There’s an interesting article in the Boston Phoenix about Hollywood movie racial stereotyping in the Age Of Obama. Was this a landmark year for films about race? Or in reality the worst?
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This article was printed from http://www.deadline.com/2010/01/movie-racial-stereotyping-in-age-of-obama/
Interesting Article? I’m African-American, I work in Hollywood and I was born and raised in a neighborhood much like the one depicted in “Precious.” The life Precious leads still very much exists in certain parts of America. “Precious” is a black film made by a black director and just because a few black intellectuals would desperately like to forget about the black underclass doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Precious devours a bucket of chicken, not because black people love chicken, but she doesn’t know any better. Poor nutrition is a by product of poverty. Armond White and Courtland Milloy (said intellectuals) would be more than happy if you never see images of black people like those in “Precious” ever again. As if erasing these images in our current culture will have a trickle-down effect on real life.
Additionally, the story of Michael Oher as told in “The Blind Side” is true. Yes it’s been cinematically glossed up but it’s true nonetheless. How is this stereotyping? Is the writer of the article (who is white) trying to suggest that Mr. Oher was too dumb (when he sold his story) to recognize that they’d make a stereotype out of him? Now whose stereotyping?
Black actors still struggle but these few roles aren’t the only roles they play in Hollywood. A more interesting story would have been about the struggle of black directors, writers, composers and editors. But I imagine Mr. Keough doesn’t really have much actual insight into Hollywood so that article would have been a lot tougher to write.
White & Milloy are taking films a little too personally. “Precious” is a work of art, as is “Fish Tank.” Many of us can relate to those stories. By the way, I eat fried chicken often – a great dish. Most directors, writers, composers and editors struggle – perhaps a key for survival is to amass a consortium of talent committed to working together thus establishing a power base to make films on a continuing basis.
Wow. That article hurt my head. 10 things I could say about it, but I will whittle it down to one. The author needs to become more familiar with film and TV production schedule and turnaround. God, the premise of the whole article is just plain stupid. All the sources were pre-Obama, dummie. Whatever. Much ado about nothing. IMHO.
I thought the article was a PC dogmatic jeremiad. The Black family *IS* in collapse (with Whites following after). About 90% of all Black births in the urban core are illegitimate, nationwide it is 70%. [For Whites, the figure is about 20% for the Middle Class and about 40% for the Working Class. Compared to a figure of 34% for Blacks in the early 1960's and about 4% for Whites overall.] The Black urban core family IS pretty much a combination of PRECIOUS and the BLIND SIDE. PC lecturing won’t make the facts go away.
Second, the actual track record of Black political leaders is appalling. Jacob Zuma, the current South African President, like his predecessor (Thabo Mbeki) believes AIDS is caused by “spores” and “cured” by sex with virgins. He has recently married his fifth polygamous wife, and espouses Zulu tribalism. This is why South Africa is a mess, with massive crime waves, ethnic cleansing of Whites and Indians, power failures a daily occurrence, and massive poverty HIGHER than under Apartheid. In the US, David Dinkins, David Patterson, Deval Patrick, and Barack Obama all seem to be joined in failure, to achieve anything other than “first Black” elected to a position. Obama HAS created a prosecution of the CIA for waterboarding the 9/11 Architect (Khalid Sheik Mohammed) and got CYA as a predictable result, with ordinary citizens the last and ONLY line of defense against terrorism. Obama predictably HAS been weak on terrorism. He HAS consistently offered “negotiations” and nothing else to enemies. He HAS apologized constantly for America overseas, and bowed to foreign kings.
Obama himself is not culturally American, being raised a Muslim in anti-American Indonesia as a boy and anti-White Hawaii (where Whites are a minority) as a boy. Hawaii even has “beat up Haole (Whitey)” day. Of course the guy has zilch understanding of the White majority middle class, is culturally tone-deaf, and movies are reflecting that.
This is a White majority nation — anywhere from 76% to 66% by the US Census Bureau (depending on how you count White-Hispanic, guys like say, Mark Sanchez of the Jets). Just as Mexicans are not interested in anything besides movies made in Spanish by Mexicans for Mexicans about Mexicans, Whites are interested in stories about Whites. This is why the “Magical Negro” (to nab Spike Lee’s essay) exists: he’s just there to show the enlightened sensibility and moral superiority of the White lead. Black characters are just props, not real people with desires and motivations of their own.
Whites are not really interested in Black stories (see the failure of the Princess and the Frog at the box office) because people are hard-wired to want stories about themselves or those who look like distant kin. Blacks are about 12.5% of the population and vastly over-represented as it is (Hispanics vastly under-represented in TV/Movies, but for understandable reasons, i.e. they just don’t watch stuff in English about Whites). Precious hasn’t really set records at the Box Office — Whites find it depressing, and a mirror to their own future culturally, as single motherhood and defacto matriarchy makes its way into the wider White culture.
I would agree that the Blind Side was condescending, but that is inevitable for a movie aimed at a White Audience. It does suck for talented Black actors, writers, and directors, but the reality is that this is a White Majority nation (it is the reverse of South Africa) and the path for success is doing stuff (Spike Lee was a good director for “Inside Man”) that appeals to that audience.
Finally, you cannot call the multicultural bullet back. Obama and others have consistently defined Americans according to racial identity, and with special cultural, political, and legal privileges or lack (see the Prof Gates incident) depending on which race a man or woman is, and where that identity sits in the multicultural caste system. That’s judgment by color of skin (or group identity) not content of character. Regardless, it cannot be called back and increases polarization. This is predictably true as the stakes are raised in a recession that seems destined to last for years. Movies (and TV) reflect this.
Your assertion that box office is determined solely by the skin color of the characters is undercut by your previous extolling of South African apartheid.
I’m sure the people of Hawaii would take exception to your characterization of their state as “anti-White”. I guess your America only has 49 states, huh?
What a bunch of crap!
The abuse of statistics in the first paragraph is appalling. By your own estimate the rate of illegitimacy in the white sector is five to ten times while that in the black sector has roughly tripled. Factor in the disparity of the population and then tell us ‘where’s the problem.’
As for the track record of black political leaders, you fail to mention the record of Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali (his refutation of the Vietnam War was an incredibly courageous act), Michael Jackson ( destroyed the racial barriers in the music industry), Rosa Parks, many others. These courageous leaders used their personal charisma and instincts to institute change when conventional political power was denied them.
Your isolation of South Africa is absurd. That country has always been a mess.
Your comments about Obama are absurd. School is still out considering the mess he inherited.
Your comments about Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and movies are ridiculous. Will Smith is the biggest star in Hollywood and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG grossed $100,000,000 .
Your post sounds like something the unibomber would write. It appears accurate and intelligent but scratch the surface and you see the same old racist bullshit that has infected America for its history.
Basiclly the gist of everythign here is that only NERDS ARE WORTH ANYTHING. We’re not usually racist or demeaning or detrimental to our neighborhoods.
It is true that the core urban black family is doomed but not because of racism, because of outsourcing. How does that work you wonder. Americans want the highest salaries but have the lowest average test scores so jobs are going to where college is a good thing and the c itizens have embraced the Service Oriented Economy.
Microsoft HAS TO keep H1B visas going because the white boys and black boys are too busy trying to be the BMOC to women – who are actually going to college and doing the right thing.
It’s really pathetic. I don’t identify with my neighborhood my neighborhod has to identify with me.
Whiskey the fool trying to justify his own racism again. As an African American I have enjoyed movies and TV about people who didn’t look like me my whole life (Cheers, Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Scorsese, Kurosawa, John Woo) and so have all African Americans and non-Whites in this country. If White people can’t do the same, it’s not because they are “hard wired” not to. It’s because they are racist. Why don’t you just admit that about yourself Whiskey instead of these pathetic, right wing attempts to legitimize hate, with your inaccurate, bogus statistics and bigoted rationalizations that don’t intersect with reality. I see now that you’re trying to toss in Hispanic/Whites after posting false census statistics on these boards for so long. It won’t work. Whites are not 76% of the population, they are 66% or 67% and dropping.
Your “White Majority” will soon be a thing of the past, Dittohead. And I lived in Hawaii as a kid and saw white Army brats beating up on the native kids all the time. Now go back to watching Glenn Beck and the 700 Club.
Mark Sanchez hits it on the head when taking a crack at the census. A friend of mine who is Mexican says his birth certificate labels him as white. Also, an Egyptian friend of mine says the same. Not to mention my Jewish friends who identify as white, when they’re no less Middle Eastern than Arabs. See, there’s power in numbers. Historically, there has been a vested interest in portraying the melting pot as otherwise.
I appreciate the points of view expressed here. I don’t have time to address them point by point, but many of the comments are simplistic. To state that people are hard-wired to want to see films starring people of their own racial identity takes no account of the many films/tv shows, starring non-whites, that have been successful. And we all know there is a direct relationship between marketing dollars spent and box office success. But this sort of low-grade thinking, based on haphazard assumptions, is what perpetuates the circumstances that make it harder for non-whites to succeed.
As a non-white, I appreciate the singular, steep incline that I must face, as I climb to the top. It makes my material stronger. All I can do is create the best possible material and hope that people are interested in not white material or blue material, but good material.
Thank you for being nothing if not predictable.
The white supremacist oligarchy you continuously attempt to romaticize is dead.
Long live the true, diverse, fair United States of America!
Wow! you are very smart, but yet, still pretty dumb.
Also, in Texas Monthly, there is an article about the subtle racism of “The Blind Side”
The article was very astute, especially regarding The Blind Side, a movie I found insufferably racist. And don’t tell me it’s a true story. It’s not a documentary. Directors and writers can take all kinds of liberties with based-on-a-true-story films and how they present them, stereotyping being just one of those liberties. Couldn’t they have made Michael Oher a fully developed person instead of a docile pet?
Can we please stop calling it the “Age of Obama” until the guy actually accomplishes something that justifies naming an entire era after him? Winning a popularity contest that somebody has to win every four years shouldn’t be considered enough.
LOL This article was dead on. It gave a pass to Princess and the Frog and that’s unforgivable. The “princess” herself is turned into a frog in the first 15 minutes of the film by a –wait for it!!!– VooDoo priest! Yup, nothing racist here, Disney sure has come a long way since Song of the South, now hasn’t it? BTW Tiarra spends 90% of the movie as a frog.
And look at all the white caterwauling in the replies! They’re so used to reviewers validating their poverty porn and tales of saintly white folks helping poor downtrodden negroes that when smoebody tells them the truth their instinctive response is to wail and scream “Foul!”
Sheltered suburbanites have no right to comment about what’s true or not.
LOL Yes, you can tell when the needle has struck a vein.
Would you guys like some cheese with your whine?
Whiskey, your bigoted and ignorant rant ought to be mandatory reading for all psychology majors. So they can see what permanent cognitive dissonance look like.
Bush destroyed 3 countries (the US, Afghanistan and Iraq) he MADE Ameica weak by breaking the military through endless undue commitments, schizo foreign policies that changes depending on the whims of the corporate elite: wage war on Iraq, racially profile muslims and then try to give Dubai total control over many American ports, yep REAL Homeland Security there! This gave N. Korea and Iran a clear open path to develop their nuclear programs without US opposition. Were you comatose the last 8 years, or just listening to right wing hate-radio non-stop?
Oh, and he redistributed the national wealth to the upper 1%, and wrecked the international economy in the process, just before he pushed through the larges corporate bailout in history, which the country will be paying for for the next 20 years through IOUs.
Wait, you were saying something about black leaders being weak and ineffective?
Does your TV have a channel other than FoxNews?
Do us all a favor: PLEASE don’t leave your mom’s basement!
The problem with film criticism in general is the genre stems from the ego. A critic becomes more powerful than the glamorous ones who have created the art that inspires him to slam the gavel in judgment. Thus I add at least one “star” to each review, in order to compensate for the critic’s subconscious professional jealousy/career coveting.
So to read an entire article that stems from this same well of ego is an exercise in ignorance, imo. The crackheads, gang-bangers, pimps, and other inhabitants of low-income life are sources of DRAMA. Thus they are filmic. The complaints are similar to Italian-American’s issues with the public’s fascination with the mafia. A nice, loving family like Bill Cosby’s Huxtables isn’t exactly a box office draw in a dramatic film.
But like always, it’s all in the name. A doubting Peter would transform the circumstances that have led to greater visibility for people of all colors into a negative. But lucky for us … all one has to do to glimpse the world that exists just beyond the surface of the world Peter Keough portrays … a world filled with Hope vs. Doubt … is to look in the mirror and recognize, it’s only skin. And it takes all types of skin to make the world go round. We *are* evolving, progressing, advancing, especially in the melting pot, as the conflict that is the product of difference spurs growth. More uniform cultures are often more stagnant.
But I appreciate the role of critics, and the conflict they provide, for their very weighty contributions. They spur the growth of the art form.
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