Thursday, March 4, 2010
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: A Quick Note on Roger Ebert Finding His Voice on the Oprah Winfrey Show
I loved Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert as a kid. Watching their show, then deciding to go to a movie based on Ebert's "thumbs up or thumbs down" was a weekend ritual in my home. Their reviews were the meat of the program. But what really made Siskel and Ebert's show cohere was their amazing chemistry. One couldn't tell if they loved each other or if they hated each other--but we knew they were dear friends:
I will never forget when Ebert threatened to punch Siskel in the mouth for making a playful joke about how his love of black women (random factoid: did you know that Ebert dated Oprah?). Ebert took it as disrespect for his wife and for a moment it was Roger (and not Mike Tyson) who was the baddest man on the planet.
I was deeply saddened when Siskel died. When we heard the news of Ebert's struggle with cancer, there was an exhalation felt across all of ghetto nerd land. Ebert has triumphed even as he has lost so much--his voice, his face, and his television show. But in this struggle, Ebert has reivented himself, or perhaps more precisely, he has found other ways to be quintessentially himself. Either way he is a role-model and in my book a mighty respectable negro:
I shed a tear when Ebert found his voice again on Oprah (we respectable negroes can be quite sensitive you know). I smile when I read his column. For me, the lesson to be learned from Ebert's tribulations is how to be a model of self-deprecation and humility--traits we can all learn from.