Barbers threaten to sue Jackson for ''Barbershop'' criticism
It’s not a good idea to pick a fight with people who wield razors and scissors. Now that the Rev. Jesse Jackson has demanded an apology over a fictional barber’s jokes at the expense of famous civil rights figures, some real-life barbers are demanding an apology from Jackson over his own remarks. Reuters reports that the National Association of Cosmetologists screened the movie ”Barbershop” for 100 or so African-American hairstylists, and while the group’s chief executive said the moviegoers found nothing offensive about the hit film, they did object to Jackson’s attempt to pressure the filmmakers into cutting the dialogue in question. What’s more, NAC chief James Stern said, Jackson’s comments had hurt business for some barbers, and if he didn’t retract them, the NAC might sue him.
Last month, Jackson objected to lines spoken by Cedric the Entertainer’s character that poked fun at Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Jackson himself. The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition leader said that, while he was big enough to take a joke about himself, the remarks about King and Parks were irresponsible. He urged the filmmakers to apologize and to cut the offending lines from the home video release. While the producers did say, ”We never meant to offend anyone,” distributor MGM responded by noting that the character’s comments were immediately repudiated by everyone else in the barbershop and said it had no plans to trim the film. In fact, it’s developing a sequel to ”Barbershop,” which has grossed some $70 million to date.
The NAC’s Stern, however, thought Jackson should be the one apologizing for the chilling effect his words have had on both filmmakers and barbers. ”Reverend Jackson did not consider the future of black filmmakers,” Stern told Reuters, arguing that Jackson’s comments will make African-American moviemakers censor themselves in order to remain politically correct. Stern said that Jackson’s sentiments about ”Barbershop” did not speak for all African-Americans. ”We, as blacks, have to let the movie studios know that when he is wrong, we’re willing to speak out for ourselves,” he said.
Stern told Reuters that the business of some barbers has suffered as a result of Jackson’s criticism and threatened that the NAC would sue him for defamation of character if he did not apologize. Jackson’s spokesperson has yet to comment on the legal threat.