clock menu more-arrow no yes

The Ellen Show reduced Nicki Minaj to a butt joke

The sketch about Minaj's upcoming sitcom is a jaw-dropping master class in missing the point.

Nicki Minaj and her mother, as imagined by The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Nicki Minaj and her mother, as imagined by The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

When Nicki Minaj announced she would be collaborating with ABC Family — soon to be known as Freeform — it was a surprise, but an exciting one.

Minaj's more explicit videos could make it seem, at first glance, like "Nicki Minaj" plus "coming-of-age sitcom" wouldn't be a good fit, but Minaj has proved again and again through interviews, passionate asides at concerts, and social media to be a discerning businesswoman and a frequent proponent of the children being our future. She extols the virtues of staying in school, working hard, and valuing your own worth. A sitcom about Nicki Minaj's youth in Queens has a lot to offer.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show, however, had a different idea of what Minaj's sitcom would look like — and in just one minute, it managed to be jaw-droppingly bad.

Nicki Minaj's sitcom, according to The Ellen DeGeneres Show

While you can see the full video over at Gawker's Morning After, I've written out a couple of the sketch's most egregious moments in script format. I didn't embellish the sketch, or add any commentary. This is close to what actors might have seen when prepping their lines.

Here's the intro:

And the final punchline:

In case it wasn't clear: The main joke here is that Nicki Minaj has a big butt.

This isn't the first time Ellen has teased Minaj — but Minaj is usually in on the joke

Minaj is no stranger to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as evidenced by multiple appearances on the show. Host Ellen DeGeneres is also no stranger to mimicking Minaj, as evidenced by multiple parodies over the years.

When the explicit video for "Anaconda" came out, DeGeneres released her own version starring herself, awkwardly trying to keep up with Minaj and her dancers. In 2013, DeGeneres walked onstage for her Halloween show dressed exactly as Minaj had been a couple weeks earlier for an Ellen interview. ("Nicki was here, her shirt was not ... she took our show from PG to double D.")

It appears as though many of these bits were done with Minaj being more in on the joke. And there are heartwarming moments, too. The video of Minaj meeting Sophia Grace, the tiny girl whose rendition of "Super Bass" went viral in 2011, currently sits at more than 100 million views.

Basically, DeGeneres and Minaj have had a solid relationship in the past. So why did Ellen reduce Minaj's upcoming sitcom to a single tired, insensitive joke?

The sketch is jut too reductive to make any kind of point. Also, it's gross.

Some will undoubtedly defend the sketch as playing into Minaj's established persona. They'll point to her revealing outfits and the overtly sexual video for "Anaconda" as proof positive that Minaj has made her image all about her butt. So what's the problem with making fun of that established persona?

But the problem isn't that Ellen dared to poke fun at Minaj's body. It's that the sketch reduced Minaj entirely to her most famous body part. Where the video for "Anaconda" was a defiant wink at how people perceive Minaj's body and, indeed, black women's bodies in general, the Ellen sketch doesn't have a single thing to say beyond, "Hey, did you know Nicki Minaj has a sizable ass?"

Not every minute-long sketch will brim over with prescient comedy, of course. Ellen has to produce five shows a week, and there will inevitably be clunkers. But a white woman giggling her way through an introduction to a clip in which a black family bumbles around with padded backsides isn't hard to see as stunningly tone-deaf. The only joke is that everyone in the family shares "unusual" bodies that are so out of place that they literally can't fit in.

It seems unlikely Minaj's sitcom will include a young girl presenting her padded backside to a roaring audience as her parents smile and nod — not least because Minaj's childhood was far from rosy. She has been open about her father's drug addiction and abuse, which included him setting their apartment on fire.

Acknowledging the expectations people have of you and being confident enough in yourself to own your image, as Minaj did with "Anaconda," is one thing. Swooping in to chuckle over it as a smirking outsider is another entirely.


Watch: Every Serena Williams win comes with a side of racism and sexism