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Lecture 9: Assimilating Blackness Through Love and Friendship

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1 Lecture 9: Assimilating Blackness Through Love and Friendship
The Defiant Ones (1958) Directed by Stanley Kramer Professor Michael Green

2 Previous Lecture The Representation of Native Americans in Hollywood Film John Ford and The Searchers “The Multicultural Dynamics of John Ford’s Westerns” Writing About Film

3 This Lecture Racial Projects and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Sidney Poitier and Supertoms Interracial Buddy Films and The Defiant Ones Writing About Film

4 Racial Projects and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Directed by Stanley Kramer Lecture 9: Part I

5 Term: Object Relations
Mental templates of our relations with others. “… the white self exists as an object relation, a type of relationship, a fictional construction that once disseminated in the minds of individuals guarantees that both the white person and the racial other are perceived without reference to the true basis of the relationship between the two. In other words, their relationship is misrecognized. – Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” 5 5

6 Term: Sincere Fictions
A construct held to be natural rather than ideological. “Sincere fictions construct a persistent, exalted white self-image as powerful, brave, cordial, kind, firm, and generous, a natural- born leader worthy to be respected and followed by those of other races.  These fictions also include debased or fantastic images of racial others that have become templates in the mind for people in the United States and around the world.”  –Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project” 6 6

7 Term: Racial Project A socio-political movement that attempts to rearticulate the meaning of race. “Basing their definition of “project” in the work of existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, the authors argue that: “The project of white racism is to make a non-racist world impossible in the future; it aims above all to perpetuate white privilege and its products.” –Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” 7 7

8 Stanley Kramer Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was directed by Stanley Kramer, a director famous for making social problem films (films that contain a social project). His films as a director include The Defiant Ones (1958), On the Beach (1959), Inherit the Wind (1960), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and Ship of Fools (1965). He produced Home of the Brave (1949) and A Child is Waiting (1963), among others. 8 8

9 The Historical Context of “Guess”
The film came out in 1967, at the height of the Civil Rights movement (a racial project). At the time interracial marriage was still illegal in many states; the first interracial marriage in film was One Potato, Two Potato in 1964. Though the movie is set in San Francisco, a site of social radicalism in 1967, it avoids the militant movements, rioting, urban unrest and momentous change that characterized America at the time. 9 9

10 “Guess’s” Surface Project
On the surface, the project of the film is anti- racist. Ostensibly, the narrative centers on the tension between bigotry and racial tolerance. The movie: Tackles the taboo of interracial romance. Preaches tolerance, equality and reconciliation between the races. Ends with love conquering all. Watch clip #1 from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. 10 10

11 The Film’s Racial Project
Though the film is nominally about racial tolerance, many have argued that it’s real subject is a crisis in white patriarchy. As the crusading liberal whose tolerance is tested in his own home, Drayton (Spencer Tracy) is the target of the film’s comedy. The movie ends reaffirming white wisdom and tolerance, with the white patriarch nobly adapting to changing times. Watch clip #2 from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. 11 11

12 Generational Reconciliation
The movie uses the “Generation Gap” that existed in 1960s America to create a theme of generational reconciliation that is as central as the message of racial tolerance. In 1967, the charged issue of interracial marriage could not be confronted head on in a Hollywood film. Miscegenation is displaced in the film onto generational difference; for example, we never really see the engaged couple kiss. 12 12

13 Displacing Racism A major device in the film to make the Draytons appear anti-racist is to displace the racism onto the black characters. These include the Drayton’s maid Tillie and Dr. Prentice’s father, who subscribes to what the film considers outdated segregationist ideas. Many critics have referred to the views held by these characters to be a “gross distortion of black attitudes.” 13 13

14 Watch clip #3 from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Slow Change “As James Baldwin says, “In Birth of a Nation, the loyal nigger maid informs the nigger congressman that she don’t like niggers who set themselves up above their station. When our black wonder doctor hits San Francisco, some fifty-odd years later, he encounters exactly the same maid, who tells him exactly the same thing.” –Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” Watch clip #3 from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 14 14

15 Final Point “If we accept that Mr. Drayton is the true protagonist of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and not Dr. Prentice, and that the project of the film is to ennoble the embattled white liberal self, then Dr. Prentice and all the black characters in the film are sincere fictions, constructed according to templates in the white mind.” –Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” 15 15

16 Sidney Poitier and Supertoms
In the Heat of the Night (1967) Directed by Norman Jewison Lecture 9: Part II

17 Sidney Poitier Poitier was the leading black male actor in America in the 1960s – and virtually the only one. He symbolized in Hollywood films of the 1950s and 1960s the rising young American black man. Poitier was the key to the commercial success of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner because he was well recognized and acceptable to the white audience. 17 17

18 Career Poitier had a number of prominent roles in successful films in the 1950 and ‘60s. His films included The Blackboard Jungle (1955), The Defiant Ones (1958), A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Lilies of the Field (1963), To Sir, with Love (1967) and In the Heat of the Night (1967). He was the first African American to win the Best Actor Oscar (for Lilies of the Field). 18 18

19 Donald Bogle Important black writer and scholar on African Americans in film and television. He wrote Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in Films in 1973 that’s become a standard race and film studies text. He updated it in 1989, but didn’t have to change much, as the stereotypes had not changed much.

20 Uncle Tom Bogle identifies Uncle Tom in Edwin Porter’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903) as the first in a long line of socially acceptable “Good Negro” characters.

21 The Tom Stereotype “Always as toms are chased, harassed, hounded, flogged, enslaved, and insulted, they keep the faith, n’er turn against their white massas, and remain hearty, submissive, stoic, generous, selfless, and oh-so-very kind. Thus they endear themselves to white audiences and emerge as heroes of sorts.” –Donald Bogle, “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in Films ” 21 21

22 Poitier as Supertom in “Guess”
“As an object created to satisfy the needs of the white self, Dr. Prentice must fulfill contradictory needs: he must be super- accomplished and supremely confident to enter the white world as an equal, yet simultaneously humble so as not to offend that white world. Dr. Prentice is a reincarnation of a figure who has long existed in the white imagination: the tom, here re-imagined as a “supertom.” –Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project”

23 A Superhero's Credentials
“The film implies that “a black man has to have a superhero’s credentials in order to marry a white woman with no credentials. Blacks are allowed to bridge the ultimate social barrier of intermarriage and to be accepted as equals in the white world as long as they are superheroes played by superstars like Sidney Poitier. The film really emphasizes how narrow the field of possibility is for black Americans.” Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

24 Bogle on Sidney Poitier as Tom
“When insulted or badgered, the Poitier character stood by and took it. He knew the white world meant him no real harm. He differed from the old servants only in that he was governed by a code of decency, duty, and moral intelligence. There were times in his films when he screamed out in rage at the injustices of a racist white society. But reason always dictated his actions, along with love for his fellow man.” Donald Bogle, “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in Films ”

25 Black and White Buddy Films and The Defiant Ones
Directed by Stanley Kramer Lecture 9: Part III

26 Interracial Buddy Films
The Interracial Buddy Film Classics: The Defiant Ones (1958); In the Heat of the Night (1967) Contemporary: 48 Hours (1982); Lethal Weapon series ( ); White Men Can’t Jump (1992); Men in Black (1997); Rush Hour (1998); The Green Mile (2000), Shanghai Noon Thesis: interracial buddy films function as white male self-definition; white male is “ideological chaperone.”

27 An American Storytelling Tradition
“The story of the white man whose best friend is a man of another color is a sincere fiction deeply embedded from the beginning in the white American imagination The dream of interracial male comradeship goes back to nineteenth-century American literature and the works of James Fennimore Cooper, Herman Melville and Mark Twain and continues in 20th century popular culture duos such as the Lone Ranger and Tonto.” Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project”

28 Feminist Thesis “Feminist critics argue that this interracial male bonding excludes women, both white and black, and represents white male liberal fantasies. The films express only ‘the white masculine’s quest for self- definition’ because the black male buddy ‘is offered, in the end, no narrative, theoretical, or social release.’ Such films ‘project the black male masculinity imagined by white male liberals in search of perfect partners.” Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project”

29 Pause the lecture and Watch the clip from The Defiant Ones.
The movie was directed by Stanley Kramer (1958) in the historical context of a burgeoning U.S. Civil Rights Movement, including the Brown vs. Board of Education and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. It is a Social Problem film, made palatable to audience partially because of the stars. Kramer wanted to stress the idea that humans have basically the same nature. Pause the lecture and Watch the clip from The Defiant Ones.

30 Recurring Image: The Pietà
“In the final scene, Cullen sits on the ground beneath a tree, holding the wounded Joker in his arms, in a scene critics have compared to a pieta. This pieta image is repeated 31 years later, at the end of Lethal Weapon 2 (1980), in which Murtaugh (Danny Glover) cradles his wounded white partner Riggs (Mel Gibson) It seems to suggest a fantasized mutual sacrifice that units the races: the white Christ figure needs a black male Virgin Mary to comfort him.” Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project”

31 Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project”
Homoeroticism “In all the black-white buddy movies under consideration, the sexual tension is channeled away from heterosexual relationships and into the sadomasochistic, Homosocial relationship between the buddies.” Hernán Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Racism as a Project” ho·mo·e·rot·ic - Of or concerning homosexual love and desire. Tending to arouse such desire. .” Dictionary.Com

32 Male Pastoral Buddy films contain the male pastoral, “…an interracial romance that focuses almost entirely on the two men.” Women often try to get in the way of the relationship, as is the case in The Defiant Ones and wives play minor roles. pas·tor·al - Charmingly simple and serene; idyllic. See Synonyms at rural. Of, relating to, or being a literary or other artistic work that portrays or evokes rural life, usually in an idealized way. Dictionary.Com

33 Male Pastoral (Continued)
These films emphasize the “idyllic relationship” of the men through such devices as sentimental music, slow-motion photography, and endings that reveal “true” friendship in a way that allows the white male to remain heroic, open, but vulnerable. Pause the lecture and Watch the clips from Lethal Weapon 2

34 Buddy Parody: Blazing Saddles
Blazing Saddles, is a parody of the Interracial Buddy Film and the Western that mocks race and gender conventions in each genre. The movie is about Jews and blacks banding together to spoof the white self by mocking Hollywood westerns and rewriting Western history. Pause the lecture and Watch the clip from Blazing Saddles

35 Review of Points The Interracial Buddy film starts with The Defiant Ones (1958) in the context of Civil Rights demonstrations and protests. There is a clear template, or pattern, to these films: The Pietà Homoeroticism Male Pastoral

36 Writing About Film: Tips and Suggestions Part II
Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) Directed by Richard Donner Lecture 9: Part IV

37 Summary: Tips and Suggestions I
Whenever you critically engage specific topics and terms, you must provide definition and context In critical film writing, understand the difference between plot and representation. Every section in your paper must reiterate your thesis Keep it to one topic per paragraph. Stick to the film to be analyzed.

38 Plot Summary Do not include more than a few lines of plot summary in your paper. While it is necessary to set the context of the scene or scenes you will be analyzing – “in the scene in which Murtaugh cradles Riggs in his arms . . .” – you need no more than a few sentences to do this. If you must summarize the film’s entire plot, do so briefly high in your paper – just below the introduction.

39 Avoid Opinion In a critical paper, don’t include opinionated language.  In other words, keep evaluations of the movie out of your paper!  Don’t write, “The Defiant Ones is a fantastic film, one of the best about racism that there is, which really made me feel the power of hate in the world!” This is opinion; it does not advance your argument; nothing concrete backs it up. 

40 Revision The revision process is fundamental to the writing process.
No first draft is a good draft! Or at least, it’s not as good as it could be. Revising is more than looking at grammar, punctuation and formatting errors – although that is important! It is most crucially about streamlining and enhancing ideas and arguments to make them strong, clear, organized, convincing. .

41 Questions to Ask of Your Paper During the Revision Process
Read over your essay thoroughly several times after you’ve written a draft. Does it: Follow the assignment guidelines? Present a clear argument that is easily located in the intro. and woven through each section? Use sufficient evidence and analysis to persuasively support your thesis? Develop all critical points to their logical conclusion?

42 Copy Editing Of course the details matter too: proof read for correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and paper formatting. Double check all information related to your films – names of actors and filmmakers, production information, box office, year of release etc. The titles of movies are always in italics followed by the year and the director. The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola .

43 Get Help! For even better results, have someone else – a friend, a family member, a writing tutor, a teaching assistant or an instructor – read over your essay. Before turning in your essay, make sure you have included all required information including title, author name, due date, page numbers, correct bibliographic citations and the bibliography itself.

44 A Few Last Points Your paper should demonstrate depth, not breadth. Analyze a few examples in detail. Especially in a short paper, don’t try to take on the whole film. Always be specific. Stay away from vague generalizations such as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was a great film that showed many great things about racism.” Write on a topic you care about or have interest in – it will be a lot more enjoyable!

45 Next Lecture: Black “Hero” and “White” Money
End of Lecture 9 Next Lecture: Black “Hero” and “White” Money

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