Critical Approaches to Film Representations of Race This lesson is based around the article by Stam& Spence 1983
Twilight films 'foster unhealthy attitudes about relationships' 'She falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over,‘ (Shailene Woodley)
#6. Everyone in Africa Is Uncivilized or a Warlord America Australia Africa
‘The opening of Casino Royale introduces us to Africa with the image of a bunch of black guys betting on a fight between a mongoose and a snake.’
Key Reading for Class Test Can be found on the website This essay featured in Screen magazine in 1983
Stam & Spence (1983) Aims • Looking at race in films • Expanding on existing writings on race • Moving away from purely looking at character • Discussing ‘positive images’ of race – are these racist? • Textual analysis
“Where they cut off your ear / If they don’t like your face / It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.”
Colonialism: • Refers to process by which European powers (including US) reached position of economic, military, political and cultural domination in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America. • Reached its peak between 1900 and end of WW1 • Europe had colonised roughly 85% of the earth! • All began to break up after the disintegration of the European colonial empires after WW2
Third World: • refers to historical victims of this process. The colonised, neo-colonised or de - colonised nations of the world. Whose economic and political structures have been shaped and deformed within the colonial process.
Racism • Product of colonisation process. • Victims of racism are those whose identity was forged within the colonial process: • E.G. Blacks in US • Asians & West Indians in Great Britain • Arab workers in France • All of these share an oppressive situation and status of second class citizens
Albert Memmi (1968) • American Indians: Beasts and cannibals (when white Europeans slaughtering them and gaining their land) • Blacks: lazy (because they were being exploited as slaves) • Mexicans: caricatured as ‘greasers’ and ‘bandidos’ (US had seized half their territory) Stereotypes like these come from the colonisers
Early uses of stereotypes in cinema • Lazy Mexicans • Shifty Arabs • Savage Africans • Exotic Asians • Mexican ‘greasers’ • Slavery idealised and slaves degraded in Birth of a Nation (1915) • Safari films: present Africa as land of lions in the jungle. Only tiny proportion of African land mass could be called jungle and lions live in grasslands. ‘Flawed way the Third World is depicted in films in Hollywood’
Birth of a Nation used as Recruiting tool for KKK
Absence of oppressed groups History of the oppressed not always shown in movies
Language of colonised not always accurate • ‘often reduced to an incomprehensible jumble of background murmurs’
Positive Images (KEY POINT!) • ‘A cinema dominated by positive images, characterised by a bending over backwards not to be racist attitude, might ultimately betray a lack of confidence in the group portrayed, which usually itself has no illusions concerning its own perfection’
A black slave is torn apart by dogs as a crowd of white overseers savours the sight and a black bounty hunter watches passively behind shades. A black father makes his little girl crack open a crab with her bare hands then flex her tiny muscles like a pint-size N.F.L. line backer. A black pilot snorts a line of cocaine after a night of debauchery and, just a few minutes before lift off, knocks back several miniature bottles of alcohol. A black woman tells President Lincoln that God will guide him as he pushes legislation that will end slavery but not dent notions of white supremacy.
Stereotypes • Can be useful to determine prejudice on screen • Danger of over – focus on characters • Should take culture into account; are stereotypes of races same for all countries?
‘Codes & Counter Strategies’ • When analysing characters you should also think about: • composition of image • framing • scale • on and off screen sound • music • questions of plot and character
The scale of the image of character and duration are related to the respect afforded a character and potential for audience sympathy, understanding and identification.
Which characters are afforded close-ups? • What cinematic strategies are used to gain a connection between spectator and characters on screen? • Which are relegated to the background? • Does a character look and act or merely appear to be looked at and acted upon? • With whom is the audience permitted intimacy? • If there is off screen commentary or dialogue, what is its relation to the image?
Discuss A comprehensive methodology must pay attention to the mediations which intervene between ‘reality’ and representation. Its emphasis should be on narrative structure, genre conventions, and cinematic style rather than on perfect correctness of representation or fidelity to an original ‘real’ model or prototype. We must beware of mistakes in which the criteria appropriate to one genre are applied to another.
Links • http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/are-these-disney-movies-racist • http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/movies/awardsseason/black-characters-are-still-too-good-too-bad-or-invisible.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0