Wednesday, January 28, 2004

As we enter today's episode, we find our hero tragically lost in deep thought. In my Race, Gender, Class and The Media um. . .class today (CM 340 t), we viewed a video which candidly discussed the images of the racial minorities in the media. Of course, this focused greatly on black (or African) Americans, since they seem to be the case study for all minority media images and relations. As they analyzed the depictions of black people over the time during slavery, post Civil War (and emancipation) and on into the Civil Rights Act, they showed that stereotypes were enforced and reconstructed to justify the norm. When slavery was still a legal practice, the slaves were shown as happy to be slaves, and as being proud of their position of service to their masters. The demeanor of the men were often childlike in their value of music and dance, over hard work and life, and the women were depicted as being the spine of the race, as being strong, overly plump leaders who disciplined all of their "kind". This gave the depiction of the entire race as being deserving of slavery, as if slavery were the only way they would survive. Those who were free were often depicted in minstrel shows as being bumbling, pretentious idiots, and were shown as being lost and alone without their masters to provide and care for them. In short, the entire race was depicted as if slavery were the only way they could survive in the newly formed United States. After emancipation, however, the slaves were depicted as brutal, savage, and lustful. The men were seen as a threat to the ideal beauty (the white female) since their own woment were so masculine in quality. This imagery, according to the film, is still seen today. Which brings me to my point. One of the things this film showed was Shaft, and other noticeable characters of the blaxploitation era, like Foxy Brown, and Coffee um. . . Brown. Now, I'm not saying Shaft was the greatest movie, or that the blaxploitation movies were the best written, best directed, or anything of that nature. Lets not kid ourselves, these films were an exercise in exaggeration. We all know that Shaft was a fictional character, and truly didn't exist. My argument though, is that the blaxploitation films showed a strong-willed, intelligent black man or woman, who took the prejudice that they were shown in stride to their successes. There was never a time when Shaft didn't show the same dislike and prejudices that he was confronted with (" 'You're not so black' 'Yeah, you're not so white' ") but he never retaliated to a revengeful or savage violence. His revenge was to do his job his way, and to such a degree, that no man could deny the talent and skill he possessed. As Isaac Hayes pointed out, he was truly a bad shut yo mouth. I'm only talking about Shaft, but if you can dig it, the somewhat exaggerated image of strong black male was positive in shaping and influencing others of that same race in a time of reformation and change. The civil rights movement was quickly becoming a memory in the seventies, and the hatred and prejudice was becoming less and less overt, to the point where protesting, sit ins, and legislature wasn't the answer. As shown by Shaft, Coffe Brown, Superfly and the like, the answer is being yourself, and using your given talents to succeed despite the repeated efforts to cause failure for you. That's why I think Shaft, or Good Times, or The Jefferson's, or even What's Happening Now weren't negative images. An exaggerated image isn't automatically negative, nor is it always a horrible thing to depict. It can often be a strong image, exaggerated with the purpose of pointing someone in the right direction. Right on, Shaft, right on. Solid. Least that's what I think.

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