Russell Simmons’ YouTube channel, All Def Digital, posted a video called the “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.” When this story first flashed across my newsfeed I was pretty sure I hadn’t read it right. The words were English but they just didn’t make any sense. Harriet Tubman Sex Tape? What? You can see how these words in such close and unexpected proximity can fog the mind.
The description of the video via The Washington Post read: the “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” is “the off-record account of how Harriet Tubman blackmailed her master into letting her run the Underground Railroad!”
Say what, now?
I was reluctant to write about this because I don’t want to give Russell Simmons free advertising he doesn’t need (thus no hyperlinks). You see I don’t believe his actions were accidental. I think he knew exactly what he was doing from post to apology because it’s all gravy for All Def Digital in the form of Google searches, clicks, views, and brand awareness isn’t it? Did you know Russell Simmons had a YouTube channel? Well you do now. Am I giving the man more credit then he’s due? I don’t know. You look at the size and scope of his empire and tell me.
The video is supposed to be funny because we presume that Harriet Tubman – runaway slave, abolitionist, Union spy, the woman called Moses who led dozens of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad without ever losing a passenger – would never make a sex tape. Don’t get me wrong. I like historical fiction. I guess what I’m not a big fan of are pseudo historical hoes. With so many modern-day, ready-set-go hoes making actual sex tapes, fabricating one seems completely unnecessary. (Please note, as a disillusioned feminist I struggle over the use of the word hoe. Just because a woman enjoys sex and is not camera shy does not make her hoe. But, doing a sex tape for free does make her a dumb hoe.)
In my corner of the universe, this video has reignited the discussion of what’s funny and asks the question: when does funny go too far. That’s a tough one for me. I’m an American and a comedian. Free speech is in my blood. You can say just about anything but then you have to have the stones to take the heat from those who don’t find it funny. That will be anyone for whom the subject is too raw, close, and personal. But keep in mind, despite what a politically correct climate may have you believe bad taste is not illegal. Hurt feelings are not actionable. We do not have the right not to be offended.
I am hopeful however that the reaction to this video will make All Def Digital rethink any plans it may have had for a follow up: “Coming to the Main Stage: Rosa Parks!”