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In 2000, Spike Lee wrote and directed the film Bamboozled. When discussing his satirical film, Spike Lee claimed, “I want people to think about the power of images, not just in terms of race, but how imagery is used and what sort of social impact it has – how it influences how we talk, how we think, how we view one another[. . . ]how film and television have historically[. . . ]produced and perpetuated distorted images. ” Spike Lee certainly conveyed this message in Bamboozled. Images are powerful and carry massive social impact. They should never be misrepresented.
Are all African Americans either lazy or dim-witted or “happy servants”, always ready and willing to please the White Man? The short answer is, no. However, throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, many people believed this. The ultimate question is, why? As explained in the film Ethnic Notions, this false perception grew and grew, even past the time of slavery, due to images. Derogatory images of African Americans as “happy servants” or “savages,” were everywhere; they were published in children’s books and slapped on cans of food to be used as a marketing tool.
People bought into this perception of African Americans, as they became acclimatized to it. Today, our society likes to believe that times have changed and there is no longer an issue of race or false perception of African Americans in the media. However, Spike Lee argues, “A new “phenomenon” has emerged in film in recent years, in which an African-American character is imbued with special powers, filmmaker Spike Lee told a student audience ? This new image is just a reincarnation of “the same old” stereotype or caricature of African Americans ?
Lee cited four recent films in which there is a “magical, mystical Negro” character ? in “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” a black man “with all these powers,” teaches a young white male ? how to golf like a champion ? “How is it that black people have these powers but they use them for the benefit of white people? ” Spike Lee seems to be under the impression that African Americans are still misrepresented in the media. They have only improved their ability to mask the fact. False image is still there, but it is subtle. His film Bamboozled ripped viewers’ eyes wide open.
The film explored and demonstrated two images of African Americans. The first image, is the Black Man who is just like the White Man or the Asian Man or the Middle-Eastern Man; a man who can be rich and successful like Pierre Delacroix in Bamboozled; a man who can be poor and when without money will do almost anything for it like Manray and Womack. However, when Pierre Delacroix pitched television shows about a Black Man living in an upper-middle-class white, suburban neighborhood, his superior, Thomas Dunwitty turned them down, “they definitely don’t want to see dignified black people [on television].
” However, the network would allow Pierre Delacroix to create a show which blatantly degrades African Americans; a show which goes back to the 1900s, to the time of black face and minstrel shows; a time when black people were considered subhuman. This is where Spike Lee demonstrates the other image of the African American; an image that the media has gently forced down viewer’s throats. Spike Lee, however, did not do so gently. The fictional television show in Bamboozled, “Mantan’s New Millennium Minstrel Show”, starred African Americans in “black face” acting like buffoons.
It might as well have been an authentic minstrel show in the 1900s. There was dancing and singing. The two main characters hid from the White Man in a chicken coup, saying “ain’t nobody in here but us chickens! “4 The creator, Pierre Delacroix’s initial intention with this show was not to degrade his own race. It was to “break the stereotypes. “5 He figured the nation would be shocked and outraged! Instead they ate it up. The studio audience dressed in black face.
Children trick-or-treated in black face. It was the latest craze of the nation. Black face is an act which digs back to a time of slavery, a time where African Americans were considered inferior. It was now socially acceptable to publicly highlight a moment in history that pained African Americans. People figured it’s on TV, it’s OK! The black man was degraded, as he has always been, but in Bamboozled no mercy was spared. Spike Lee used the film in a variety of ways.
He attacked today’s media and the way in which it portrays African Americans. He explored the wide scope of African American’s lives, which is no different than the lives of any other race. He demonstrated the consequences of greed and sacrificing one’s dignity. Furthermore, he exposed society for what it really is: mindless. The majority of a population does not question the media. Instead it swallows images whole, even if those images are as false and misleading as a painted black face.
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