Film And Cultural Representations Essay - Grade One Essays

Film And Cultural Representations Essay

Flory believes Lee’s use of blackface is commentary on how mass art is internalized by audiences and popular culture. That internalization turns into stereotypes and prejudices due to passive acceptance on the part of the viewer. Therefore, only through the use of something as incendiary as blackface, will audiences be jolted out of their passivity and question how other offensive memes have been internalized due to consistent exposure to them (e.g. angry black man/black woman; young black men as hoodlums, drug dealers, or thieves, etc.)  Consistent exposure to such stereotypes renders them dangerously benign.

Epp believes that Lee’s use of blackface is satirical in two ways. While the film uses blackface as literal satire — the proposed centerpiece of a new show, in the hopes of the idea backfiring — Lee is satirizing mainstream media through the examination of and enthusiastic reception of blackface by the audience.

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Laski believes that the desire by (often white) audiences to suppress a discussion of blackface is a retraumatizing event for black persons. The use of minstrel blackface created the original trauma; the denial of the discussion of blackface suppresses trauma. By insisting upon a discussion of blackface in a public forum, Lee allows black persons (and society) to process the trauma of historical caricatures. In effect, having to confront blackface is an effort to heal the trauma it causes.


Aristotle Joseph says this to Seymour. Seymour has left the res, lives in an urban area, and is a successful writer. Aristotle suggests that Seymour is a sell-out who performs his native cultural identity and sells work that gratifies white people who long for encounters with their own romanticized fantasies of native cultures.


They promote European standards of beauty and reinforce the psychology that “black is ugly.” They suggest that African Americans are inherently savage and uncivilized. They function to maintain strict correlations between race and class and maintain a status quo that skews the balance of power in favor of whites.


Both films create historical characters to illustrate the realities women of color faced in their respective industries. In Illusions, Esther Jeeter is an African American actress who gives voice to a white actress Mignon Dupree, without receiving credit for her work. As the film progresses, it becomes evident that Dupree herself is African American, but passing for white in 1940s Hollywood. In The Watermelon Woman, Fae Edwards is the central character in a documentary the protagonist hopes to make. Edwards became famous for playing caricatures of black women in 1930s cinema. In her research, Cheryl finds that Fae was also rumored to be a lesbian and in a relationship with a white director. Cheryl is able to find Fae’s real-life partner, June, who wants Cheryl to be the one to tell their story; she is angry that Fae’s life and history to this point have been defined by her association with Martha Page and, by extension, defined by the hegemony.


The authors cite several different approaches in their article. Including but not limited to: the vinegar approach and the honey approach. The former is characterized by vocal protests and the like, whereas the latter is based on praising the industry when it does include richer depictions of race and ethnicity and working with industry representatives who are more open-minded in an effort to wield more influence. The threat of channel boycotts was also a strategy as were research and publishing reports (pp. 166-167).


In Reel Injun, Diamond argues that most cinematic representations of Native Americans are based on The Plains Indians regardless of which tribe they purport to represent. He points to the prevalence of feather headdresses and eating buffalo as two examples.

Post test #2

  1. According to Ethnic Notions, what is “the black Rambo” and how is it a callback to earlier racial stereotypes? 
  2. In Reel Injun, Neil Diamond visits a Native American-themed summer camp for boys. Discuss the significance of this visit relative to the film’s thesis.
  3. Select one of the categories of racial stereotypes in Ethnic Notions and explain its origins and impact. 
  4. According to Downing and Husband, what was the nature of the relationship between the commercial television industry and advocacy groups seeking to improve representations of race and ethnicity from 1992-2001 and how did it impact representation of race and ethnicity on television? 
  5. Select a scene from The Business of Fancydancing that exemplifies how one of the characters struggles with conflicting identities and discuss what it means for them to always feel like an outsider in any of their groups. Use specific examples from the scene and relate them to the context of the film as a whole.
  6. Compare and contrast Birth of a Nation to Within Our Gates.
  7. Discuss Dunye’s quasi-documentarial technique in The Watermelon Woman. What are some examples of the types of media she employs? Why do you think she uses these different types of media in her film and to what end? 
  8. Explain why Delacroix, the protagonist of Bamboozled, is surprised when Dunwitty decides to air Mantan and discuss how this fictional production relates to Spike Lee’s critique of American mass media. 
  9. What is Victoria Piehowski’s critique of Bamboozled? 
  10. What kinds of films about African Americans does Julie Dash say she would like to see and why?
  11. How and why is the question of invisibility raised by the films Illusions and The Watermelon Woman? How does this question relate to the broader themes of race and representation (or mis-representation)?

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