Blacks In The Cinema
Blacks In The Cinema

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out in protest of the oppression and stereotyping of African-Americans, so it certainly can be said that he would not favor how films such as Menace II Society, and Boyz In the Hood have illustrated young African-Americans as drug dealers and ghetto gangsters. In an article written by David Ansen of Newsweek, he scribed that he could not recall a film with a sprinkle of realism in which an African-American was an upstanding citizen. To actually address the African American community, in a poll published on behalf of Entertainment Weekly's readership, it seems recent cinematic endeavors attempting to portray a mosaic of African-American urban life have contrasted with the way many African-Americans view their lifestyles to be.

According to Ansen, these films (like Menace) may in fact document how many lives in the ghetto are, but too many films refrain from positively depicting African-Americans. Adding to this opinion is a young African American quoted on an after-school special on racism, in stating, " It upsets me that people don't judge us on who we really are. They see a black person, and from the movies they've watched they automatically associate that we must be drug dealers or some other form of indigents. It just really saddens me that peoples would make a judgment on the person based on stereo- types rather than that persons actual identity."

For every artistic creation, there is some sort of motivation. What may the inspiration be for directors to in-accurately assimilate an entire race into how many peoples feel that race acts? In an Entertainment Weekly interview with Boyz auteur John Singleton, he claims his desire is one, "To have people realize how poor life in the "hood" can be, as well as to make a successful film approaching the topic so that directors won't shy away from handling stories about African-Americans. To make a film a mainstream hit, sometimes you have to take creative liberty, but I personally feel that my movies do represent how life really is, like it or not."

When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 1963 " I Have a Dream" speech, he included the hope that one day his children wouldn't be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. However, in a commentary on recent " Black Cinema", Bruce Fretts of Entertainment Weekly, it seems in his opinion that King's wish has not been granted; at least as far as motion pictures go, that is. Fretts claims that blacks are stereotyped as derelicts not willing to conform to society's standards. King might not have been disappointed with the fact that films such as Boyz shed a little light on the darker aspects of society, yet with the statement from John Singleton, as well as the compilation of other comments, one should ask themselves whether films portraying a dismal African-American ethnic group are produced to educate, or rather are they perhaps made to fulfill the human impulse to view violence and destruction.

A solution is hard to imagine, and maybe cinema portraying African-Americans in an unflattering, often degrading manner, is not a crisis or a major concern. Though there is no denying that characters on the silver screen result in many stereotypes which lead to heated arguments. So it is feasible that if more films started positively representing African-Americans, violent discussions and unjust labeling could be refrained from.

Adam L.
Jason M.

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