Debate On Race And Presentation Of Americans Film Studies Essay

Debate On Race And Presentation Of Americans Film Studies Essay

I want people to believe about the power of images, non merely in footings of race, but how imagination is used and what kind of societal impact it has- how it influences how we talk, how we think, how we view one another. In peculiar, I want them to see how movie and telecasting have historically, from the birth of both mediums, produced and perpetuated deformed images. Film and telecasting started out that manner, and here we are, at the morning of a new century, and a batch of that lunacy is still with us today.

Spike Lee.

The arguments over race and representation of African Americans in movies have been extremely combative for over a century. Blacks have by and large been perceived and stigmatized, throughout history, as problem shapers, incapables, intellectually limited, inferior, lazy and irrational, amongst the many other take downing labels attached to them. These labels are connected non merely to the history of colonisation but besides, significantly, to the development, prolongation, and careful care of stereotypes through cinematic cliches which have imposed themselves easy and significantly on the popular imaginativeness. As justly stated by Wijdan Ali, the projection of harmful and negative stereotypes “ onto fringy or ineffective groups within a society has ever been an easy and utile method for doing whipping boies. ”[ 1 ]Efficaciously, movies form the ideal platform/space to circularise and continue the labels which the mainstream audience desires to attach to the black community.

Five decennaries of the Civil Rights Movement have gone by, and the grade of alteration in the black community, though undeniably existent and noticeable, remains perplexingly complex and unequal. Although the fact that we now live in a clip in history where Americans have voted in a black President, where inkinesss now occupy places of power and are apparently less capable to institutional favoritism than in the yesteryear, the black community however remains inadequately hapless, unemployed, undereducated and negatively labeled.[ 2 ]Adding to these, portraitures of African Americans are still, to a great extent, marked by clowning. Bamboozled ( 2000 ) shows that Hollywood has no functions for intelligent inkinesss.

Therefore, following a ‘writing-back ‘ manner in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) , Spike Lee satirically attacks the manner in which African Americans have historically been misused and misrepresented on screen. Through Bamboozled ( 2000 ) , the manager attempts both to entertain and to educate his audience about the history of African American representation within popular civilization, with the word ‘bamboozled ‘ itself bespeaking the province of holding been cheated or conned. Bamboozled ( 2000 ) nowadayss American mass amusement ‘s history of racial favoritism through humiliating folk singer stereotypes, which foremost started to be performed in musical theaters and which were subsequently brought to cinema with movies such as The Wooing and Wedding of a Coon ( 1905 ) , The Sambo Series ( 1909- 1911 ) and D.W Griffith ‘s controversial The Birth of a Nation ( 1915 ) . Consequently, the intent of this survey is to research African American development in the American movie industry and to analyse the effects of stereotypes and deceit on African American individuality utilizing Cornel West ‘s theory of “ Alienation ” ( 1993 ) and Du Bois ‘s theory of “ Double Consciousness ” ( 1903 ) . These will hopefully in bend aid to understand why the integrating of African Americans is considered as a debatable issue even in a sophisticated epoch where racism seems to be a thing of the yesteryear, and where people are purportedly no longer “ judged by the colour of their tegument but by the content of their character. ”[ 3 ]This paper will besides research the effectivity of such a movie in the deconstruction of stereotypes and the renegotiation of a stigmatized individuality. But before acquiring to what Bamboozled ( 2000 ) really brings to the tabular array of Afro-american movies, it is of import to look at the history and development of black representation in Hollywood film, which the followers paragraphs are traveling to cover with.

II. African Americans in American Movies: A Brief Retrospective

African Americans foremost started to be represented in folk singer shows in the late 1820s and subsequently on telecasting in the early twentieth century.[ 4 ]Through blackface minstrelsy, a public presentation manner where white males parodied the vocals, dances, vesture and address forms of Southern inkinesss[ 5 ]utilizing blackface make-up and overdone lips, America ‘s constructs of inkiness and whiteness were shaped by these mocking imitations, for, as pointed out by bell maulerss, “ there is power in looking. “ While whiteness was posited as the norm, every black face was “ a statement of societal imperfectness, lower status, and apery that [ was ] placed in isolation with an absent whiteness as its ideal antonym. ”[ 6 ]Consequently, for over a century, the impression that colored people were racially and socially inferior to Whites was ingrained, internalized and accepted by hosts of both white and black folk singer performing artists and audiences.

The imitations took such a strong clasp on the American imaginativeness that audiences ‘naturally ‘ came to anticipate any individual with dark tegument, irrespective of his/ her background, to suit in one or more of the undermentioned stereotypes ; Jim Crow, a dull-witted and subservient plantation slave ; Zip Coon, a lazy, gaudily-dressed adult male from the metropolis stand foring the proud newly- freed slave ; Mammy, the contended, happy, loyal and ever-smiling female slave ( as grounds of the supposed humanity of the establishment of bondage, ) ; Uncle Tom, the good Negro ; submissive, hearty, faithful no affair what, Stoic, selfless, and ‘oh-so-very-kind, ‘[ 7 ]Buck, the proud and endangering Black adult male ever fascinated by white adult females ; Jezebel the enchantress ; the assorted race Mulatto, and Pickaninnies, who have “ convex eyes, unkempt hair, ruddy lips and broad oral cavities into which they stuff immense pieces of Citrullus vulgaris. ”[ 8 ]

As clip moved on, black visual aspect in mainstream movies became more and more frequent, every bit good as the addition in the figure of independent black managers, from Oscar Micheaux to Daniel Lee and Spike Lee. Since The Birth of a Nation, which marked a alteration in accent from the pretentious but harmless Jim Crow to the baleful barbarian ‘Nigger ‘ , black film makers have responded by making race films and blaxploitation movies which were tailored to black audiences. The 1970 ‘s witnessed a revival of the blaxploitation genre[ 9 ]with movies such as Sweet Sweetback ‘s Baadassss Song ( 1971 ) , Shaft ( 1971 ) , Black Caesar ( 1973 ) and Foxy Brown ( 1974 ) . Since such movies were themselves in bend accused of utilizing the negative to overstate issues refering to inkinesss, this genre saw its terminal in the late 1970 ‘s to give manner to a new moving ridge of black managers, such as S. Lee and John Singleton, who focused on black urban life. However, we can non afford to merely ‘celebrate ‘ the accomplishments of black film makers for the alleged cultural humanistic disciplines. And as Stuart Hall comments, “ we have come out of the age of artlessness, ” which says that ‘it ‘s good if it ‘s at that place. ”[ 10 ]The mere fact that such movies have had a considerable addition does non intend that the position of and chances for black people have dramatically improved although it may be true that the degree of distinct racism has known an of import lessening, or even a disappearing. This can be backed up by Appiah ‘s statement that “ alterations in the representation of inkinesss do non ipso facto lead to alterations in their intervention. ”[ 11 ]

III. The Issue of Misrepresentation in Bamboozled ( 2000 )

In Bamboozled ( 2000 ) , Spike Lee straight addresses this issue of African American representability as being a discourse of white essentialism. Through Bamboozled ( 2000 ) the manager invites his audience to recognize that although “ cipher goes about in blackface any longer, ”[ 12 ]it does non imply that Hollywood has wholly abandoned/given up essentialist discourse. The manager satirically uses really symbolic icons and elements throughout the movie in order to foreground racism and deceit. The beginning of Bamboozled ( 2000 ) itself generates the intended subject ; Stevie Wonder ‘s Misrepresented People, a vocal which encapsulates the historical, political and societal hardships faced by inkinesss, is carefully and smartly set as the background music, which strongly and to a great extent impacts upon the content of the movie every bit good as upon the audience. Lee calls attending to Tommy Hilfiger by satirically utilizing the trade name “ Hillnigger ” so as to foreground the contention which accused Hilfiger of doing racist remarks on his “ dissatisfaction from holding his vesture line embraced by a big Black consumer base. ”

Spike Lee makes it blatantly clear that Bamboozled ( 2000 ) sets out to exemplify White American political orientation and discourse within modern-day public sphere. Pierre Delacroix ( Damon Wayans ) , the supporter of the movie, is a web executive working in a company which is specialized in black affairs. Ironically though, during the meeting in which Delacroix is reproached for his lateness and reminded of CP clip[ 13 ], it can be noticed that the lone Black individual nowadays is Pierre himself and that the foreman is Dunwitty ( Michael Rapaport ) , a White adult male who pretends to be ‘blacker ‘ than Pierre and to hold the right to utilize the ‘Nigger word ‘ on evidences that he is married to a black adult female. Dunwitty clearly “ does non desire to see Negroes on telecasting unless they are clowns. ” He even cancelled one of Pierre ‘s brilliant shows because it starred Blacks as dignified people and goes on to kick that the latter ‘s written stuffs are “ excessively clean, ” “ excessively white, ” “ excessively antiseptic, ” which harmonizing to him simply portray “ white people with blackfaces. ” He urges Delacroix to “ maintain it existent, ” that is, he reminds him of the mortifying place of inkinesss in film ; inkinesss are merely entertainers. The word picture of the battle endemic to the African American experience of representation, which Lee throws to the audience in a really obvious yet complex manner, can be seen in Extract 1.[ 14 ]

The name of the blackface show in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) is in itself really symbolic ; “ Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show. ” Here, Lee suggests that minstrelsy has non disappeared in the new millenary. In his-own words hence, it has merely “ gotten more sophisticated. Gangsta blame picture, a batch of the Television shows on UPN and WB- a batch of us are still moving as clowns and coons. ”[ 15 ]

The issue of black-white dealingss resurfaces in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) and the function of the Other is made explicit through Lee ‘s intended message. Black pigeonholing becomes the necessary immorality in the building of white individuality and is needed to reassure white audiences of the stableness of their individuality.[ 16 ]With this comes the deduction that black movies are successfully marketed merely if they appeal to mainstream audiences. Clearly, Spike Lee ‘s purpose in this provocative movie is to demo that even today, the American movie industry is still hiding essentialist discourses within modern-day movies. Consequently, as essentialism involves ongoing human and societal interaction every bit good as restriction, individuality ordinance and enforcement takes topographic point within this sort of racialist discourse, whereby inkinesss have to undergo individuality quandary while seeking to seek blessing. As we have seen, film has an of import function to play in the building of individuality. History, film and black individuality are elaborately intertwined. The association of these three in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) communicates to the audience how inkinesss are identified and how they in bend identify themselves. As a marginalized group, most of the black characters in Spike Lee ‘s movie forsake their individuality so as to derive blessing, to be successful, or to acquire out of black poorness and the consequence is shown to be a black one for the black psyche and community. The following subdivision is hence traveling to be an geographic expedition of individuality quandary in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) .

IV. Identity Dilemma in Bamboozled ( 2000 )

I have heard all my life that White people do n’t hold to alter who they are, how they talk, or how they behave. Therefore, I was left with the feeling that it was everyone else ‘s duty to try to follow the cultural and societal personalities of White people.

Ronald, L Jackson.

In order to undertake this issue of individuality in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) Cornel West ‘s theory of “ disaffection ” ( 1993 ) will be used in parallel to DuBois ‘ theory of “ double-consciousness ” ( 1903 ) .West ‘s theory of “ disaffection ” ( 1993 ) explores the individuality crisis faced by the black diasporan community in modern twenty-four hours America. ‘Natal disaffection, ‘ which has been created by the history of colonisation, is an unretrievable harm to black individuality. Since the Black is rendered into an inferior being through history and representation, and this lower status farther reinforced by both descriptive and normative stereotypes in film, inkinesss as a consequence experience a terrible individuality quandary, a dual consciousness.

“ Alienation ” in West ‘s theory exists on two elaborately related degrees: foremost as an ideological system of subjugation and favoritism and secondly as a black existential philosopher battle. In Bamboozled ( 2000 ) , this powerful system of subjugation forces the black characters to abandon their black psyche and individualities. Unlike Delacroix, Womack ( Tommy Davidson ) and Manray ( Savion Glover ) , two stateless street performing artists, are forced by their unfavourable economic conditions to go de-rooted and mindless acting dolls. Both are stripped of their names and imposed with the abasing and stereotypically racist names of ‘Sleep’n’Eat ‘ and ‘Mantan ‘ severally. Alienation here produces the “ modern black diasporan problematic of invisibleness and anonymity, ”[ 17 ]whereby Womack and Manray are forced by their unfavourable conditions to look at themselves “ through the eyes of others, of mensurating [ their ] psyche by the tape of a universe that looks on in diverted disdain and commiseration. ”[ 18 ]

Impelled by social and survival force per unit areas, both of them are forced to absorb in order to be accepted by the white community every bit good as by the assimilated black people. It becomes clear that David Llorens ‘s ( 1968 ) two types of inkinesss are present in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) . Delacroix and Sloan represent the “ chosen 1s ” while Manray and Womack represent the “ fellah ” . The former is familiar with the streets and the black slang, while the latter is culturally refined has assimilated into the white community. Alienation and white essentialist discourse creates such a state of affairs where the “ chosen one ” feels embarrassed by the “ fellah ” and seeks at all times to demo that they are two different sorts, and to delight the “ Guardian, ” that is, the white adult male.[ 19 ]Manray and Womack are, through the eyes of Sloan ( Jada Pinkett Smith ) and Pierre, African Americans who portion similar traits to the ‘primitive African ‘ . Delacroix points this out by looking down on them and urging that they be given deodourants, toothbrushes, toothpastes and underwear. He besides attempts without success to disassociate himself from the fellah black class by urgently explicating to Dunwitty that inkinesss are non a ‘monolithic group ‘ , and that “ in-between category black does be. ” These words are representative of the African American community ‘s desire non to be identified merely through inkiness. For Dunwitty, Delacroix is merely seeking to have on a Hereford, which is non a mere fiction or a mere racist remark. Dunwitty ‘s words carry an of import truth. We see from the beginning of the movie, that Delacroix thirstily and urgently seeks acknowledgment and visibleness from his white colleagues when he walks his manner to his office. He besides rejects the black slang for Standard English so as to do a clear cut difference between the educated and the uneducated black. This, to an of import extent, reifies the high quality of Whites and serves to estrange inkinesss in American society, as, harmonizing to West ( 1993 ) , “ disaffection ” is portion of a whole system of linguistic communication. Once a civilization ‘s linguistic communication is alienated from the mainstream population ‘s linguistic communication, the civilization ‘s individuality is likewise taken off and starts to disperse.

Delacroix himself unconsciously embodies several of the blackface stereotypes, although he tries to portray inkinesss in a positive visible radiation. He can be viewed as a Zip Coon, with his ostentation and his inexplicit neglect for the “ fellah ” inkinesss during the auditioning for the “ Alabama Porch Monkeys, ” and his dissociation from the black slang. Furthermore, he embodies the Uncle Tom stereotype several times in the movie, particularly in the scene where he acts as the loyal, faithful and subservient black while take a firm standing on passing off an award to Mathhew Modine ( playing himself. ) Delacroix is hence himself caught in this ‘whirlwind of Europeanization. ‘[ 20 ]In his relentless attempt to absorb into white civilization, he gets himself a penthouse, gets a Harvard instruction, dresses professionally, and speaks the right linguistic communication. Even when he sets out on his mission to deconstruct stereotypes and raise public consciousness on modern twenty-four hours racism, he is himself unable to “ defy the deceit and imitation of the footings set by uncontested nonblack norms and theoretical accounts. ”[ 21 ]Delacroix therefore besides contributes both consciously and unconsciously to the dominant discourse of disaffection of inkinesss from the white community by puting up a “ Coon show ” which idealizes “ a simpler clip, a clip when work forces were work forces, adult females were adult females, and Negroes knew their topographic point. ”[ 22 ]Some black folks are accordingly outraged by his racialist show and accuse him of selling out his ain community. But what has really happened to Pierre Delacroix is that he has been sing the ‘split-self- disease, what Du Bois calls a “ twoness – an American, a Negro ; two psyches, two ideas, two unreconciled nisuss ; two warring ideals in one dark organic structure. ”[ 23 ]Aware of the fact that the popular American position has systematically dehumanized African Americans through negative representation since clip immemorial, Delacroix does non desire to be among those inkinesss who are despised by the European American population. Therefore he aspires to be both “ Negro and American, ” two individualities, which, harmonizing to Du Bois ( 1903 ) are frequently in struggle. What Lee is really demoing is that in modern twenty-four hours America, and even for sophisticated and well- off black Americans, the meeting of the American and the African is one really hard ( if non impossible ) thing to go on.

The impact of stereotypes and “ disaffection ” on black individuality causes one to hold “ a acute sense of consciousness about his or her assorted egos and how they are perceived. ”[ 24 ]Frequently, inkinesss in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) have to negociate their individuality. Through this act, they necessarily reach a self-fulfillment of “ twoness. ” Womack for case realizes that no affair how celebrated and successful he has become, he will ever be looked down upon as a second-class American citizen. He becomes witting of the fact the he had been bamboozled in so far as believing that he could be an equal citizen.His success lies in the fact that he is able to entertain white America, “ to ever maintain ’em express joying, ” a quality which Delacroix ‘s male parent Junebug believes is indispensable for the black American to accomplish success. As shown in Extract 2 therefore[ 25 ], when Womack experiences dual consciousness, he decides to halt playing in the folk singer show. This scene is of import in that it highlights the self-fulfillment which is made possible merely through a “ double-consciousness. ” Womack at this peculiar minute realizes that exterior of the character of Sleep’n Eat, he is merely unseeable, a cipher. “ Through the eyes of others ”[ 26 ]there is no other possible individuality for him. Mantan ‘s ain individuality grows in struggle with that of Womack following this conversation ; clearly he is still incognizant of the complexnesss of the confused nature of individuality in this scene. A few scenes subsequently nevertheless, he besides becomes afflicted by the same dual consciousness experienced by his friend. In Extract 3[ 27 ]. After detecting that he has been “ hoodwinked, ” and “ led astray, ”[ 28 ]Manray refuses to be farther associated to Mantan. He realizes that it is basically incorrect to negociate his individuality through the medium of blackface. Although Lee might be proposing that Manray ‘s realisation occurs at excessively tardily a clip, his message clearly goes in line with Du Bois ‘s ( 1903 ) statement that dual consciousness is the realisation that individuality is “ multifaceted. ” Harmonizing to him, at one point or the other, black Americans develop a struggle with the different individualities that they need to incarnate in order to be accepted by the mainstream, a struggle which is inexistent among white Americanss.

On the other manus, Sloan ‘s brother, Julius, who forms portion of the “ Mau Maus ” revolutionist resistance pack and who does non travel through double consciousness because of his refusal to be seen through white America ‘s eyes, is juxtaposed to the inkinesss who try to absorb white civilization, thereby denying their ain roots, linguistic communication, people, and civilization. Julius invariably affirms his black individuality, unlike the other inkinesss we encounter in the movie. Extract 4[ 29 ]shows how he refuses to be a representative of de-rooted, disfranchised inkinesss. In the position of radical inkinesss such as the Mau Maus hence, Manray needs to be executed because he is a nuisance to the black community ; he is a Judas, an “ Uncle Tom, ” who contributes to the death of his ain race.

The fact that the infliction of history and disaffection consequences in dual consciousness in many instances in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) is destructive to all. Accepting white essentialism as culturally representable non merely creates a fatal division between assimilated and un- assimilated inkinesss ; it besides kills the spirit of the black adult male.

V. Conclusion

Although the state of affairss and the characters in Lee ‘s Bamboozled ( 2000 ) are all fabricated, and although the manager does non take the medium of documentary to convey his of import messages, he manages to successfully retrace blackface minstrelsy. African Americans have been freed, but merely physically. There has been neither a consistent effort to do up for the errors of humanity of the past nor to reshape individualities. His statement in Bamboozled ( 2000 ) is that the individuality quandary faced by the characters in the movie are no different from the individuality issues faced by African Americans in post-racial America. Although inkinesss do non happen themselves as being represented in blackface or as victims of blazing segregation any longer, they are nevertheless ever reminded of their inkiness, and of what it implies to be a black in America. Whether Lee is truly successful in deconstructing stereotypes by leveling the false normativity and by fring white authorization remains extremely problematic. On the one side, his usage of sarcasm and his battle with the history of racism and representation impact to a great extent on the audience. However, the thwarting stoping of Bamboozled ( 2000 ) , every bit good as the inter- cultural struggle between the revolutionist and the assimilated inkinesss, display a contaminating and intense sense of weakness and hopelessness in respects to humanity ‘s opportunities to of all time acquire rid of the head covering which separates White persons and Blacks in America, every bit good as in any other parts of the universe. Lee ‘s message, nevertheless, sing his function as an auteur, seems to reflect Du Bois ‘s words that the black adult male must non “ decolor his psyche in a inundation of white Americanism, for he knows that [ his ] blood has a message for the universe. ”[ 30 ]


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