Race

April 20th, 2010

Hooks discusses what it was like growing up as a black female (or I am assuming because Bell Hooks is an ambiguous name). It is interesting that she discusses that in her segregated town, if you did not work in a white area, you only knew about the white dress, acts, thoughts and ideology from the television screen. However, if we look at how that is being perceived nowadays, we mostly see white males perceived as the bread-winners, and black males perceived as tough gangsters. Even though people do not live in segregated areas, what subliminal messages are we sending to people? In the film Crash, which is all about the issues of race, it finally brings up the fact that in films, we judge people by their race because we are so used to doing so, while it is not normally the case. And society still has a stereotype issue, which I think comes from the media that has the most influence on people, film and television.

One the other hand, Dyer discusses that although whiteness is always perceived as the dominant race, if we take a better look, it is really about emptiness and denial. Take a classic ‘perfect family’ that is often portrayed on films: dad, mom, brother and sister, all white, of course. Dad is the bread-winner, Mom is a stay-at-home-mom and the children act as any child would. However, it looks good from the outside, but there are always problems; children rebel, affairs, bankruptcy… And we see this is almost every film that has a family in it. I am sitting here and I can not think of a film where there is no emptiness involved in the family. Anybody come up with any?

In Diawara’s article, he discusses that the idea of the ‘black spectator’ is equal to that of the ‘resisting spectator’. He says that the black character is there to remind the audience that the white characters are higher and of more importance. In the example he brings with 48HRS, Eddie Murphy is there to make Nick Nolte look more educated and a better character. But what about Pulp Fiction, specifically the story line of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta. Jackson and Travolta play partners out on a mission. While they are very similar to a cop partnership, instead they go around killing people. Nevertheless, while in most cases when partners of different races are paired together on a scene, the white person is the dominant. But in Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson is the one with his head on his shoulders and quoting the Bible, seemingly being the more educated and dominant one. Travolta even ¬†follows what Jackson tells him to do.

While reading Fanon’s excerpt from Black Skin, White Masks, I did not understand why we were reading this in a Film Theory class. He states that in every film he watches, he sees himself. He connects himself to the black man on the screen. But I dont get what this has to do with Film Theory.

Any answers?

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9 Responses to “Race”

  1. saramungiguerra on April 20, 2010 10:37 pm

    The example that you used about Pulp Fiction is spot on. I was also thinking about a combination like the Lethal Weapon movies with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, but in a sense, I think that Mel Gibson seems to still be the dominant of the two.
    And your right – society does have a stereotype issue, but I don’t think that only comes from films. I think that the way people are raised has a lot to do with it as well.

  2. Amy Herzog on April 20, 2010 11:42 pm

    I think the Pulp Fiction example is really interesting, too. My theory is that Tarantino is very aware of these stereotypes and is attempting to upend them by reversing these traditional roles.

    In terms of Fanon, his theories regarding race were hugely influential on the development of critical responses to these kinds of representations in a wide range of fields (literature, political theory, film, etc.). I’m also very interested in the way he talks about LOOKING as key to the politics of oppression. This is something we’ll discuss in terms of gender and race in film. Finally, he talks about how his personal encounters with these kinds of representations FEEL– something we can think about in relation to spectatorship, too.

  3. dcooper101 on April 21, 2010 12:49 am

    Crash is the most overrated film ever. it sucked; but since it won an oscar and is about race everyone is too scared to say so. but I have been an advocate for years against it, the writing and acting sucked…the direction not much better…I hope someone in the class agrees with me here

  4. Amy Herzog on April 28, 2010 12:04 am

    Crash stunk. Completely overrated. There are so many more interesting, challenging films about race.

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