by Schneider’s real-life wife and daughter. In its review of the show—Real Rob currently has a dismal Metacritic score of 36—The Washington Post wrote, “Real Rob has elements of Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s heightened reality, but the only thing that sets it apart from its predecessors is that it’s not very funny.”
And would you believe that race isn’t dealt with sensitively in the show?
Silicon Valley actor Kumail Nanjiani, who is from Pakistan but is regularly confused for Indian-American actors Kal Penn and Kunal Nayyar, recently tweeted about his attempt to watch Real Rob in the wake of Schneider’s message to Rep. Lewis.
He has since, it seems, deleted them. They are amazing and we wish he hadn’t.
“True story: I started watching Rob Schneider’s show on Netflix to amuse myself. I’d watch a few minutes here & there, before going to bed,” he began. “It’s [sic] epic awfulness was breathtaking. Just stunning. After a few weeks of watching it here & there, I wanted to see how many eps [episodes] in I was. I assumed I was 4 eps in. I checked. I was 15 minutes into episode 1. It was so bad that it warped space & time. It made the earth spin slower.”
Then the kicker: “Anyway, now he has advice on how civil rights heroes should honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory. I can’t even say ‘stick to comedy.’”
Real Rob was a Louis C.K.-esque approach to comedy ground he first attempted to cover in traditional multi-cam style in a 2012 CBS sitcom titled Rob. As a roundup of reviews in Slate shows, the series was called “genuinely offensive” by The Denver Post, its characters were labeled “a sprawling brood of shockingly stereotypical clichés” by TV Guide, and The New York Times ruled “the entire show is predicated on cheap ethnic humor.”
But racial insensitivity isn’t a skill the actor has honed on his own. No, it wasn’t self-spawned so much as it was carefully reared over decades in the world of Adam Sandler comedies.While Schneider often played second banana or supporting comedic relief to Sandler in their junkyard’s worth of films together, he is the shining star of a recent Daily Dot retrospective titled “5 Adam Sandler Movies That Are Way More Racist Than You Remember.”
In reality, Schneider is one-quarter Filipino. His maternal grandmother is from the Philippines, and met his grandfather, a white American army private, while he was stationed on the islands. In film, though, Schneider is a veritable United Nations of races, ethnicities, and, most of all, stereotypes.
As The Daily Dot recounts, he was a Middle Eastern delivery man in Big Daddy, an Asian minister in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, an Asian waiter in Eight Crazy Nights, and the vaguely Latino guy who shouts, “You can do it!” in The Waterboy.
In 50 First Dates he played a Native Hawaiian, whose marijuana use, laziness, and conniving nature succumbed to the worst “wacky stereotypes” of the minority, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. The New York Times blasted the portrayal as a “leering Hawaiian…with a pidgin accent by way of Cheech and Chong.”
Then there’s the crowning achievement of head-slapping brownface. In You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Schneider payed a Palestinian cab driver named Salim who is also a terrorist.
Perhaps Schneider feels entitled to explaining civil rights because he believes he actually has been all of those minorities.
The actor’s recent tweet isn’t the first time he’s gotten political. He publicly declared his decision to switch political parties from Democrat to Republican in 2013, saying, “The state of Californina is a mess, and the super majority of Democrats is not working.”
His Twitter account this election cycle has truly been something to behold as well.
He had thoughts about protestors who took to the streets after Trump was elected.
And he saved some real zingers for how Democrats reacted to Trump’s victory. Hoo boy.
Listen, celebrities weighing in on the current polarizing political climate is expected. It’s as expected as the polarized public’s impassioned response to their comments.
Chelsea Handler and Lena Dunham are currently on the cover of Variety to exclusively talk politics. Meryl Streep ignited a cultural fire when she made a call for empathy and art that matters at the Golden Globes, trashing fans of mixed martial arts along the way.
Performing at the inauguration—or, more explicitly, deciding not to perform—has become a political statement.
Nicole Kidman, somehow, has become a lightning rod for post-Trump politics in Hollywood.
So what makes Schneider’s tweet any different? Any more scandalous?
It’s not because critics of the tweet disagree with his politics, or that he’s among a minority in the world of entertainers in that he is calling for patriotism, acceptance, and, at the very least, the benefit of a doubt when it comes to a Trump presidency. That’s a noble opinion.
It’s because what he said was goddamn stupid.
Rob Schneider—with his horrific history of offensive racial caricatures; who has donned brownface and yellowface to perpetuate stereotypes; who has taken away opportunity for minority actors to star in these films, unfunny as they may be—is explaining civil rights to a person who actually fought for them.
How goddamn stupid. How very Rob Schneider.