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BLACKNESS VS. WHITENESS IN THE EARLY FILM INDUSTRY
Duminică, 08 Mai 2011 12:45

BLACKNESS VS. WHITENESS IN THE EARLY FILM INDUSTRY

Burghiu Iuliana-Florina,

Grup Şcolar “Sfânta Maria”, Galaţi

 

            This article is a theoretical attempt to present the background of the early film industry, which was influenced by matters regarding race, gender issues or language. As a consequence, the issues of race developed the conscience of The Rest and representatives of music, film, and writing, succeeded in proving their valuable importance in the wordlist hierarchy and also in changing stereotyped ideas about The Third World.

 

            Parallel to the feminist concern with gender, the queerer concern with sexuality, and the third worldlist concern with colonialism, empire and nationality, theorists began in 1980s to take up issues of race. The very language that people use to address race and racism comes to us from different traditions: (1) the tradition of anti-colonialist and anti- racist writing; (2) postwar analyses of anti-Semitism and Nazism, (3) Sartrean existentialism and the language of authenticity and (4) the Women’s Liberation movement. What is the relation between all these distinct axes of social representation? Is one of the axes primordial, the root of all others? The world is bifurcated into the ‘West and the Rest’ and organizes everyday language into binaristic hierarchies: our nations, their tribes, our religions, their superstitions, our culture, their folklore.  

Various concepts mingle in the larger stream of what might be called:’ multicultural media studies’: the analysis of minority representation, the critique of imperialist and orientalist media, work on colonial and postcolonial discourse, the theorizing of ‘Third World’ and ‘Third Cinema’, work  on minority, diasporic and exilic cinemas, whiteness studies and work on anti-racist and multicultural media pedagogy. For much of the film representation history, it was virtually impossible for African Americans to represent themselves. They started asking questions like: Do the eyeline matches identify us with one gaze or another? Whose looks are reciprocated, whose ignored? How do character positionings communicate social distance or differences in status? How do color, body language, posture, and facial expression communicate social hierarchies, arrogance, servility, resentment, pride?

The call for positive images corresponds to a profound logic which only the representationally privileged can fail to understand. Given a dominant cinema that trades in heroes and heroines, minority communities rightly ask for their fair share of the pie as a simple matter of representational parity. A moralistic and individualistic approach also ignores the contradictory nature of stereotypes. Black figures, in Toni Morrison’s words come to signify polar opposites: ‘On the one hand, they signify benevolence, harmless and servile guardianship and endless love, and on the other hand, insanity, illicit sexuality, chaos’. For a long time, the various ‘Third World’ and ‘Third Cinema’ which collectively from the majority cinema in the world were largely ignored by standard film histories as well as by Eurocentric film theory. When not ignored, Third World cinema was treated with condescension, as if it were merely the subaltern shadow of the real cinema of North America and Europe.  Despite the age of globalization, the international distribution of power still tends to make the First World countries cultural transmitters and to reduce most Third World countries to the status of receivers.  This situation is due to the fact that first World minorities such as African Americans have the power to project their cultural productions around the world.

When talking about color issues we must refer to gender issues as well. Largely produced by men, third- worldist film theory was not generally concerned with a feminist critique of nationalist discourse. Gender contradictions were subordinated to anti- colonial struggle: women were expected to wait their turn. It was first the turn of women writers and then of the representatives of the cinema.

One of the most important writers is Zora Neale Hurston. From the initial publication of Their Eyes Were Watching God, critics have debated Hurston's ostensible disregard of the issue of racism. Many of Hurston's black contemporaries considered her an opportunist who catered to white benefactors, and early reviewers believed her book to be an attempt at escapism. However, other commentators have noted that Janie's dilemmas are not centered on issues of racism, but sexism, a concern for all women during the 1920s. Most contemporary critics have argued that Hurston concentrates on strength and affirmation within the black community, and not the denial and anger racism often evokes.

Although Negro authors and artists were challenged to create a new race consciousness that demonstrated complexity of thought, re-conceptualization of an African past, communal, novels such as Zora Neale Hurston Hurston’s were attacked as oversimplification, full of pseudo-primitives whom the white reading public still loves to laugh with, weep and envy. It is precisely the redefinition of African American social protest and African American identity that Zora Neale Hurston presents in her books. Through an exploration of life and death, romance, family relations, violence, laughter, Hurston raises the folklore and folk art of African Americans to high culture.

 

Bibliography

Stam Robert, Film Theory: An Introduction, Blackwell Publishing, MA, 2000

Rubel Paula, Translating cultures: Perspectives on Translation and Anthropology, Berg Editorial offices, Oxford, 2003

Ultima actualizare în Duminică, 08 Mai 2011 16:49
 

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