African American Representation Of The Film Industry Has Always Been A Topic For Discussion

African American Representation Of The Film Industry Has Always Been A Topic For Discussion

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African American representation in the film industry has always been a topic for discussion. Whether talking about character types and roles, the actors being cast or not cast, and the lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera. ‘The contemporary status of race in mainstream American culture is intimately bound to the process of representation within and through the mass media.’ (Rocchio, 2000, p. 4). Any role that was to be played by an African American kept in with the dominant stereotypes of the time of production; incompetent, child like, hyper-sexualised or criminal.

Ever since film began, and concurrently ever since African Americans were being casted in films, as opposed to a white actor in blackface, African American actors were always placed into one of the five stereotyped roles. They were either a tom, the ever faithful servant, a coon, the lazy bums, a mammie, the overweight female carer of children, a tragic mulatto, the often suicidal mixed-race character, or a buck, the brutal and hypermasculine rapist. The buck in particular was a reflection of the white man 's fear of black men, and what they would do to white women. All of these character types were prominently used to entertain audiences; to emphasise black inferiority. Said roles were already present in that society ever since the times of slavery, so the film industry merely catered to public taste and continued to cast such roles. Whenever they dealt with an African American character, they only adapted the stereotypes that everyone was used to, often further distorting them. The roles for African Americans may have appeared to be positive, e.g. loyal servants but they still reinforced the belief that the only place for such characters was dedicated...


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...a] Spencer won for playing Minny. Not much has changed. Hollywood is still happiest to see Black women as servants.’ (Anon, 2013). Even in modern day, the film industry, especially Hollywood, still manages to place unrealistic stereotypes upon African Americans and continues to fall short of representing the cultural diversity of America.

Few films are made currently from varying different racial perspectives, which does limit the amount of audiences members that can empathise with any on screen characters. Do The Right Thing manages to do this and go on to be an extremely successful film. Not only in terms of box office, but in promoting the discussion of race relations in America.The portrayal of African Americans in films has progressed over the years in a more positive direction, albeit still being littered with controversial images and stereotyped characters.

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