Even though George Romero, director of the film, Night of the Living Dead, did not intentionally intend to create racial controversy, the film broke a lot of ground considering the year it was filmed in 1968. By making a black character, Ben, the most intelligent and resourceful of all the white characters, as well as the protagonist, Romero, shattered racist stereotypes in the horror movie genre as well as mainstream film. This was mainly due to the fact that Night of The Living Dead was one of the first films to follow a black protagonist who was filmed in a positive light. Ben’s personality was possibly the most subversive aspect of the whole film. Ben was a brave and quick-witted character who was able to see what needed to get done in order to ensure survival from the zombies. The fact that Ben was portrayed as the most composed character, especially out of the cast of distraught white characters only emphasized his position as the most important character. Without Ben, the other characters would have most likely died. Overall, despite the fact that Night of the Living Dead did not intend to make a racial statement, I believe it ended up symbolizing the progress African Americans made during the civil rights movement, yet certain points in the film such as the power dynamic between Ben and Harry, the zombies attacking Ben, Ben’s death scene, and the photographs at the end represented the long road ahead of progress to be made.
To sum up the film, brother and sister, Johnny and Barbra Blair, drive to a cemetery to put flowers on their father 's grave. As they approach the grave, Barbara starts praying. While doing so, Johnny pretends to be a monster and shouts, “They’re coming for you Barbara!” At t...
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...for a white man with a gun. The photographs were also reminiscent of the results of documented lynchings. As smoke curls up in the grainy pictures, seeing Ben 's dead body among the hordes of zombies conveys the fact that Ben is no better than the monstrous zombies. It was almost like saying that despite the progress Ben made during the film, he was only to be set back by a traditionally racist and violent act. As a whole, Ben’s death represented setbacks African American’s experienced in the face of racism. This provides commentary on the fact that African Americans still had a long way to go in terms of civil rights.
All in all, Night of The Living Dead succeeded in creating a revolutionary film by casting a black man the hero. This small decision paved the way for the advancement of African Americans in film and their portrayal of strong characters/heros/heroines.
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