Did you guys know that the children’s rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” was originally horribly racist? I actually didn’t know this. You know how it goes, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go.” Imagine the T in tiger replaced by an N and you get the idea. There are variations of this rhyme in many languages and it’s not necessarily a racist rhyme in all languages, but it did have that line in an older US version. This was “the most common version among American schoolchildren in 1888” according to Wiki. So the rhyme has racist origins and is about beating up black people, that’s something you discover when looking into it, and it’s also something that changes my opinion of it. Some people don’t think that way though, like Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
JDM’s sadistic character on The Walking Dead, Negan, used the “Eeny, meeny” rhyme while taunting Rick’s group in the lead-up to the horrible season opener, when he bludgeoned two people to death. (I’m not going to say who in case you want to avoid spoilers, but really don’t watch Walking Dead past the second season, it’s just an exercise in futility. I stuck in there until this season and then gave up a few episodes ago.) Of course Negan said the modern “Tiger” version. There was an official Walking Dead t-shirt for sale in the UK featuring Negan’s bat, Lucille, and the first four words of the rhyme. Only they pulled it once people complained the rhyme was racist. JDM had some thoughts about that.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is shocked and stunned by The Walking Dead T-shirt controversy — shocked and stunned, that is, that anybody would find the shirt controversial in the first place.
To recap: U.K. department chain Primark pulled a Walking Dead T-shirt (image below) from its stores after a customer complained the clothing item is “racist” and “offensive.” The shirt featured Negan’s signature Lucille baseball bat and his victim-selecting rhyme, “Eeny meeny miny moe, catch a tiger by the toe…” The problem? About 100 years ago, that rhyme commonly used the N-word instead of “tiger.”
Morgan, sounding not entirely unlike his irate profane character on TV’s top-rated drama, tweeted “Holy crap people are stupid.”
The Primark customer who complained about the shirt told The Sheffield Star, “This image relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America … It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood.” While Primark replied it was pulling the shirt from store shelves and issued a statement: “The T-shirt in question is licensed merchandise for the U.S. television series, The Walking Dead, and the quote and image are taken directly from the show. Any offense caused by its design was wholly unintentional and Primark sincerely apologizes for this.”
As pointed out previously, the strange thing about this controversy is its timing. The finale aired last April and the rhyme skittered by without making a blip on the collective outrage meter. The dialogue was also in Robert Kirkman’s comic years before that. Dave Chappelle even parodied the scene when guest hosting Saturday Night Live (though used a different rhyme). But now, 10 months later, with a random customer spying a T-shirt in Sheffield, suddenly this is a thing.
Here’s JDM’s tweet:
Holy crap people are stupid. 'Walking Dead’ Shirt Pulled From Stores After Complaint of Racism https://t.co/cpeIqcxTwJ
— Jeffrey Dean Morgan (@JDMorgan) February 22, 2017
Ok I get the argument that it took a long time for this to come to light, especially because the episode aired almost a year ago. But if you see the t-shirt with that font (below) and you know the rhyme’s origin it’s clear to me why it would look horrible to some people. Can you imagine NOT knowing about Negan’s bat or about The Walking Dead, only knowing that the rhyme used to be about beating people of color and then seeing someone wearing that shirt? Not everyone gets pop culture references and in that context it’s bad. It doesn’t say “The Walking Dead” on it, to many people it’s just a bat and words about beating people. (Or tigers, if you think of it that way.) When you consider what that means it’s not people being “stupid” it’s JDM being arrogant and thinking that everyone knows his WD character when they don’t.
photos credit: AMC, WENN