African Americans and Film
In an excerpt titled, Historical Overview of African Americans on Film: Challenges to Racial Ideology, Vincent Rocchio states, “To attain visual and multicultural literacy, therefore, students must do more than identify repeated imagery imposed on specific racial groups; they also need to learn how films perpetuate the ideology of racial difference by insisting that there is an inherent, natural, and unchanging way to be African American”. I think this is absolutely wonderful and true. As film students, we not only should identify with different racial groups, but also recognize and promote the fact that race is something that cannot be changed. Skin color is not something that anyone can change (not even Michael Jackson)! In early films, African Americans were been horribly scrutinized. Films such as A Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith depicts scenes where white Klu Klux Klan members enact their ideas of racial hierarchy and so-called justice. Though in this time period, context was correct and films like this were not unheard of. These films depicted how racial prejudice was treated in these times. I like to think of historic films like A Birth of a Nation of time capsules because in the current time period, films are very different.
I’d like to think that African Americans are better represented in films in this day and age. Black actors like Will Smith and Morgan Freeman are highly respected in the film industry. Films like Men in Black, Pursuit of Happiness, I Am Legend, Evan Almighty, The Shawshank Redemption, etc. feature Smith and Freeman as strong lead characters. Even in Evan Almighty, Freeman acts as God. To make God portrayed as a black man in a film…how controversial!
African Americans in film back in the day were definitely very different than now. African Americans were never in film, and when they were, they were represented terribly and as slaves. This time capsule is ever-changing. I think Hollywood has done a great job in changing this and allowing African Americans to take lead roles in films now-a-days. I do however, wish there was more African Americans, as well as other races, in films more often. But, wishing isn’t always enough…and that’s why I am a film student. Time to make a difference in this industry.
Making Whiteness Visible
Tim Wise - White Privilege
Being a person with white skin, I had never put much thought into the hierarchical system that is placed in our society based on skin color. Yes, of course, I had learned about racism in school and other things like Black History Month, but after watching Tim Wise’s speech on white privilege and reading “White Privilege Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, I had really started to think about how this information was presented to me. All through school, children are taught about the history of racism, disadvantages of people of color and how differences based on skin color still carries on today. But I never realized that we, as white Americans, are taught that other races should be brought up the ladder of this hierarchical system and made equal to us. This is true, but the thing is, that we are never taught that we are at the advantage and maybe we should stoop down to be equal to everyone else. McIntosh brings up a good point which really struck me, “whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow ‘them’ to be more like ‘us’”. I didn’t think that racism affected me because I wasn’t a person of color. I didn’t realize that things do affect me because I am at an advantage. Things from skin-colored bandages to the feeling of safety in a white neighborhood are factors that come easily and are often overlooked. This new perspective really impacted me and will allow me to think differently about our society and how we view the colors of hierarchy.
Women and Film
When analyzing the roles of women in film and the media through various articles and the film Miss Representation, I’ve found that women’s roles in film and in the media have always been different than men’s. Women are usually the secondary character in a film; second to the man. The main character is almost always a male dynamic character and the female is usually the spouse of the main character or the femme fetal character that the male is after. The female character is always portrayed as the sexy woman that every male wants. She is always dressed in revealing clothing and tons of makeup. Women hired generally have to be young in age, have sex appeal or need Botox to stay in a role when aging. When a female is hired for a lead role, usually it is in a genre called a ‘chick flick’. A ‘chick flick’ is characterized by a female lead that is missing out on love. She spends the entire film looking for marriage, a man, love, etc. So even when a film has the woman main character, the film still revolves around the idea of needing or wanting a man. In film, you rarely see a strong dynamic female lead that grows stronger without the need or help of a man.
Women’s roles in media don’t stray too far from the ideas of women in film. Recently more and more women have been appearing as news anchors and television hosts, which is definitely a good thing, but women are still constituted to their looks. I often notice that women will have piles of makeup on, wear low cut shirts, high wasted skirts and heels. This idea of sex appeal, it seems, is more important than what they are actually broadcasting.
I’d say, though, that women’s roles are definitely improving. Women have been given some dynamic roles in recent films such as Hermione in the Harry Potter series or Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series. Also in media some females have taken on a lot of power without the idea of sex appeal such as: Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfree and Ellen Degenerous. It was mentioned in Women, Film, Resistance: Changing Paradigms that “The changes in the relation of women in film over the past three decades are such that many no longer consider it necessary to single out female artists for special consideration”. The future of women’s roles in film and media are improving and have a positive outlook. Let’s hope for the best ladies!
most adorable little pup. ever.