Shifting Racism

I approached Diawara’s Black Spectatorship: Problems of Identification and Resistance and Hooks’ The Oppositional Gaze with the question of where the line between representing reality and protesting against reality should be in cinema. As Hooks said, “Black films were. . . subject to critical interrogation. . . Critical, interrogating black looks were mainly concerned with issues of race. . . They were rarely concerned with gender.” We see this in Boyz n the Hood and She’s Gotta Have it. The black male and his desires are ultimately what matter. The movies have denied “the body of the black female. . . [and] the woman to be looked at and desired is ‘white.’” In She’s Gotta Have It, Greer says he should date a white girl as if she would be a better and classier choice. We have seen this with other races as well. In The Godfather, Connie gets kicked around by her brothers and her husband and is expected to be inferior to them. This is where my question comes in. The Godfather and certainly She’s Gotta Have It and Boyz n the Hood, all represent a reality where women do get treated like props rather than human beings.

Still from Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Now, the trouble and difficulty with attempting to represent reality is the resulting condemnation of a group collectively as something, does not matter if it is good or bad, just something as a whole. The result of which can be reproducing another kind of reality. We see this with what Hooks wrote on identifying with the character Sapphire from Amos ‘n’ Andy. So the line between representing reality and protesting against it is a line of where we need to stop and remind ourselves to be critical of what we are consuming, thus becoming a resisting spectator.

Another thing we should be aware of is that the repressing of a group shifts to another. This awareness is essential because, as Hooks said, the whole point of this is to “enable us to discover who we are.” Diawara, analyzing The Birth of a Nation, said, “the black experience is rendered absent in the text.” Many Hollywood films render many experiences as absent to this day like Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker that seemed to make sure to show that the only victims of the Iraq war were the Americans and no one else. So, as a conclusion, yes the resisting spectator is necessary but the resisting spectator is not aware enough. We must recognize Hollywood’s incessant need to have an object, representing the American dream, in disguise with all the power. We need to take that on as a whole, and resist that. If we only resist portions of it, it will shift to another group.




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