Blackface, however, is arguably more than a white person simply putting on make-up to adopt the role of a black person.
The success of the act also led to a very particular visual shorthand for representing black people.
Often referred to as the "darky" icon, featuring black skin, pop-eyes and prominent white, pink or red lips, this seems to have been directly inspired by blackface make-up.
It's likely to make the average Western onlooker rather uncomfortable because of the genre's history...
a history that would be largely unknown to a Japanese onlooker. Popo is undoubtedly a product of this: even though he isn't a human in the context of the series, his origins seem quite obvious.
It grew out of the kogal (コギャル) culture that developed in the late eighties and early nineties.
Despite, or perhaps because of its fairly rigid social structure, Japan has seen a great many 'delinquent' fads over the years, and this particular trend involved miniskirts, platform boots, fake tans and blonde dye jobs.Although Rice was performing to mostly-white audiences, there's some evidence that the character of Jim Crow was initially a sympathetic one, who used his wit and cleverness to outfox his rich oppressors – something that working class white audiences could easily identify with.But as time went on, and others developed acts along the same lines, any positive traits the character may have once had were erased.Blacking up his face with burnt cork, Rice adopted exaggerated 'black' mannerisms, perfected the routine and quickly became a star.Within a few years, he was known internationally, and his performance became the template for the blackface minstrel act.Many early cartoons from the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers readily incorporated this imagery into their output, which has since resulted in rather conspicuous gaps in their modern-day re-releases.