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Lesson 13: Race in Film Professor Aaron Baker. 2 Previous Lecture Hollywood and Gender Equality Film Representations of Women and Men Gender in Gas, Food,

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Presentation on theme: "Lesson 13: Race in Film Professor Aaron Baker. 2 Previous Lecture Hollywood and Gender Equality Film Representations of Women and Men Gender in Gas, Food,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Lesson 13: Race in Film Professor Aaron Baker

2 2 Previous Lecture Hollywood and Gender Equality Film Representations of Women and Men Gender in Gas, Food, Lodging (1990)

3 This Lecture Critical Study of Whiteness Hollywood Portrayal of Race African American Cinema Do the Right Thing (1989) 3

4 Part I: Critical Study of Whiteness

5 Richard Dyer on Analysis of Race Much Analysis of Cultural Representation of Race--E.g. in Movies How Disadvantages Black, Brown, Yellow, Red People But Not Enough Attention to How White People Represented

6 The Human Race How are Whites usually represented? As Having No Race—just People The Standard of Humanness

7 How do Whites Justify Position? While Whites “systematically privileged in Western society” (Dyer,White p.9) This racial status quo justified by pointing to individual achievement: –“I earned what I have”

8 Dyer: “ A white person is taught to believe that all that she or he does, good or ill, all that we achieve, is to be accounted for in terms of our individuality. It is intolerable to realize that we may get a job or a nice house, or a helpful response at school or in hospitals, because of our skin colour, not because of the unique, achieving individual we must believe ourselves to be.” p. 9

9 Dangers of Studying Whiteness Excuse to privilege culture of Whites What has always been studied most Not enough if Whites feel guilty about unearned advantage Such guilt makes them feel moral, but what is being done to change it? Make society fair?

10 Christianity Multi-Racial Dyer: “Not arguing that Christianity is of its essence white.... developed initially within Judaism,... one of its foundational thinkers was the North African Augustine,... now most alive in Africa, South America, and the black churches of Europe and North America.” p.16

11 Yet Christianity Helped Define White Superiority Became a world religion from basis in Europe via Crusades Christian Iconography White Embodiment: -Christian idea all people have physical bodies -But White Christians historically assume they have spirit--an intangible advantage

12 Spirit = Soul? Dyer: “It is not the case that non-white peoples were always assumed not to have souls. Indeed many whites... have considered that blacks were more spiritual and had... more soul. It is not [the same] spirituality or soul that is held to distinguish whites,... get up and go, aspiration,... intellectual comprehension.” p.23

13 White Spirit = Intelligence Drive, Ambition (Get Up And Go) Dedication Control Over Sexual Desire Work or Sex?

14 Eldridge Cleaver Dyer: “The ideal white man was one who knew how to use his head, who knew how to manage and control things and get things Done.” p.30

15 American Gangster (2006) Initially, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) demonstrates: –Ambition, discipline –Has business values— hard work, ambition, integrity, good product

16 Downfall As story progresses: –Reveals himself as impulsive, violent –Desire for Latina Wife –Stereotype of Non Whites as Overly Sexual

17 Russell Crowe Starts off undisciplined: affairs, drinks Demonstrates enterprise, discipline Brings Frank Lucas down Restores law and order

18 Whiteness = Law and Order American Gangster winds up endorsing assumption: American ambition, work, discipline, justice depend on White masculinity

19 Part II: African Americans on Film

20 Birth of a Nation (1915 Birth of a Nation (1915) Establishes pattern of Blacks as faithful supporters or vicious opponents of Whites Idea of African American equality shown as absurd Klan = Social Order Please pause to see clip.

21 Race Films African American Filmmakers Black Themes Hollywood Genres (Family Melodrama) Low Budgets White Financing Black Audiences Paul Robeson in Oscar Micheaux’s Body and Soul (1925)

22 Late 1940s-60s: The Civil Rights Years Blacks Role in World War II Hollywood Makes Films About African Americans: -Pinky (1949) – Passing -Home of the Brave (1949)-- Racism in Military -Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)– Interracial Marriage

23 1970s Blaxsploitation Shaft (1971) Black Self Representation Reach Mainstream Audience Racial Stereotypes: Crime, Violence, Sexuality

24 Black Independents Melvin Van Peoples Watermelon Man (1970), Sweet Sweetback (1971) Film School Graduates: Charles Burnett and Julie Dash Precursors to Spike Lee, John Singleton, Gina Prince-Bythewood

25 Reject Hollywood Mark Reid: “This new generation of West Coast filmmakers... rejected the imposed conditions of mainstream American cinema because it limited their artistic and political vision of black life and experience.” p.10

26 To Sleep With Anger (1990) Middle Class LA Family Frank (Danny Glover) Blues Man, Disrupts Their Lives Clip: Religion, Family, Work vs. the Blues Life of Drinking, Sex and Violence Please pause the lecture to view the clip.

27 Julie Dash Daughters of the Dust (1991) Sea Islands, Georgia (1900) Cultural Autonomy Wisdom of Elders Eli/ Wife’s Rape Unborn Daughter Please pause to see clip.

28 Eli’s Choice: Violent Revenge? Eli/ Wife’s Rape Anti-Lynching Law/ Capoeira Unborn Daughter Walks Backward Gifts Ancestors “Those Who Chose to Survive” Child, Indigo Dye

29 NYU Professor, Manthia Diawara: “Most Black filmmakers since Oscar Micheaux have turned first to the independent sector.”

30 Part III: Do the Right Thing

31 Spike Lee First African American Director to Reach Crossover Audience Thematic Emphases: -Racial Relations in America -African American Identity

32 Form in Do the Right Thing Realism and Stylization Handheld Camera, Available Light Direct Address Distanciation/Bertolt Brecht Wide Angle Compositions

33 Allusion Authorship Knowledge of Medium, Taste Films made from social reality and other films Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter (1955)

34 Kellner on Do the Right Thing: Cultural Style and Racial Politics Racial identity defined by style, cultural choices: -Jackie Robinson shirt -Air Jordans -Rap Music/Public Enemy, “Fight the Power” -Sal’s Photos of Italian Americans

35 His Highness Lee’s Nike Commercials for Air Jordan Sneakers Helped Elevate Michael Jordan to Cultural Hero Representatives of African American Style, Culture, Achievement

36 Dr. King and Malcom X Civil Rights Via Civil Disobedience Appeal to Moral Conscience of Whites African American Self Determination Right of Self Defense “By Any Means Necessary”

37 Dr. King and Malcom X Invoked King: Mookie and Da Mayor interact positively with Whites Buggin Out calls for a a boycott of Pizzeria Malcom X: Radio Raheem Resists Sal’s, Pino’s, Police Intimidation Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”

38 Sal’s Pizzeria Rights of Ownership Rights of Consumers Lack of Respect for Cultural Difference Photos of Italian Americans vs. Raheem’s Music

39 Discussion Discussion Questions Does Mookie do the right thing? Does the can through the window protect Sal and Sons? 39

40 End of Lecture Next Lecture: Mexican Film


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