THE QUESTION OF REALISM

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

5

STEREOTYPE, REALISM, AN THE STRUGGLE OVER REPRESENTATION

Much of the work on ethnic/racial and colonial representation in the media been "corrective," devoted to demonstrating that certain films, in some other, "got something wrong" on historical, biographical, or other zrounds accuracy. While these "stereotypes and distortions" analyses pose questions about social plausibility and mimetic accuracy, about positive images, they are often premised on an exclusive allegiance to an of verisimilitude.' An obsession with "realism" casts the question as simply of "errors" and "distortions," J!S_jf_th,e~:tru.th~'-o:f-a_c_c!1ll!I1J!!1ll;~'l§:S:___JmprQQ

and

These debates about realism and accuracy are not trivial, not just a svmntom the "veristic idiocy," as a certain poststructuralism would have it. SOIC!Ct'itOl:S critics) are invested in realism because they are invested in the idea of reserve the right to confront a film with their own personal and knowledge. No deconstructionist fervor should induce us to surrender the find certain films sociologically false or ideologically pernicious, to see a Nation (1915), for example, as an "objectively" racist film. That films representations does not prevent them from having real effects in the films can mobilize for the Ku Klux Klan, or prepare the ground for

social policy. Recognizing the inevitability and the inescapability of tation does not mean, as Stuart Hall has put it, that "nothing is at stake."

The desire to reserve a right to judgment on questions of realism play especially in cases where there are real-life prototypes for situations, and where the film, whatever its conventional disclaimers, makes, and is received as making, historical-realist claims. Looking for Langston, 1989, dodges the problem through a generic labeling itself as a "meditation" on Langston Hughes.) The veterans of

178

Plate 33 History whitewashed in Mississippi Buming

rights struggle are surely in a nositi ..

turning the movement' s histOri~~Sl on to cnthuque f1:1ississippi Burning (19885)

th . enemy - e racist FBI which harassed and

e movement - mto the film's heroes whi! . ..!

the thousands of African-Am' h' e turning the historical,

d . encans w 0 marched and braved beatinzs/

an sometImes death - into the sunnorn '. . <:> i

waitinz for official Whit 2. pportmg cast, passive VICtIm-\

<:> e rescue. This struggle over meani i

MiSSissippi Burning mizht indue di <:> eamng matters

fu <:> e au rences unfamiliar wi th th f

a ndamental misreading of Am' hi '.. I e acts

African Am . encan story, idealizing the FBI and

although th~re ise~:~s':::::~~tnesses : history rather than its makers.3 -llllJU<lUUll. there are still c . a ' no ~ apart from representation and

. onnngenr, qualified, perspectival truths in which

are mvested.

theory reminds us that we live and dwell ~ithin I

and ha di anguage and

-U"''-'UJll. ve no irect access to the "real "B t th '"

artistic discourse hardl . u e constructed, coded

ficti '. Y precludes all reference to a common social lID

ons mevitably bring into pl al-Iif e. time but al b . ay re - e assumptions not only about

lllar:g:rnali:'led so a out. SOCIal and cultural relationships. Films which:l cultures mali' ~ I

~P:Cific historical inCid:~~, s~~ =;~~i~;e~~:~:c~~ :1C:::::: ~ainI \1

:: ~:~v~~ a~ention to the complacent ignorance of HOll~o:~

and e~cans, to the cultural flattening which erases the

cultural differences between Great Plains tribes and those from ;

179

unmasked. Debates about ethnic representation often break down on ~ this question of "realism," at times leading to an impasse in which \ spectators or critics passionately defend their version of the "real."

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM other rezions which have Indians of the northeast wearing Plains Indians and liv~g in'Hopi dwellings, all collapsed into a single stereot_YPical figure, "instant Indian" with "wig, war bonnet, breechclout, moccasins, phony work.?"

Many oppressed groups have used "progressive r~ali~m': to ~nmask combat hegemonic representations, countering the obJectifylll~ dlsc~urses patriarchy and colonialism with a vision of themselves and ~e~ rea1_i~, . within." But this laudable intention is not always unproblematic. Reality IS self-evidently given and "truth" is not imme.diately "seizable" by ~e,;~era. must distinguish, furthermore, between realism as a goal ~ Brecht s la~lllg the causal network" - and realism as a style or constellation of strategies at producting an illusionistic "reality effect." Realism ~s a g.oal is compatable with a style which is reflexive and deconstructive, as IS demonstrated by many of the alternative films discus~ed in this. b~ok.

In his work Mikhail Bakhtin reformulates the nonon of artistic representsj in such a way ~s to avoid both a naive faith in "truth" and "~eali~" ~d the naive notion that the ubiquity of language and representation signifies the struggle and the "end of history." Human consciousness and artistic

r Bakhtin argues, do not come into contact with the "real" ~ectly but through the medium of the surrounding ideological world. Literature, extension cinema, do not so much refer to or call up the world as represen languages and discourses. Rather than directly reflec~g the real, refracting the real, artistic discourse consti~tes a refr~c~on o~ ~ "

\ is a mediated version of an already textualized and discursivized ho'gical world. This formulation transcends a naive referential v~rism fullina into a "hermeneutic nihilism" whereby all texts become nothing a meaningless play of signification, Bakhtin rejects naive formulations in other words, without abandoning the notion that artistic representations ;

(The same time thoroughly and irrevocably social, precisely because the ["that art represents are themselves social and historical. Indeed, for ~.'~"= incontrovertibly social, not because it represents the real but because It -, a historically situated "utterance" - a complex of signs address~d by one

-constituted subject or subjects to other socially constituted subjects, all

are deeply immersed in historical circumstance and s~cial contingenc~.

The issue, then, is less one of fidelity to a preexisting truth or reality of a specific orchestration of ideological discourses ~d co.: m.llntImt2m spectives. While on one level film is mimesis, repre~entatI~n, It IS also an act of contextualized interlocution between SOCIally situated receivers. It is not enough to say that art is constructed. We Constructed for whom? And in conjunction with which lU<;Ul\J1S1\-~

(courses? In this sense, art is a representation not so much in a ;,g0litical sense, as a delegation of voic~;fi Within this perspective, it

(sense to say of The Gods.M_ust ~e Crazy (1984~ not ~at it is untrue

LEut that it relays the colomalist discourse of official White

180

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

discourse of the film posits a Manichean binarism contrasting happy and noble but Bantustan "Bushmen," living in splendid isolation, with dangerous but inCI)mIPete.J at m~~atto-Ied re~olutionaries. Yet the film camouflages its racism by su~erficlal cntique of White t~c~ological civilization. A discursive approach' First Blood (~a,!!bo) (~,983), Sirnilarly,.wo~ld not ar~e that it "distorts" reality, I rather that ~t really represents a nghtIst and racist discourse designed to and nounsh the masculinist fantasies of omnipotence characteristic of an in crisis. By th~ same token, representations can be convincingly '~l1"UllJ..<<U yet Eurocen~c, or conversely, fantastically "inaccurate," yet anti-

The analysis of a film like My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Jcicllogilc8111y flawed from a mimetic perspective - given its focus on wealth; rather than more typically working-class Asians in London _ alters comilde:ratll~ when .re~arde~ as a constellation of discursive strategies, as a symbolic mversion of conventional expectations of a miserabilist

of Asian victimization,

something vital is at stake in these debates becomes obvious in those when entire communities passionately protest the representations that of them in the name of their Own experiential sense of truth. Hollywood have not gone unremarked by the communities they portrayed. Native

UVll"=~, very early on, vocally protested misrepresentations of their culture A 1911 issue of Moving Picture World (August 3) reports a Native . delegation to Pre~ident Taft protesting erroneous representations and asking for a Congressional investigation. In the same vein the National . f?r the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested Birth of C~~anos protested the ban dido films, Mexicans protested Viva Villa!

Brazilians protested Rio's Road to Hell (1931), Cubans protested Cuban (1931), and Latin Americans generally protested the caricaturina of The Mexican government threatened to block distributio: of films ~ Mexic~ if the US film industry did not stop exporting films MeXICO, Mexican Americans, and the Mexican revolution. More

Turks protested·Midnight Express (1978), Puerto Ricans protested Fort the Bronx (1981), Africans protested Out of Africa (1985) and Asianprotested The Year of the Dragon (1985). Native Americans so protested the TV series Mystic Warrior, based on Ruth Beebe Hill's pseudo-Indian saga Hanta Yo (1979), that the film version be .made in the US. One American Indian Movement pamphlet durmg protests offered ironic guidelines on "How to Make an Indian

make an Indian Movie. Buy 40 Indians. Totally hUIlliliate and an entire Indian nation. Make sure all Indians are savage, cruel and . Import a Greek to be an Indian princess. Introduce a white man an "Indian" hero. Make the white man compassionate, brave and ... Pocket the profits in Hollywood.

181

182

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

on distribution and exhibition, and Critical spectators can thus .exert =:~uch pressure does not guarantee

affect subsequent productlons. I an that acrgressively hurtful nortravat

pathetic representations, it does at east me '"

will not go unchalleng~d. . . al i ossibility, then, spectators

Although total realism IS 7. theoretlfcthe :~" rooted in their own eXj)enLenl:e!(/ uipped with a sense 0

selves come eq. t question or even subvert a

on the basis of which they canulaccealP, aratio~ of a particular audience

. I this sense the c tur prep

representatlons. n '. st or prejudicial discourse. Latin fU][ler:LCaIll?

eenerate counter-pressure to a raci thin portrayals of them off the

'" H II d' know-no o

audiences laughed 0 ywoo s h . inf rmed imazes seriously. The

finding it impossible to take sue nus I 0 ade con~urrently with the 1931

language version of Dracula, for examp. e, mChil Mexican and

'" . I d Cuban Argentlne, ean, ,

Lugosi film, mmg e, ck Latin American auniences:

S . h i a linzuistic hodge-podge that stru . al represent

pams ill '" . s ectators may look beyond cancatur

ludicrous. At the same time, p. If African-Americans were not

tions to see the oppressed perf~rmmg se do chic sample of Black take Step'n Fetchit as a typICal, synec . o and understood the "J·U."'Ull~

attitudes' Black audiences knew he was acnng ill' in a kind of

, b . ties In the same ve ,

th tid him to play su serv1en ro . rrusr,epresentatH

a e enio what they know to be

consciou~ness, spectators may. J ine Thief of Baghdad (1940), for

Baghdadi spectato.rs could enJ~y f tasy as a Western embroidery of an because they took It as an escaPd1st ~ 0 ' Nights with no relation to the

fantastic tale from A Thousan an ne ,

historical Baghdad.

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

rallying cry of "No taxation without representation." Many of the political debates around race and gender in the US have revolved around the question of selfrepresentation, seen in the pressure for more "minority" representation in political and academic institutions. What all these instances share is the semiotic principle that something is "standing for" something else, or that some person or group is speaking on behalf of some other persons or groups. On the symbolic battlegrounds of the mass media, the struggle over representation in the "U-"~-".- realm homologizes that of the political sphere, where questions of imlt:aucm and representation easily slide into issues of delegation and voice. (The debate around which celebrity photographs, whether of Italian-Americans

of African-Americans, will adorn the wall of Sal's Pizzeria in Spike Lee's Do Right Thing, 1989, vividly exemplifies this kind of struggle within represen-

THE BURDEN OF REPRESENTATION

ial types derives partly from

Th h~;r-tricrcrer sensitivity about raci stereo . f"re:pn:sell1tat

e u.u "'''' ration," The connotatlons 0 J

been labeled ~n-of-r~prgS~. al and serrtiotic. On a religious

are at once religious, esthetic, po tl~, " and the preference for

. e of "eraven lillages

Judeo-Islarruc censur '" t theolo2ical suspicion on

representations such. as the ara::s:eth~a~ery ont~logy of the LU-U'~~'--

fi zurative representatlon and th . . . that art too is a

'" . al h esthetic dimenSiOn, III

Representa~on . so as. an Aristotelian terms, a mimesis. RepreselJlmu

representatlon, ill ~latomc or o "to represent" means "to enact"

theatrical too, ~d ill mdany .lan~a:;:s to the extent that they reoresent role. The narrative an rmme ~onsidered representative not (character) and ethnos (peoples) are hi vision On another level,

human fisure but also of anthropomorp ~ . all direct but rpr.rl'~en

'" . . al . th t political rule IS not usu y

tion is also politlc , ill a th t "they do not represent themselves; they

Marx said of the peasantry a d finiti of democracy in the West, represented." The contemporary e on that of various Native

. al Ath nian concept of democracy, or "

claSSIC e . f "representative government,

communities, rests on the notion 0

Since what Memmi calls the "mark of the plural" projects colonized people as /'

the same," any neg, atl,'v,e behavior by an, y member of the oppressed 1 is instantly generalized as typical, as pointing to a perpetual) toward some presumed negative essence. Representations thu~ allegorical; within hegemonic discourse every subaltern performer/role is / as synecdochically summing up a vast but putatively homogenous commuRepresentations of dominant groups, on the other hand, are seen not as

llC~IJll"CU but as "naturally" diverse, examples of the ungeneralizable variety of itself." Socially empowered groups need not be unduly concerned about and stereotypes," since even occasionally negative images form part wide spectrum of representations. A corrupt White politician is not seen as

"eDl1bclITclSSllllent to the race;" financial scandals are not seen as a negative on White power. Yet each negative image of an underrepresented group within the hermeneutics of domination, sorely overcharged with meaning as part of what Michael Rogin calls the "surplus symbolic of oppressed people; the way Blacks, for example, can be made to stand

sometnmg beside themselves."

sensitivity operates on a continuum with other representations and with life, where the "burden" can indeed become almost unbearable. It is this that is ignored when analysts place stereotypes of so-called ethnic for example, on the same level as those of Native Americans or

~'~U,.Ull~. While all negative stereotypes are hurtful, they do not all the same power in the world. The facile catch-all invocation of" elides a crucial distinction: stereotypes of some communities the target group uncomfortable, but the community has the social combat and resist them; stereotypes of other communities participate in

of prejudicial social policy and actual violence against dis-, people, placing the very body of the accused in jeopardy. Stereotypes! m-l'\m,encarlS and Italian-Americans, however regrettable, have not been the racial and imperial foundation of the US, and are not used to violence or structural oppression against these communities. The

183

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM STEREOTYPE, REALISM

media's tendency to present all Black males as potential delinquents, in . ~ar:er~ .ar_e. a~~ed, in practice, to. worship an unreachable standard of

has a searinz impact on the actual lives of Black people. In the Stuart case cwematIc civility, Moreover, many Third World countries themselves reinforce

Boston, the ;olice, at the instigation of the actual (White) murderer, interrog:lte(F\l> hegemony by discriminatin~ against their Own cultural productions. (Brazilian

and searched as many Black men as they could in a Black neighborhood, TV, for. example, systematIcally favors American films.) In the news and

measure unthinkable in White neighborhoods, which are rarely seen as informatI?n fields, similarly, it is First World institutions (CNN, AP, and the rest)

sentational sites of crime. In the same way, the 1988 Bush that provide the filter for the World's news. Distribution advantages too tend to

"allezorical" deployment of the "Black buck" figure of Willie Horton to lie with the First World countries. Hollywood films often arrive in the Third Wi ld

the sexual and racial phobias of White voters, dramatically sharpened the "preadv.ertised," in that m~ch of the media hype revolving around big-bU~~et

of representation carried by millions of Black men, and indirectly by productIons reaches the Third World through journalistic articles and TV even

women. before ~es.e films are released locally. American popular music also buttresses the

The sensitivity around stereotypes and distortions largely arises, then, from dissemmation of Hollywood films, with movies such as Saturday Night Fever

powerlessness of historically marginalized groups to control their own (l~7?), Purple Ra~n (1984), .Tn:th or ?are (1991), and The Bodyguard (1992) all

sentation. A full understanding of media representation therefore arnvmg . preadvertised by ~e, given that their music has been played on

comprehensive analysis of the institutions that g~nerate and distribute. radio and TV: Even the Oscar ceremonies constitute a

mediated texts as well as of the audience that receives them. Whose stones form of ad~ertising; ,~e audience is global; yet the product promoted is

told? By whom? How are they manufactured, disseminated, received? What always Amencan, the rest of the world" usually being corraled into the

the structural mechanisms of the film and media industry? Who category of "foreign film."

production, distribution, exhibition? In the US, in 194~, the NAACP The "Third World," then, is doubly weakened by cinematic neocolonialism.

compact with the Hollywood studios to integrate Blacks I_Uto U:e ranks Of. filmmaker/poet Arnaldo Jabor has denounced this situation in an

technicians" yet very few have beco~e directors, s~nptwnters, or poem entitled "Jack Valenti's Brazilian Agenda":

tographers. ~ority directors of all racial groups ~onstItu~e le~s than 3 per

'of tileiiieiii'bership of the almost 4,OOO-member Directors Guild of Jack Valenti,

An azreement between several film unions and the US Justice Department in 1 with Republican grin, star-spangled tie,

-requked that minorities be integrated into the industry's gene.rallabor pools, diamo~d smile and the pale semblance of the perfect

b executIve

the agreement's good intentions were undercut y growing

throughout the industry and by a seniority system that favored older hi_nts of Dick Tracy, George Wallace, Westmoreland, Liberace,

White male) members. The most recent report on Hollywood Billy Graham, and so many other robots of infinite ruffaw

at exactly this moment <:> ,

practices released by the NAACP reveals that Blacks are

"each and every aspect" of the entertainment industry. The 1991 study, with his portfolio of indestructible designs

"Out of Focus - Out of Synch," claims that Blacks are unable to make :md the ~udacity that our Foreign Debt has lately given

decisions in the motion picture process. Despite the success of people like intemational executives,

Winfrey, Bill Cosby, and Arsenio Hall, only a handful of !ack Valenti will descend from his astral airplane

executive positions within film studios and television networks. ~though mto the land of promised and overdue payments

purchase a disproportionate share of domestic movie tickets, nepotism, inventories the psychic defonnations caused by Hollywood:

and racial discrimination combine to bar Blacks and Black-owned

from the industry.'! Spike Lee speaks of a "glass ceiling" restric~g how " . under Valenti's non-Brazilian shoes

money will be spent on Black-made films, based on the assumption that the red carpets of hospitality will roll

cannot be trusted with large sums of money.F And Blacks are not and no one will see the cinematic crimes in the air

disadvantaged group in this respect. While producers assume that nor the remains of our poor dead minds,

American directors should direct films about Italian Americans, for no one will see the wounds

choose Anzlos to direct films about Latinos. 13 since there will be no corpse

Furthermore, in that the Hollywood system favors big-budget no coroner to discover the bruises in our soul

is not only classist but also Eurocentric, in effect if not in explicit . purple wounds, pink wounds, rainbow wounds

be a player in this game one needs to have economic power. Third stardust in our eyes, the tatooed people we have become

184

185

UNTHINKING E OCENTRISM

of Hollywood's thousand and one adventures invisible victims of a thousand dazzling fairy wounds

Eastmancolor bums seven-colored napalm kodak-yellow of our hunger

For Jabor, even dominant narrative conventions form part of an imperial ~~U~'C'.

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

. strUggle are watered down for a predominantly liberal American audience. In these films, Rob Nixon argues, the challenge of bridging cultural difference becomes "overlaid with problems of profound ideological incompatibility." As a result, th~ story of Steve Biko in Cry Freedom gives way to a story of the "friendship that rocked the world." The radical discourse of the Black ConsciousnesS movem~nt is,,re~laced with a "palatable. liberal discourse of moral decency and human nghts. NIXon contrasts the expenence of Cry Freedom with the more

Mapantsula (1989), a film that, simply to be made, had to disguise itself an "apolitical gangster movie." In Mapantsula, moralistic concerns do not aside strategic institutional questions. The film's refusal to observe the market conventions of translating a radical South African narrative into a mediated, liberal idiom" resulted in its failure to draw a major distrib-

16

... In a few hours,

Valenti will take from his portfolio of indestructible desigus

the most sacred values of the imperial Occident:

logic, symmetry, continuity,

beginning, middle, end,

the happy end, the "individual" and

. .. f dn S 14

the sinister Amencan vision 0 goo es.

Jabor's poem assumes a situation in which Ho~~ood films, with eas~ Third World distribution circuits, display tantalizmgly opulen~ producu~n virtually impossible for the Third World to e~ulate and often mappropnate concerns. The astronomical budget of one First World blockbuster may equivalent of decades of production for a Third World country. As such bluda-eon audiences with their maximum-impact Dolby Sound u.u..lll-'~-J.U.lll style: they create what one might call a "Spielberg effect" of "c;u'u,,'~uu . timi . dation for Third World filmmakers and spectators. At the

m . ~'_ l_: __

economic neocolonialism and technological dependency raise 1.lllJ.J.ll. 1==/5 in the Third World itself, where imported film, cameras, and accessone.s two or three times as much as in the "First World." Even v.:ell-established

World filmmakers are likely to find their work blocked by F~st ..

channels of distribution, and when US distributors buy their films It IS derisory prices. Major Arab filmmakers - the Egyptian Youssef Chahine; example - have rarely enjoyed commercial openm~s in the l!S. Even directors remain dependent on multinational companies for their

film stock. And the film stocks themselves may be said to discriminate darker-complected people: they are sensitive to particular skin tones and "stopped down" or specially lit for others. InA =: of a ~o~ng Soul Julien attributes the difficulty in lighting dark and light skin in the sam~ the fact that film technology favors lighter skin tones. IS The celluloid

.JJ \ racially inscribed. . . .

The Eurocentrism of audiences can also inflect cinematic producuo~.

dominant audience, whose ideological assumptions must be r~sp.ected if

to be successful, or even made at all, exerts a kind of indirect "Universal" becomes a codeword for palatable to the Western spectator "spoiled child" of the apparatus. A number of big-budget Cry Freedom (1987), A World Apart (1988), and A Dry White

betray traces of "representational adjustments" as the values

186

The pro. duction ~rocess~s of indivi~ual films, ~eir means of production and ] of ?~odu.cuon, bnng up questions concerning the filmmaking apparatus the parncipanon of "minorities" within that apparatus. It seems noteworthy, example, that in multiethnic but White-dominated societies such as South Br~il, and the US, Blacks have tended to participate in the filmmaking mainly as ~erform~rs rather than as producers, directors, and scriptIn South Africa, Whites finance, script, direct, and produce films with allcasts. In the US in the 1920s, all-White filmmaking crews shot all-Black

like Hearts in Dixie (1929) and Hallelujah (1929). Blacks appeared in films, just as women still frequently do in Hollywood, as images in whose social thrust is primarily shaped by others: "Black souls as man's artifact" (Fanon). And since commercial films are desigued to make we must also ask to whom these profits go. J. Uys, the director of The Must Be Crazy, paid his star actor N!Xau only 2,000 Rand for Gods I and Rand for Gods lIP Similarly, it was not blacks who profited from the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s; these films were financed, and packaged by the same Whites who received the lion's share of the The thousands of Black Brazilians who played at an out-of-season

with virtually no pay, for the benefit of Marcel Camus' French cameras, any of the millions of dollars that Black Orpheus (1959) made around 18

certain extent, a film inevitably mirrors its own processes of production as larg~r social processes. At times, minoritarian filmmakers directing police harassment have themselves been harassed by police. Durinz . of Haile Gerima's Bush Mama (1975), a film partly about police m the inner cities, the crew members themselves became police

men with cameras, the police assumed, like Black men with guns, up to no good.l? In other cases, we find a contradiction between a film's and its politics of production. The presumably anticolonial film 982), dedicated to the patron saint of non-violent struggle, deployed a pay scale that favored European technicians and performers. In

187

188

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM th d cumentary about the production

Hearts of Darkness (1989), e ~ aks f the low cost of Filipino labor. In rmx : .F

Now (1979), Francis Ford Copp~ ~ spe 0 d d the corporate manager

h inherits the same pnvileges accor e

sense e th Third World to take advantage oflocal cheap labor.

rel~~~~~ ~as:y~sva's Im~gining Indi~~e~I~;~~ :~~~:~:Ugch'omam()C1JJtlCaltiOln>i

inflicted on Native Amencan .culr:: filtering are "sympathetic to the industry, ~ven when those d~~~ the roblematic negotiations between the

More precisely, the film examm film shot on Hopi land (not yet released at

and the producers of Dar~ Wz~d, a . ith native extras on Hollywood

f 'tID' ) CombiumO- mtervlews WI d

time 0 wn g. . '" uences showing sacred sites, an a ')Lal~"U< >

excerpts from the films discussed, seq.th condescendino- White dentist, the

f . man's encounter WI a '"

story 0 a na~lve wo . . 0- biections to the project but ultimately going

shows the tribal elders raistng 0 J • between lllLll~',llU

th t calls the treaty neo-otatIons

with it, in a process a re times native resistance has been more aggressr

and the US government: At fim:. Fitzcarraldo (1982) with Aguaruna. When Werner Herzog tried to ouncil obi ected, refusing to be represented

the newly formed Aguaruna C oun~ed Herzog's camp and forced the

way Herzog planned, and even surr

. 20

to move downnver. .., f colonized or formerly colonized

. rt e of the participatIon 0

The impo anc obvious when we compare

in the process of pro~uc~onl ~;~o;:tt1e of Algiers, 1966) to his later

Pontecorvo's La Battaglza dz A g . d ($800000)

In the former film a relatively low-bu get, .

(1970). .'" . al actors represent themselves in a

ducti Alo-enan non-prolesslOn .

co-pro ucnon, '" . f . d pendence. The ru!;"'u='~

. f the Algenan war 0 m e

reconstructIon 0 . f the production, with actors often

intimately ~vol~ed m every iee~~~ sites where the events took

their own histoncal r~les at iter Franco Solanas, who rewrote the

collaborated closely With screenth~ ''; s and observations. As a

. . sponse to err cnnque

numerous tunes m re d as azents of national

Alo-erians exist as socially complex people, anth ther'" hand involved

'" , timilli dollar Bum, on eo,

Pontecorvo s mul on . th film casts Marlon

collaboration. An Italo-Fre~ch cEo-pr~dtUctIMO~qu:S a non-professional

.. h I ial azent azainst vans 0' .

BntIs co om '" "'. f th F' t World's most cnansmauc:

b k d By pitting one 0 e irs

peasant ac groun . . . '" d Third World non-professional actor,

against a completely mexpenence hile on one level subverting

only for his physio~omy, p~nt~c~~~'s;ales of spectatorial fascination system, on another disastrous Y up did .; in tention ironically, was to

I' . a film whose I acuC , ,

~t~:I:~::S:~;e. The lack of Caribbean partici~ation in the film s

d dimensional portrayal of the colonized, seen as

lea s to a one-

devoid of cultural definition.

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

THE RACIAL POLITICS OF CASTING

Film and theater casting, as an immediate form of representation, constitutes a kind of delegation of voice with political overtones. Here too Europeans and Euro-Americans have played the dominant role, relegating non-Europeans to supporting roles and the status of extras. Within Hollywood cinema, EuroAmericans have historically enjoyed the unilateral prerogative of acting in "blackface," "redface," "brownface," and "yellowface," while the reverse has rarely been the case. From the nineteenth-century vaudeville stage through such figures as Al Jolson in Hi Lo Broadway (1933), Fred Astaire in Swing Time (1936), Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Babes in Anns (1939), and Bing Crosby in Dixie (1943), the tradition of blackface recital furnished one of the most popular of American pop-CUltural forms. Even Black minstrel performers like Bert Williams, as the film Ethnic Notions (1987) points out, were obliged to carry the mark of caricature on their own bodies; burnt cork literalized, as it were, the trope of Blackness.

Political considerations in racial casting were quite overt in the silent period.

The Birth of a Nation subservient Negroes were played by actual Blacks, while !~J hed ? f

tlrreatening Blacks were played largely by Whites in blackface. But ..

protests by the NAACP, Hollywood cautiously began to cast black actors in

roles. Nevertheless, even in the sound period, White actresses were called

to play the "tragic mulattas" of such films as Pinky (1949), Imitation of Life and even of the Cassavetes underground film Shadows (1959). Meanreal-life "mulattas" were cast for Black female roles - for example Lena in Cabin in the Sky (1943) - although they could easily have "passed" for In other words, it is not the literal color of the actor that mattered in Given the "blood" definition of "Black" versus "White" in EuroruulOU\,CU1 racist discourse, one drop of Black blood was sufficient to disqualify

actress like Home from representing White women.

African-Americans were not the only "people of color" to be played by Euromericans: the same law of unilateral privilege functioned in relation to other . Rock Hudson, Joey Bishop, Boris Karloff, Tom Mix, Elvis Presley, Anne Cyd Charisse, Loretta Young, Mary Pickford, Dame Judith Anderson U\JUJo:Hl" Fairbanks Jr are among the many Euro-American actors who have

Native American roles, while Paul Muni, Charlton Heston, Marlon and Natalie Wood are among those who have played Latino characters. as Wzndwalker (1973), the most important Indian roles were not played Americans. Dominant cinema is fond of turning "dark" or Third World into substitutable others, interchangeable units who can "stand in" for one Thus the Mexican Dolores del Rio played a South Seas Samoan in Bird (1932), while the Indian Sabu played a wide range of Arab-oriental

Lupe Velez, actually Mexican, portrayed Chinese, "Eskimos" (Inuit), Malayans, and American-Indian women, while Omar Sharif, an played Che Guevara." This asymmetry in representational power has

189

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

generated intense resentment among minoritarian communities, for whom the casting of a non-member of the "minority" group is a triple insult, implying you are unworthy of self-represention; (b) no one from your community is capable of representing you; and (c) we, the producers of the film, care little about your offended sensibilities, for we have the power and there is nothing you

do about it.

These practices have implications even on the brute material level of

self-representation, that is, the need for work. The racist idea that a film, to be economically viable, must use a "universal" star, reveals the intrication economics and racism. That people of color have historically been limited racially designated roles, while Whites are ideologically seen as ethnicity," has had disastrous consequences for "minority" artists. In this situation is only now changing, with star actors like Larry Fishburne, ",",,,,1"'17»

Snipes, and Denzel Washington winning roles originally earmarked for actors. At the same time, even "affirmative action" casting can serve purposes, as when the role of the White judge in the novel Bonfire of the (1990) was given to Morgan Freeman in the Brian de Palma film, but only as defense mechanism to ward off accusations of racism.

Nor does chromatically literal self-representation guarantee non-t~url~centrilc

representation. The system can simply "use" the performer to enact the uv.J..lWlWII set of codes; even, at times, over the performer's objection. Josephine Baker's status did not enable her to alter the ending of princess Tam Tam (1935) to her North African (Berber) character marry the French aristocrat instead of North African servant, or to marry the working-class Frenchman played by Gabin in Zou Zou (1934). Instead, Zou Zou ends up alone, performing as a bird pining for the Caribbean. Despite her protests, Baker's roles were . scribed by the codes that forbade her screen access to White men as marriage partners. Their excessive performance styles allowed actresses Josephine Baker and Carmen Miranda to undercut and parody stereotypical but could not gain them substantive power. Even the expressive peJITo!rm:ance the politically aware Paul Robeson was enlisted, despite the actor' s pf()te~;ts, the encomium to European colonialism in Africa that is Sanders of the (1935). In recent years Hollywood has made gestures toward "correct" African-American, Native American, and Latino/a performers have been to "represent" their communities. But this "realistic" casting is hardly if narrative structure and cinematic strategies remain Eurocentric. An ically correct face does not guarantee community self-representation, any

than Clarence Thomas's black skin guarantees his representation of

American legal interests.

A number of film and theater directors have sought alternative

literally self-representative casting. Orson Welles staged all-Black Shakespeare plays, most notably his "Voodoo Macbeth" in Harlem in 1936. Brook, similarly, cast a rainbow of multicultural performers in his adaptation of the Hindu epic The Mahabaratha (1990). Glauber Rocha

190

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

ately confused linguistic and thes ian self .

Sept Cabecas (1970), whose ve~ title su~epresenta~ons .in.his D~r Leone Have

spectator by mingling five of th I verts the linguistic positioning of the Brechtian fable animates emblem eti a;guages of Africa's colonizers. Rocha's nations, suggesting imperial ho ac I ~es representing the diverse colonizing

d mo ogres among them by h .

accente speaker play the role of the Am . avmg an Italianso forth. encan, a Frenchman play the German and

Such antiliteral strategies provoke an . .

non-originary casting? Doesn't actin al trreve.rent questlon.: what is wrong with

Should we applaud Blacks playing g H:::;YS :volve a ludic play with identity? Othello? .And have not Euro-Ame . deEt ut not Laurence Olivier playing

ncan an uropean perfo ft '"

substituted for one another (for ex I G rmers 0 en ethnically

R . . . amp e, reta Garbo and Cyd Ch .

ussians ill Ninotchka, 1939, and Silk Stockin s ?' ansse as has to be seen in contin zent tenus ill' I' g, 1957). Casting, we would argue,

. . "" re anon to the role the p liti al d

mtentlon, and to the historical mo Wi ,0 IC an esthetic

whereby a whole foreign country is :ent. e ~~ot equate a gigantic charade

is imazined as speaking I presente. y players not from that country

"'. a anguage not Its own (a fr H

. WIth cases where non-literal castin f equent ollywood

esthetic. The casting of Blacks to pI Harnl g onus part of an alternative

di . ay et, for example militat .

UdUlIUU'lli:U scnmination that denied Blacks an .' es agamst a

in both the performing arts and . liti Y ro~e, literally and metaphor-

O ill po tics, while the castin f L

as thello prolongs a venerable histo . g 0 aurence

We see the possibilities of epiderrnicall ~ of deliberat~ly ?ypassing Black

989), a San Francisco Mime Troupe I ~ mcorrect cas~g ill Seeing Double

an ethnicall di p ay a out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

y rverse cast takes on shiftinz I . '

analogical links between communities An Afri '" ro es ill. such a way as to posit

alestinian-American and a Jewish-Am. c~-Amencan actor plays both a

hi encan, lor example thus hin .

story of exclusion binding Blacks J ,tlng at a

, ews, and Arabs.

THE LINGUISTICS OF DOMINATION same issues of self-representation arise in I .

of collective identity Ian a es re ~tlon to language. As potent

razor's edge of national anf c~ltu arale dthiffe fOCI of deep loyalties existing at

. . r erence Althouzh I

entities do not exist in hierar hi f al . . '" anguages as

hierarchies of power. InsCrib~d e~~m: :; languages as lived operate

caught up in the cultural hi hi . play of power, language l

h erarc es typical of Euroc tri E

as often served as the lin . tic vehi en sm. nglish,

power, technology, and fin:I:. ~:~hic~e for the projec~on of Anglo-

hybrid bred of em ire H yw od films, for their part, betray

ons, an not only to Am . .

the~selves, and always in English. In Cecil ;n~an~t al~o to the

_~'11UlLE,"gy,,,~ans anldd the Israelites, not to mention God, :peakeE~~~:hb~th,

e wor ,Hollywood indirectly dirnini h d th . .... y,

. see possibilities of j

191

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

. ti Hollywood both profited from and

\ /"linguistic self-representatlon for oth~r na . natu of the Enalish language, thus

: d th orld wide dlssemrna on 0 f

) itself promote e w - . f the linauistic autonomy 0

! ib tID' g l'nclirectly to the subtle erosion 0 0

( contn u

! cultllres. . b h an was to speak the colonizing language,

Since for the colomzer, to e aU: to abandon their languages. Ng~gi colonized people were enco~~e heinz punished for speaking their

Thiong' 0 tells of Kenyan c en la ~es inscribed with the words "I.

languages, caned or m~de to c~. X S q urr points out, are denied speech ill stupid.'022 But the c?lomze~,. as ::lsen~e of not being allowed to speak,

double sense, first in the idioma ina reco!ITlized as capable of

second in the more radical sense. of not be e; that has provoked protest

It is this historical sense of tymg t~n~. d I nialist "tact" so hand

h linzuistic discrunmatlon an co 0 ":

countless films, were 0 .' d distorted social portrmture.

. d dina charactenzatlOn an ..

hand WIth con escen 0 d nuded of their own idiom,

"Indians" of classic Hollywood westerns, e the " ivilized" lanauage.

. k f their inability to master e Cl " '=:

pidgin English, a mar o. Third World the "word of the other IS

many First World films set in the . N rth Africa for example, Arabic is

d . tured In films set m 0 , . . .

distorte , or canca . . th " al" lanQUaae of commumcatlon IS

. h bl rmur while e re 0 0

indeclp era e mu .: "I Moko (1936) or the English of Bogart

French of. Jean Gabm m({g%_; :u Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962),

Bergman in Casablanca . . m athetic to the Arabs, we hear almost

pretentiously, even ostentatl~usly s~ Pin a motley of accents, almost all of Arabic at all but rather English s~o;~ . little to do with Arabic. And, (Omar Sharifs being the exceptl~n avmg 1 set in North Africa, . recently, Bertolucci's The S~elterzng Sky (199 ~ther to translate Arabic the English of its protagomsts ~d ddoes not; Dances with Wolves (1990),

thi film hi tory the relative a vance 0

Given s storv, h e in linauistic replres,ent:ati(}n.

Black Robe (1991), trigger hopes for a sea-~ ::ainst fueheaemonic Many Third World filmmake~s have. reac e Alailiouah Enalish, for example,

I es in dominant cinema. 0 0 k

of Enropean anguag t lonials like Ben Okri, Dere

become the literary lingua franca f~r pos dcoViikr Seth and in this sense

ukheri Salman Rushdie an am, th

Bharati M efJe~, . ., al '.'owners," it has also been met with e

longer the possesslOn of Its ongm , linguistic sources NgiigI wa

neocolonial dem~d of ~eturn t~:~eU:e write in Afric~ rather than

challenge to African. wnters - ak by African filmmakers, for

languages - ha~ to some e:tent(!~: ~Ub~tl:~) is standard procedure. the use of African languaoes d i di African languages, notably

f ample has filme in verse

Sembene, or ex, d d the issue of language and powe~

Wolof. Sembene ~as al~o foregr~~~4 e for example links issues of the colonial situatl?n. His Xala ( ao~st EI Hadji: a polygamouS social representatlon. The protag I .' d ttitudes of the African businessman, embodies the neocO ~mz~e:e structures the film vehemently denounced by Fanon~m th elite don African dress

opposition of Wolof and French. e e

192

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

nationalist speeches in Wolof, they speak French among themselves and reveal European suits beneath their African garb. Many of the characterizations revolve around the question of language. El Hadji's first wife, Adja, representing the precolonial African woman, speaks Wolof and wears traditional clothes. The second wife, OuIDi, mimics European fashions, affects French, and wears wigs, sunglasses, and low-cut dresses. Finally, El Hadji's daughter, Rama, representing the progressive hybrid of Africa and Europe, knows French but insists on speaking Wolof to her francophile father, who prefers she seal her lips. Instead, she performs what Gloria Anzaldua calls "linguistic code-switching" in the face of censorious forces, "transforming silence with (an)other alphabet.v'" Thus conflicts involving language-shifts are made to carry a strong charge of social and cultural tension.

As a social battleground, language forms the site where political struggles are engaged both collectively and intimately. People do not enter simply into language as a master code; they participate in it as socially constituted subjects whose linguistic exchange is shaped by power relations. In the case of CUl'UlllaW)J.ll, linguistic reciprocity is simply out of the question. In Sembene's La Noire de .,. (Black Girl, 1966), the female protagonist Diouana stands at the ~nn"""lrPl'f'P of multiple structures of inequality - as Black, as maid, as woman and her oppression is conveyed specifically through language. Diouana 'overhears her French employer say of her: "She understands French ... by instinct . like an animal." The colonialist here transforms a defining human character- the capacity for language - into a sign of animality, even though Diouana French while her employers, after years in Senegal, know nothing of her

H1l.I~(UlU:<:; and culture. It is this regime of linguistic non-reciprocity which WM1lll1.W:S.U<:;:S colonial bilingualism from ordinary linguistic dualism. For the colonizer, the refusal of the colonized's language is linked to the denial of

self-determination, while for the colonized mastery of the colonizer's testifies both to a capacity for survival and a daily drowning out of one's Colonial bilingualism entails the inhabiting of conflicting psychic and realms.

llre.UlL.::.real:':'_C1flenla,.. has as its linguistic corollary the view of European

as inherently more "cinematic" than others. The English phrase "I love , some Brazilian critics argued without irony in the 1920s, was intrinsically beautiful than the Portuguese eu te amo. The particular focus on amorous >" reflects not only the lure of Hollywood's romantic model of cinema glamor and popular stars, but also an intuitive sense of the erotics of 'i neocolonialism - that is, the sense that the imperializing language." a kind of phallic power and attraction. Carlos Diegues' Bye Bye Brazil

titled in English even in Brazil, looks at English, as it were, "through" Portuguese. The name of the film's traveling entertainment troupe - Rolidei - phonetically transcribes the Brazilian pronunciation of the "holiday," in a spirit of creative distortion. This refusal to "get it straight"

193

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

reveals a typical colonial ambivalence, melding sincere affection and resentful parody. The Chico Buarque theme song features expressions like ''bye bye," "night and day," and "OK" as indices of the Americanization (and in this case the multinationalization) of a world where Portuguese-speaking Amazonian tribal chiefs wear designer jeans and backwoods rock groups sound like the Bee Gees, embodying a palimpsestic America. In sum, the issue of linguistic selfrepresentation does not simply entail a return to authentic languages but rather the orchestration of languages for emancipatory purposes.P

WRITING HOLLYWOOD AND RACE

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

ends.,,30 Thus subaltern performance encodes, often in s.anitized, ambigu~us

hat Scott calls the "hidden transcripts" of a subordmated group. A kind

ways, w . d ithi

of "euphernization" occurs when hidden transcripts ar~ expresse .WI n power-

laden situations by actors who prefer to avoid the sanonons that a direct

. ht brin o At their best Black performances undercut stereotypes by lTIClIV1C1n-

rrug 0" b . "

alizing the type or slyly standing above it. The "flamboy~t ossmess

McDaniel's "Mammy" in Gone with the Wind, her way of10?~g Scarlett in the eye, within this perspective, translated aggressive hostility toward a system. Bogle emphasizes the resilient imagin.ation o~ Black performers. to play against script and studio intentions, their capacity to turn demeanmg into resistant performance. Thus "each major bla~k actor of ~e day managed reveal some unique quality of voice or personality. that audIences , responded to. Who could forget Bojangles' urb~ty? Or ~o,chester s cement-a L mixer voice? Or Louise Beavers' jollity? Or Hattie McDaruel s haughtiness'F'"

Performance itself intimated liberatory possibilities.

Historically, Hollywood has tried to "teach" Black per;t"ormers how to to its own stereotypes. Beavers' voice had no trace ~f dialect or southern she had to school herself in the southern drawl conSIdered com~~lsory for performers. Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffie (1987) sannzes these conventions by having White directors oblige Black a~tors to coru:orm to stereotypes about Blackness. The White directors give les~ons m street crestures and mannerisms, all of which the Shakespeare-onented B.lack ~rotagonist finds distasteful. The protagonist's own dream, presented in a sequence, is to play prestigious hero roles ~uch as Supe:man and ~a:nbo or roles like King Lear. The desire for dignified and SOCIally prestIgiOUS roles reflects a desire to be taken seriously, not always to be .the butt of the to win access to the generic prestige historically assocIated WIth tr~gedy and

even if Townsend's film relays this desire, parodoxic~y, in paro~lc form.

Apart from studies on Native Americans and African-Amencans, work has also been done on the stereotypes of other ethnic groups. In Th~ Image in American Film, Allen Woll points to. the substratum of male common to Latino male stereotypes - the bandido, the greaser, the . the bullfighter. Latina women, meanwhile, call up the heat and passionate evoked by the titles of the films of Lupe Velez: Hot Pepp~r .(1933), Dynamite (1934), and Mexican Spitfire (1940). Arthur G. Pettlt, in .Images Mexican American in Fiction and Film, traces the intertext of such rrnagery Anglo "conquest fiction" of writers like Ned Buntline and Zan~ Grey: conquest fiction, Pettit argues, the Mexican is define~, negatively, in "qualities diametrically opposed to an Anglo ~rototype: Angl~ conquest transferred to the mestizo Mexicans the prejUdICeS prevIOusly ~ected Native American and the Black. They excoriate miscegenatIo~ and sound the theme of the inevitable decline and degeneracy of MeXlc~s due mixing; "the Spaniards and their 'polluted' descendants have co~tted natio:al self-genocide by mixing voluntarily with inferior dark-skinned

196

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

. In conquest novels, Mexicans are not called Mexicans but "greasers," "yallers " "mongrels," and "niggers". Hollywood inherited these stereotypes - the bandido, the greaser, the "half-breed" whore - along with the positively connoted elite figures of the Cas~an gentleman and the high-caste Castillian woman. Morality, iII such works, IS color-coordinated; the darker the color, the worse the character_33

A . number of didactic ?ocumentaries address the issue of stereotypes. The Medza Show: North Amerzcan Indians (1991) critically dissects the portrayal of

IT,,,l.iiE> "Indians" in Hollywood films (including Dances with Wolves). Phil Lucas and Robert Hagopian's Images of Indians (1979) examines Hollywood films as purveyors of Native American stereotypes. This documentary is divided into five half-ho~ se~ents: "The. Great Movie Massacre" examines the warrior image of

Indian; Heathen Injuns and the Hollywood Gospel" addresses the mis.•.•. reoreseDltatIOn of indigenous religion; "How Hollywood Wins the West" focusses the one-~ided representations of history; "The Movie Reel Indians" speaks of attitudes toward ~ati~e.Americans; and ''Warpaint and Wigs" speaks of

constructedness and artificiality of the Hollywood Indian. Black History: Lost, and Strayed (1967), narrated by Bill Cosby, criticizes the historical misrepresentati'l ons an~ stereotypical portrayals of Blacks. Marlon Riggs' Ethnic stresses the pam c.au~ed by stereotypes incarnated in racist cartoons, toys, films, and alternates CItations of racist materials with interviews with AfricanAlllleri'lcan performers and scholars. Gloria Ribe's From Here, from This Side deploys Hollywood films and archival material to communicate a vision cultural domination from the Mexican side. The Edward Said-narrated In the of the. West (~9.84) critiques orientalist imagery in part through """rc.,,,,.,.,,nc WIth Palest:nnans, Lebanese, and Arab intellectuals living in the US.

Tajima and Christine Choy's Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1988), a film the murder by White autoworkers of a Chinese-American whom they took Japanese, uses media materials in its portrayal of anti-Asian discrimination.

See's All Orientals Look the Same (1986) undercuts the orientalizina of the plural" by having very diverse Asian-American faces dissolve into . C~stine Cho~'s and Renee Tajima's Yellow Tale Blues (1990) media imagery WIth the actual situations of Asian-Americans. Shu Lea

s Color Schemes (1989) spoofs American melting-pot ideals through the of "color wash" to explore the ambiguities of racial assimilation.

perfo~ers ~voke four ethnic "wash cycles": soak, wash, rinse, extract.

Gee s Slaym~ the Dragon (1987), finally, uses film clips (for example, World of SUZIe Wong, 1960) and interviews to show how Asian women stereotyped as docile and exotic.

=: Adjustment (1991) chronicles the history of Black representation from the caricatural days of Amos and Andy through Black sitcoms

Times through Roots up to the ultimate Black American family: the of The Cosby Show. Throughout, Color Adjustment speaks less about representation than about the fundamental paradigm lurking behind

197

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

most of the shows _ the idealized suburban nuclear family. In one of the quoted programs, All in the Family, Edith Bunker praises Black progress: "They used all be servants, and maids, and waiters, and now they're lawyers and They've come a long way on television!" But this simulacral meliorism, Adjustment suzzests, is deeply inadequate. Even if TV were peopled excruxrvetv by African-~rican doctors and lawyers, the concrete situation of rllJ.l<';<lU-i Americans would not thereby be substantially improved. Color Aasustmem underlines this contrast between media image and social reality by juxtaposing sitcom episodes with documentary street footage, .so~etimes by

of contrast (The Brady Bunch versus police attacks on CIvil nghts maIfCDlesl.\)./ sometimes by way of comparison (scenes of anti-bussing demonstrators racial epithets juxtaposed with Archie Bunker's racial inanities). Fade to (1989), finally, aggressively orchestrates very diverse materials: ~ capsul.e "'~lIlnl/ of Blacks in films, Althusser-influenced theoretical interventIons, clips

feature films (Vertigo, 1958; Taxi Driver, 1976), rap music and a .

voice-over commentary. The voice-overs by two Black men contrast White denials of racism with everyday "proxemic" expressions of fear and hostility:

White motorist who clicks the car door lock upon seeing a Black man, the matron who clutches her purse upon seeing a Black man approach.

THE LIMITS OF THE STEREOTYPE

We would like both to argue for the importance of the study of popular culture and to raise some methodological questions about the premises of character- or stereotype-centered approaches. (We are not

that the work of the writers just mentioned is reducible to "stereotype To begin, the stereotype-centered approach, the analysis .of :epeated, pernicious constellations of character traits, has made an mdispensable

tion by:

1. revealing oppressive patterns of prejudice in what might at first glance seemed random and inchoate phenomena;

2. highlighting the psychic devastation inflicted by systematically

portrayals on those groups assaulted by them, whether . .~~~ly~~or through the negative effects

dissemination; and

3. signaling the social functionality of stereotypes, ~emonstrat~g that

not aILerrorofp~rception but~_!!l~r a fO,rIll of SOCIal control, mtended CA.Jke_Walker callS"PiiSonsof i!.nage:;'~

:...---

The call for "positive images," in the same way, corresponds to a which only those accustomed to having their narcissism stroked can understand. Given a dominant cinema that trades in heroes and "minority" communities rightly ask for their fair share of the as a simple matter of representational parity.

198

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

At the same time, the stereotype approach entails a number of theoreticalpolitical pitfalls. First, the exclusive preoccupation with images, whether positive or negatrve, can lead to a kind of essentialism, as less subtle critics reduce a complex variety of portrayals to a limited set of reified formulae. Such criticism is proc~stean;. the critic forces diverse fictive characters into preestablished cat~gones. Behind every Bla~k child performer the critic discerns a "pickaninny"; behin~ every sexually attracnve Black actor a "buck"; behind every corpulent or nurturIng B~ack female a "mammy." Such reductionist simplifications run the risk of reproducmg the very racial essentialism they were designed to combat.

This essentiali~m generates in its wake a certain ahistoricism; the analysis tends to be static, ~ot ~~wing for mutations, metamorphoses, changes of valence, altered function; It Ignores the historical instability of the stereotype and of l~guage. Some of the basic terminology invoked by Bogle was not always anti-Black. The word "coon," for example, originally referred to rural Whites, becoming a racial slur only around 1848. At the time of the American rev()lUlllon, the term "buck" evoked a "dashing, virile young man"; and became a>'lJvlQ.L,",U with Blacks only after 1835.35 Stereotype analysis also fails to register ways that imagery might be shaped, for example, by structural changes in the How does one reconcile the "lazy Mexican" from the "greaser films" the media's present-day "illegal alien" overly eager to work long hours at On the other hand, images may change, while their function remains the or vice versa. Riggs' Ethnic Notions explains that the role of the Uncle Tom

not to re~r~se~t Blacks but rather to reassure Whites with a comforting image Black docility, Just as the role of the Black buck, ever since Reconstruction, bee~ to frighten Whites in order to subordinate them to elite manipulation, a mvented by southern Dixiecrats but subsequently adopted by the

'IJU~'llv'U1 Party. The positive images of TV sitcoms with Black casts, such as Strokes and The Jeifersons, Herman Gray argues, idealize "racial affluence, and individual mobility" and thus "deflect attention from the of racism, inequality, and differential power.,,36 The Huxtables'

as Jhally and Lewis put it, "implies the failure of the majority of black Conte.m~or~ stereotypes, moreover, are inseparable from the long of colomalist discourse. The "sambo" type is on one level merely a characterological instantiation of the infantilizing trope. The

mulatto", in the same vein, is a cautionary figure premised on the trope . the loathing of mixing characteristics of a certain racist discourse. many of the scandalously racist statements discussed in the media are teccentric views than throwbacks to colonialist discourses. Seen in historical TV commentator Andy Rooney's widely censured remark that had "watered down their genes" is not a maverick "opinion" but rather a the nostrums of "racial degeneracy" theories.

Tom Brokaw Report (April 1993) on the subject of immigration the need to historicize the discussion of stereotyping and media racism. we accompany the efforts of the border police to catch "illegal

199

200

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

. h li ht of surveillance cameras, we see aliens" coming from M~xico. In the £greemss acr~ss highways, through cracks.

"ali " akinz their way over ence , like mi d

the ens m '" . bl rmin who proliferate e mice an

al t kind of ineradica e ve I .

portray sugges saO f "them" appears briefly, not to exp am

just as difficult to stomp out. ne othin ill stop them, that arrest and '"'~.'"""Vll

perspective but only to warn that no hi g ':. ti on nothino- about the brutality

. btl s There is no stoncIza, '"

are not major 0 s ac e . . th t this entire area was once part

li and no explanation a th

the border po ce, . th b fore "legal" Anglos, and at

th "ill al" MeXicans were ere e .

Mexico, at eg I s part of a transborder nation.

d M . ans rezard themse ves a th

Chicanos an eXIC '" Bl k D minican medic reports on e

then move to New York, ~hebre ha dach seorves. he calls for more "se:lec:tlVle"

. . th neIgh or 00 e, 1 k

levels of cnme me. th "b d" ethnics (predictably B ac

immigration. After hearmg abo.ut" ~ ~e Russian Jews who work hard, Latino), we meet the "good ethnics.:. s fAnlerica's zifts. The same signs

1 . d are deeply apprecIatiVe 0 '" .

not comp am, an . . h B th Dominicans and RUSSIans

dinz to an ethnic hierarc y. 0

valence accor '" nl . th the Russians does the

d . for example but 0 y WI th

shown ancmg, . .' of ioie de vivre. Then we meet ano er

"anchor" the dancing as a SIgn ) h di . line" to young Blacks,

busi an who "teac es ISCIP '"

minority," a Korean u.smessn: 0- their neio-hborhood. The Koreans, we are

praise the Korean for Improv~", "'d zet ahead, but their success

I h s respect their elders, an '" "

work ong our, . ct that the "res enters

(0" the LA rebellions we suspe al

resentment. rven . ale "ex erts" address us: one, a liber ,

Blacks and Latinos.) Three White e~or !ITe!er restrictions. The few Black for tolerance; the other two ar~. "'mmunity but rather for other COInmumt in the program speak u~ not ~or . :ra~~n policy; no one speaks up for the (the Koreans) or for stn~ter immig . d I divergent histories and ''"''U~'JU~ Not a word about racism, about WI e y

. ali 1 very or capitalism. arnili

coloni sm, sa, . al h this scenario seems so f ar.

A moment's reflection reve s w Y ial hierarchy theories rlg·"""nT,,'n

hearing echoes of the ninetee~th-centuryd Rraci an now embedded in

think Heo-el Gobmeau an en, .

such ers as "" . Blacks are on the lowest rung,

poverty" ideolof1 F;: ~~~::;~' r~~e is superior to the Black, but still

development, wee. White race characterized by

and susceptible to despotism. The . the top position For

d taste for liberty OCCupIes '.

orderliness, an a . . ' les) are at the bottom, with ASIans

Blacks (~ong wi~ mdigen~u: ::: eans positioned at the top. In the

"intermedIate race and 'Yhlt ~ d (the Asians are no longer

program, the qu~ties posited ~ave c o:!~e object of anti-Semitic U~"-'-J

rather hardworking; European e~s, hi' mechanism remains intact.

d) et the basic hierarc zing

been promote ,y d ed _ Whites are the

. . . t so much asserte as assum

supenonty IS no . those who cause no problems,

the experts, the unco~~.oversial on Ides, hose prerogative it is to create laws

judge, those "at home in the wor ,w '"

face of alien disorder. '. . al is COJrtrlonts]

" d" and ''bad'' characters in Image an ys

The focus on goo

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

. discourse on that discourse's favored ground. It easily slides into moralism, and thus into fruitless debates about the relative virtues of fictive characters (seen not as constructs but as if they were real flesh-and-blood people) and the correctness of their fictional actions. This kind of anthropocentric moralism, deeply rooted in Manichean schemas of good and evil, leads to the treatment of complex political issues as if they were matters of individual ethics, in a manner reminiscent of the morality plays staged by the right, in which virtuous American heroes do battle against demonized Third World villains. Thus Bush/Reagan regime portrayals of its enemies drew on the "Manichean allegories" (in the words of Abdul Jan Mohamed) of colonialism: the Sandinistas were portrayed as latter-day bandidos, the mestizo Noriega was made to incarnate Anglo phobias about Latino men (violent, drug-dealing, voodoo-practicing), and Saddam Hussein triggered the intertextual memory of Muslim fanatics and Arab assassins.

The media discussion of racism often reflects this same personalistic bias.

Ma:SS-lnelrna debates often revolve around sensational accusations of personal the accusation and the defense are framed in individual terms. Accused for exploiting the image of Willie Horton, Bush advertised his personal ii anlim()Slty toward bigotry and his tenderness for his little brown grandchildren, an ideological penchant for personalizing and moralizing essen-

political issues. The usual sequence in media accusations of racism, is that the racist statement is made, offense is expressed, punishment is for: all of which provokes a series of counter-statements - that the person question is not racist, that some of the person's best friends belong to the race question, and so forth. The process has the apparently positive result of placing statements beyond the pale of Civil speech; blatant racism is stigmatized

punished. But the more subtle, deeper forms of discursively and institutionstructured racism remain unrecognized. The discussion has revolved around

putative racism of a single individual; the problem is assumed to be personal, The result is a lost opportunity for antiracist pedagogy: racism is reduced

individual, attitudinal problem, distracting attention from racism as a self-reproducing discursive apparatus that itself shapes racist attitudes. analysis is likewise covertly premised on individualism in that the character, rather than larger social categories (race, class, gender,

sexual orientation), remains the point of reference. Individual morality more attention than the larger configurations of power. This apolitical to stereotypes allows pro-business "content analysts" to lament without the TV's "stereotyping" of American businessmen, forgetting that television institution, at least, is permeated by the corporate ethos, that its commercials its shows are commercialsjor business.

focus on individual character also misses the ways in which sociall and cultural practices, as opposed to individuals; can be mis: \ without a single character being stereotyped. The flawed mimesis of ~ Hollywood films dealing with the Third World, with their innumerable

. linguistic, and even topographical blunders, has less to do with

201

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

~ than with the tendentious iznorance of colonialist discourse.

ereotypes per se an WI 0 deni d

The social institutions and cultural practices of a. people can be. eru:ateret)rOdU(:e

dividual stereotypes entering .~to ~~ qUe~l1on. The l:~~:e;::ing them

Eurocentric views of African spmt religions, or exampie, . di ensnnnej •.•. /

th th I zitimate belief-systems, preju Ices

superstitious cults ra er an as eo hi ""ma!!ic") used

. . cabulary ("aninlism " "ancestor wors p, 0

in the patromzmg vo '. . . sed Wf~stp,rn .•.• ' •. Ii<

di the relioions.38 Within Eurocentric thinking, supenmpo

scuss o· li .

hierarchies work to the detriment of African re gions:

oral rather than written, they are seen as lacking ~e cultural ~p~atur

1. the religions "of the Book" (when in fact the text simply takes distinct,

semiotic form, as in Yoruba praise songs); . .

d d as polytheistic rather than monotheistic (a

2. they are regar e f Afri eligions);

hierarchy and in any case a misrepresentation.o ~ost . iheritance '

they are viewed as superstitious rather than SCIentific (an inh

3. positivist view of religion as evolving fro~ ~yth to theology to

when in fact all religions involve a leap of fruth,. d) th

4. they are considered disturbing~y corporeal and ludic (dance ra er

abstractly and austerely theological; . .

they are thought insufficiently sublimated (for example, involving

5. animal sacrifice rather than symbolic or historically commemoranve

fice); and . . dr . o the personality in the

6. they are seen as wildly greganous'th owthnmo ectinz the unitary

transpersonal fusions of trance, ra er an resp 0 .• '

.. . d al of the VISIO tnteuectuai

individual consciousness. The Christian Ie. .

hi h Christian theology inherited from the neo-Platonists, flees. m

w c 0 th"" elisions of Africa

from the lural trances and visions of e transe ~ o· .

. diz ous peoples.V In a less Eurocentnc perspective, all

many in igen I k f written text

"deficiencies" become advantages: the ac 0 ~ . f

fundamentalist dogmatism; the multiplicity of spmt~ ~ows or change; bodily possession bet~kens an absence of puritanical a''', .... u ...... u ... ,

dance and music are an aesthetic resource.

. ., f Afri . gin are almost invariably

Diasporic syncretic religions 0 can o~ " VI d Man

in dominant media. The affiliation of such voodoo ~ as 00 00 enre VI doo Woman (1957) and Voodoo Island (1957) WIth the horr~r g

00 , . . d African religion But m recent

betrays a viscerally phobic atntu e to . '. .

positivist phobias about "magical" practices, coupled WIth monotheist tion of "zcdless" rituals, still surface. The Believers (1986) pres~n~s t

a cult d~minated by ritual child-murderers, in a manner rermm~cen "unspeakable rites" invoked by colonialist literature. ~y num er

tici African religion in a way that betrays ambivalent

;~o u~s~:n. Angel Heart (1987) has Lisa Bonet, as Epiph~y Proudfoot the

~ d . th Mickey Rourke in a sangumary love scene.

pnestess thrash aroun WI li .

Mickey Rourke vehicle, Wild Orchid (1989), exploits the re gious

202

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

. the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble as what Tomas Lopez-Pumarejo calls an "Afro-dysiac." And the Michael Caine comedy Blame it on Rio (1984) stages Umbanda as a frenetic orgy in which the priestess (mae de santo) doles out amorous advice in English to tourists.?? The electronic media also participate in these defamatory portrayals. Local "Eyewitness News" reports, in New York at least, present Santeria as a problem for law enforcement, or as an issue of "cruelty to animals." Habitual chicken-eaters, forgetful of the scandalous conditions of commercial poultry production, become horrified at the ritual slaughter of small numbers of chickens, while officials openly call for an "end to Santeria," a call unthinkable in the case of "respectable" religions.f! In sum, Eurocentric procedures can treat complex cultural phenomena as deviant without recourse to a character stereotype.

A moralistic and individualistic approach also ignores the contradictory nature of stereotypes. Black figures, in Toni Morrison's words, come to signify polar opposites: "On the one hand, they signify benevolence, harmless and servile

. . and endless love," and on the other "insanity, illicit sexuality,

A moralistic approach also sidesteps the issue of the relative nature of

IIIUl.au,.,." eliding the question: positive for whom? It ignores the fact that onoresseo people might not only have a different vision of morality, but even an vision of a hypocritical moralism which not only covers over instituinjustice but which is also oppressive in itself. Even the Decalogue less sacrosanct in bitter situations of social oppression. Within slavery, example, might it not be admirable and therefore "good" to lie to, manipulate, even murder a slave-driver? The "positive image" approach assumes a morality intimately linked to status quo politics. What is seen as by the dominant group, for instance the acts of those "Indians" in who spy for the Whites, might be seen as treason by the dominated

The taboo in Hollywood was not so much on "positive images" butrather of racial anger, revolt, and empowerment.

privileging of character over narrative and social structure places the on oppressed people to be "good" rather than on the privileged to remove

knife from the back. The counterpart of the "good Black" on the other side racial divide is the pathologically vicious racist: Richard Widmark in No Out (1950) or Bobby Darin in Pressure Point (1962). Such films let racists" off the hook, unable to recognize themselves in the raving on the screen. And in order to be equal, the oppressed are asked to be Whence all the stoic "ebony saints" (Bogle's words) of Hollywood, from eavers in Imitation of Life (1934 version), through Sidney Poitier in The Ones (1961), to Whoopi Goldberg in Clara's Heart (1988). Furthermore, Black forms a Manichean pair with the demon Black, in a moralistic reminiscent of that structuring Cabin in the Sky. Saints inherit the tradition of sacrifice and tend to be desexualized, deprived of normal attributes, along the lines of the "Black eunuch," cast in decorative or poses." The privileging of positive images also elides the patent

203

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

PERSPECTIVE, ADDRESS, FOCALIZATION

204

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

ex-slave. But while the film seems to present all its events from J?~O'S point view, apparently to elicit total sympathy with him, what ~t in fa~t e~cIts for is a paternalistic vision of "good" Blacks leaving their d~sm:y ~ ~e hands well-intentioned White abolitionists. One finds a related ambiguity in liberal that privilege European mediators over their Third World object o~ sympathy

the Palestinians in Hanna K. (1983), the Indians in Passage t~ Indza (19~4), African-Americans in Mississippi Burning, the Nicaraguans m Under Fzr~, Indians in City of Joy (1990). A recent episode of the TV show Tr~vel (~pril 1992), similarly, glorifies an elderly British woman who h~lp~ chil~en in The mise-en-scene forezrounds her as she leads the group singing of My Lies over the Ocean." Thoughout she is focalized as a kind of hal~ed

savior of the oppressed, within an ideology that posits individual altruism as

sole lezitimate force for social change. The Third World characters subsidiary function in such films and reports, even though their plight is thematic focus. Media liberalism, in sum, does not allow subaltern. cOlmnlUnlties} to play prominent self-determining roles, a refusal homologou~ to liberal distastecU for non-mediated self-assertion in the political realm. In City of Joy, portrayed as the unrelieved misery of Calcutta - "an inexhaustible Christian charity" in the words of Chidananda das Gupta - becomes the

. 47 Th "oth "bec:omes

Patrick Swayze's personal sacrifice and redemption, e 0 er

trampolin for personal sacrifice and redemption. .

To make its didactic thrust palatable to a Western audience, Hanna K., other recent Middle East thrillers such as Circles of Deceit and The Drummer Girl (1984), has its First World protagonist (Jill Clayburgh) Third World oppression. Particularly in the courtroom sequences, Hanna not speaks for the Palestinian Selim but is positioned b~ the physically (and ideologically) closer to the spectator. Dialog ~d construct her narrative dominance, aligning the spectator WIth her humanism. At the same time, the narrative structure allows the spectator to

only as much as she knows, an equation of knowledge between protagonist that makes possible the film's pedagogical strategy. In the roman chronicling Hanna's journey from ignorance to awareness of sexual inequalities, the spectator's consciousness ~aduall~ becomes from hers.48 In films like this, all the ideological points-of-view are int,p'ar~tp.(

the authoritative liberal perspective of the narrator-focalizer, who,

oversees and evaluates all the positions.

Some liberal films practice a slightly more critical twist on this JjllaWIKSI technique. The Dutch film Max Havelaar (1978), directed by Fons adapts a popular Dutch novel by Eduard Douwes Dekker (~en n~e

an expose of colonialism by a civil servant who expenence~ It Although the film simplifies the novel's complex system of multiple

it does retain two central elements: the story of Havelaar, a well colonialist with a conscience, and the story of the novelist's search for a

After some success as a minor government official on the island of

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

Indonesia, Havelaar.is ~ven an Assistant Residency- in Lebak, a remote outpost on Java. There he sails mto what turns out to be a nest of vipers: his predecessor, we l~am, has been poisoned and the murder has been covered up by a falsified medIcal r~port '. Hav~laar confronts the native Regent, a man of duplicitous charm whose emgmanc smile masks despotic greed and who treats the people of Lebak as virtu:u slaves. Hoping to persuade the Regent to mend his ways, Havelaar offers him money from his own pocket to pay the natives for their work. The R~gent smiles ~enignly, accepts the money, and goes on exploiting. Enraged, and naIvely assuming that the colonial administration shares his revulsion at the Regent' s ~sdeeds, Havelaar brings his campaign to the Dutch bureaucracy, where he dIscovers. that Dutch colonial officials are accomplices in the Regent's The corruption stretches all the way from his colonial outpost to the Dutch

Shorn of both his position and his illusions, Havelaar returns to Holland. reformism is portrayed as a kind of quixotic madness. About to dive

shark-infested waters, he speaks grandly of his "mission." "Yes," someone "but do the sharks know about that?" Humanitarian do-gooders, the film are apt to be devoured by colonialist sharks. While Havelaar irritates the he is also unable to join the colonized fishes. His predicament is that of

"colonialist who refuses" (in Memmi' s words); social contradiction permeates every word and ~esture. The film's innovation, however, lies in having a character mediate not so much between audience and subject as between contradictions of colonialism itself.

Thunderheart (1991), a fictionalized version of the struggle of the Oglala-

Plate 34 Compromise focalization: Val Kilmer in Thunderhean

206

207

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM STEREOTYPE, REALISM

Sioux against FBI repression in the 1970s, meanwhile, is focalized through appealing in terms of lighting and mise-en-scene. 50 Ethic/ethnic perspectives are

hybrid character whose sense of identity is radically transformed during transmitte~ not only through character and plot but also through sound and music.

course of the film. The FBI agent (Val Kilmer), on the reservation to As ~ multitrack audio-v~sual me~um, the cinema manipulates not only point-

a murder, at first denies the Native American side of his identity - he has a of-VIew ~ut also what Michel Chion calls "point-of-hearing" (point-d' ecoute ).51

grandfather - then evolves into a fighter on behalf of Native Americans. In colonial adventure films, the environment and the "natives" are heard as if

to his discovery of the identity of the murderers goes a discovery of his through the ears of the colonizers. When we as spectators accompany the settlers'

suppressed identity. The spectator accustomed to liberal point-of-v~ew VC!l··i/IW'/.> gaze over landscapes from which emerge the sounds of native drums, the drum

tions is surprised to find that the "norms of the text" evolve dramatically sounds ar~ usually presented as libidinous or threatening. In many Hollywood

the course of the film. Whereas Hanna in Hanna K. merely learns more African polyrhythms ?ecome aural signifiers of encircling savagery,

world, without fundamentally altering her structure of thought, the FBI shorthand for the racial paranoia implicit in the phrase "the natives are

Thunderheart presumably undergoes a fundamental change in What is seen within Native American, African, or Arab cultures as

Affected by what he learns on the reservation, illuminated by visions, he and musical expression becomes in the western or adventure film a

cultural/political allegiance, bringing the spectator with him.49 index of danger, a motive for fear and loathing. In Drums along the

(1939), the "bad" Indian drums are foiled by the "good" martial Euronu''''U'~= drums which evoke the beneficent law and order of White Christian lJ<lUl><U"'Ll]. Colonialist films associate the colonized with hysterical screams nonQJ.u"y.y·~ cri~s, the yelping of animal-like creatures; the sounds themselves 'place and native on the same level, not just neighbors but species-equals.

both diegetic and non-diegetic, is crucial for spectatorial identification. ~ubnC,,~ltIrlg the ~~ectatori~ psyche and oiling the wheels of narrative continuity, conducts our emotional responses, regulates our sympathies, extracts our excites our glands, relaxes our pulses, and triggers our fears, in conjunction the image and in the service of the larger purposes of the film. In whose favor processes operate? What is the emotional tonality of the music, and with . character or grou~ does. it lead us to identify? Is the music that of the people In films set ill Africa, s?ch as Out oj Africa (1985) and Ashanti (1979), of European symphonic music tells us that their emotional "heart" is

West. In The Wild Geese (1978), classicizing music consistently lends to the White mercenary side. The Roy Budd score waxes martial and when we are meant to identify with the Whites' aggressivity, and when we are meant to sympathize with their more tender side. The

air commonly called "This Is My Beloved," associated in the film with played by Richard Harris, musically "blesses" his demise with a

CINEMA TIC AND CULTURAL MEDIATIONS

A privileging of social portrayal, plot and character often leads to a '''J.1511UWK the specifically cinematic dimensions of the films; often the analyses easily have been of novels or plays. A throughgoing analysis has to pay to "mediations": narrative structure, genre conventions, cinematic style. centric discourse in film may be relayed not by characters or plot but by framing, mise-en-scene, music. Some basic issues of mediation have to the rapports de force, the balance of power as it were, between background. In the visual arts, space has traditionally been deployed to

the dynamics of authority and prestige. In pre-perspectival medieval example, size was correlated with social status: nobles were large, peasants The cinema translates such correlations of social power into foreground and background, on screen and off screen, speech and speak of the "image" of a social group, we have to ask precise questions images. How much space do they occupy in the shot? Are they seen in or only in distant long shots? How often do they appear compared with American characters and for how long? Are they active, desiring decorative props? Do the eyeline matches identify us with one gaze another? Whose looks are reciprocated, whose ignored? How do positionings communicate social distance or differences in status? Who

and center? How do body language, posture, and facial expression social hierarchies, arrogance, servility, resentment, pride? Which sentimentalized? Is there an esthetic segregation whereby one group is

the other villainized? Are subtle hierarchies conveyed by temooral subjectivization? What homologies inform artistic and sentation?

A critical analysis must also be alive to the contradictions registers. For Ed Guerrero, Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991) condenms interracial love, yet "spreads the fever" by making it

films deploy sound and music quite differently. A number of and Afro-diasporic films, such as Faces oj Women (1985), Barravento . Pagador de Promessas (The Given Word, 1962), deploy drum ill ways that affirm African cultural values. The French film Noir et

Coule~r (Black ~d White in Color, 1976) employs music satirically by African colomzed carry their colonial masters on their backs, but through the songs they sing: ''My master is so fat, how can I carry and mme h~s stinky feet ... " Films by African and Afro-diasporic Sembene, Cisse, and Faye not only use African music but celebrate Daughters oj the Dust (1990) deploys an African "talking drum"

209

208

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM STEREOTYPE, REALISM

to drive home, if only subliminally, the Afrocentric thrust of a film dedicated to . a man named Menahem." (The show is of course open to other forms of critique.)

the diasporic culture of the Gullah people. . Satirical or parodic films may be less concerned with constructing positive

Another key mediation has to do with genre. A film ~e Preston images than with challenging the stereotypical expectations an audience may

Sullivan's Travels (1942) raises the question of what one might call the bring them. The performance piece in which Coco Fusco/Guillermo Gomez Pefia

coefficient" of racism. In this summa of cinematic genres, Blacks play exhibit themselves as "authentic aborigines" to mock the Western penchant for

distinct roles, each correlated with a specific generic discourse. In the SlalPstick •••••.• exhibiting non-Europeans in zoos, museums, and freak shows, prods the art

land-yacht sequences, the Black waiter conforms to the p~ototyp.e of the world a~dience into awareness of its own complicity. The question, in such cases,

go-lucky servantlbuffoon; he is sadistically "painted" WI~ whit~fa~e n""~oll,_ lies not ill the valence of the image but rather in the drift of the satire.

batter, and excluded from the charmed circle of White sociality, What one might call the generic defense against accusations ofracism-"It' sonly

documentary-inflected sequences showing masses of unemploye~, me:a:.Q'.whlile < a comedy! ," "Whites are equally lampooned! ," "All the characters are caricatures!,"

Blacks are present but voiceless, very much in the left-commuID~t tradition "But it's aparody!"-ishighly ambiguous, since it all depends on the modaliti esand

class reductionism; they appear as anonymous victims of economic hard lllJJICS .. ••··•·• the objects of the lampoon, parody, and so forth. The classic Euro-Israeli film on

with no racial specificity to their oppression. The most remarkable sequence, Asian and African Jews, Sallah Shabbati (1964), for example, portrays a Sephardi

homaze to the "all-Black musical" tradition, has a Black preacher and protagonist, but from a decidedly unSephardi perspective. As a naif, Sallah on one

conzrezation welcome the largely White prison-inmates to the screening of level exemplifies the perennial tradition of the uninitiated outsider figure deployed

animated cartoon. Here, in the tradition of films like Hallelujah (1929), the I~nl,>'/ as an instrument of social and cultural critique or distanciation. But in contrast with

community is portrayed as the vibrant scene of expressive religiosity. But the other naif figures such as Candide, Schweik, or Said Abi al Nakhs al Mutasha'il (in

complicates conventional repr~sentatio.n: first, by ~esegregatJng .the Emil Habibi's Pesoptimist), who are used as narrative devices to strip bare the

second, by having Blacks exercise chanty toward Whites, charactenzed by wisdom and introduce a fresh perspective, Sallah' s naivete functions less

preacher as "neighbors less fortunate than ourselves." The .preach~r exhorts attack Euro-Israeli stereotypes about Sephardi Jews than to mock Sallah himself

congregation not to act "high-toned," for "we is all equal ill the SIght of what he supposedly represents - the "oriental," or "black," qualities of

When ~ongregation and prisoners sing "Let My People Go," the music, In other words, unlike Jaroslav Hasek, who exploits the constructed

images, and the editing forge a triadic ~ b~tween. three oppressed of his character to attack European militarism rather than using it as a satire

Blacks, the prisoners, and the Biblical Israelites ill the times of ~e Pharaoh, s backwardness, the director, Kishon, molds Sallah in conformity with

assimilated to the cruel warden. The Sturges who directs the Black derived stereotypes in a mockery of the Sephardi "minority" (in fact the

sequence radically complicates the Sturges who directs the slapstick itself. The grotesque character of Sallah was not designed, and was not

racial attitudes are generically mediated.. by Euro- Israeli critics, as a satire of an individual but rather as a summation

The critique-of-stereotypes approach is implicitly premised on the . Sephardi "essence." And within the Manichean splitting of affectivity typical

of "rounded" three-dimensional characters within a realist-dramatic discourse, we find the positive - Sephardim are warm, sincere, direct,

Given the cinema's history of one-dimensional portrayals, the hope for - and negative poles - they are lazy, irrational, unpredictable, primitive,

complex and "realistic" representations is completely understand~ble, but sexist. Accordingly, Sallah (and the film) speaks in the first-person plural

not preclude more experimental, anti-illusionistic alternatives. while the Ashkenazi characters address him in the second-person plural, "you

"positive" portrayals are not the only way to fight racism or to Kishon's anti-Establishment satire places on the same level the members of the

eratory perspective. Within a Brechtian esthetic, for .example,. and those outside it and distant from real power.Social satire is not,

ereotypes can serve to generalize meaning and demys~. established an~ediate guarantor of multiculturalism. It can be retrograde, perpetuating

the same time that the characters are never purely positive or VIews, rather than deploying satire as a community-based critique of

ther are the sites of contradiction. Parody of the kind theorized by representations. 52

similarly, favors decidedly negative, even grotesque images to convey a . analysis-of-stereotypes approach, in its eagerness to apply an a priori grid,

critique of societal structures. At times, critics have mistakenly Ignores issues of cultural specificity. The stereotypes of North American

criteria appropriate to one genre or esthetic to another. A search for. for example, are only partly congruent with those of other multiracial

imazes in shows like In Living Color, for example, would be societies like Brazil. Both countries offer the figure of the noble,

that show belongs to a carnivalesque genre favoring anarchic bad slave: in the US the Uncle Tom, in Brazil the Pai Joiio (Father John).

calculated exaggeration, as in the parody of West Side Story where offer the female counterpart, the devoted woman slave or servant: in the

woman sings to her Jewish orthodox lover: "Menahem, Menahem, I "mammy," in Brazil the mae preta (Black mother), both products of a

210 211

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM plantation slavery where the children of the master were nursed at the mammy's breast. With other stereotypes, however, the cross-cultu~ a.nalOlUes become more complicated. Certain characters in Brazilian fi~s (T~mo ill Bahia

de Todos os Santos, 1960; Jorge in Compasso de Espera, Making T~e, 1973) first glance recall the tragic mulatto figure common in _North Amen~~ and literature, yet the context is radically different. FIrst, the Brazilian spectrum is not binary (Black or White) but nuanc~s its. shad~s across a

variety of racial descriptive terms. Although color vane~ Widely ill both the social construction of race and color is distinct, despite the fact that the "Latinization" of American culture hints at a kind of converging. Second, while in many ways oppressive to Blacks, has never been a rigidly sejl;regat,ed·.·.··

society; thus no figure exactly corresponds to ~e North Amenc.an mulatto," schizophrenically tom between two radically se~arate SOCI~ . The "passing" notion so crucial to American films suc~ as Pinky and I~.ltatzon

Life had little resonance in Brazil, where it is often said that all Brazilians a "foot in the kitchen"; in other words, that they all have a Black llnl'f'~l'nr\···· •• ·.·•·

somewhere in the family, This point is comically demonstrated in the Tendados Milagres (Tent of Miracles, 1977), when Pedro Arcanjo reveals racist adversary Nilo Argilo, the rabid critic of "mongrelization," to be h"',o41fi part Black. The mulatto figure can be seen as dangero~s only ~ an apllItlleid/ system and not in a system dominated by an official, albeit integrationist ideology like Brazil's. In Brazil, the figur~ of the mulatto surrounded with a different set of prejudicial connotanons, such as that of

mulatto as ''uppity'' or pretentious. On the other hand, this .

associations is not entirely foreign to the US; Griffith's Birth of a Nation, example, repeatedly pinpoints mixed-race mulattos as ambrdous and Ua.J~l'\"JlV

to the system. .

The Brazilian film Macuna{ma (1969), by Joaquim Pedro de

illustrates some of the pitfalls both of a Inisdirected search for "positive and of a culturally Inisinfonned reading. An adaptation and updating of modernist novel of tlie same name by Mario de Andrade (1928), transfonns the ultimate negative stereotype - cannibalism - into a positive resource. Fusing the discourse of fellow modernist Oswald de antlrropophagical movement with the theme of cannibalism that ru~s. Ull'uu!';u novel the director turns cannibalism into the springboard for a cntique of repre~sive military rule and the predatory capitalist model ~f Br~il'.s "economic miracle." The cannibalist theme is treated in all Its variations: so hungry they eat themselves; an ogre who offers Ma~un~a a pie~e o~ the urban guerilla who devours him sexually; the canmbal-gtant-capltalist Pietra with his antlrropophagous soup; the capitalist's wife who wants to alive; and finally the man-eating siren who lures him to his death. We se~ devouring the poor, and the poor devouring each other. The left, me~while, being devoured by the right, purifies itself by eating itself, a practice director calls the "cannibalism of the weak.,,53

212

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

Given Macunaima' s raucously Rabelaisian esthetic, it would be misguided to look for "positive images," or even for conventional realism. Virtually all the film's characters are two-dimensional grotesques rather than rounded threedimensional characters, and the grotesquerie is democratically distributed among all the races, while the most archly grotesque characters are the Italian-Brazilian indus~alist canni~al and his ghoulish spouse. The case of Macunaima provides an object lesson III the cultural differentiation of spectatorship. In Brazil, a number of factors militate against a reading of the film as racist. First, Brazilians of all races tend to see Macunaima as representing a spoof on their "national personality" rather than on some racial "other," seeing both the Black and White Macunaimas as a national rather than as a racial archetype. Second, Brazilians would likely be aware of the novel's status as a national classic (never accused of being racist) by a Brazilian of mixed race. Third, Brazilians are less prone to allegorize their own films racially. Since the whole issue of racial portrayal is cnnlp.'W'hllt less "touchy" in Brazil- an ambiguous fact in itself - the films are not to bear such a strong "burden of representation." Fourth, North American viewers are less likely to be aware of the associations surrounding the figure of Grande Ot~lo for ~razilians, who will probably see his role in the film as just one role III a vanegated career, not as emblematic of Blackness. (At the same tlie tendency in the 1940s and 1950s to cast Grande Otelo in comically UClSI"AU.a.u.~<:;U roles did reflect a flight from portrayals of mature Black characters.) the misunderstanding also derives from a difference between filmic and cinematic representation, between verbal suggestiveness and iconic specificity, In the novel, Macunaima is transformed into a principe lindo (a prince); there is no racial specification. The film, in contrast, must choose to play roles, and actors come with racial characteristics. Thus the fable-

evocativeness of "comely prince" gives way to the physical presence of the J:juro-.l::;rru~ll1'll1 actor Paulo Jose, chosen more for his thespian talents than for his WhJlteness, but leading in other contexts to racialized misreadings.The director be accused, then, not so much of racism as of insensitivity; first, for to posit a link between Blackness/ugliness (a link with very painful resonances), and second, for failing to imagine the ways

his film might be read in non-Brazilian contexts. At the same time the of the multiracial Brazilian "family," common to both novel and film, not be seen as entirely innocent; first because the national ideology of race glossed over racial hierarchies, and second because that metaphor has relegated Black Brazilians to the status of "poor cousins" or "adopted But such a critique should begin only after the film has been within Brazilian cultural norms, and not asthe application of an a

schema.

213

(

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

THE ORCHESTRATION OF DISCOURSES

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

modalities of resistance, one saying: ''Freedom, as you promised" the oth

. ''F d , er

saying: ree om, by any means necessary!"

. It might be objecte~ that an analysis of textual "voices" would ultimately run mro th~ same theor~tIcal problen:s as an analysis centered on "images." Why should It be any easier to determme an "authentic voice" than to determin

th " ']" e an

;;au en~c. ~ag~ .. Th~ po~~, we would argue, is to abandon the language of

authenticity WIth Its implicit standard of appeal to verisimilitude as a kind of "gold stand~d," i~ f~vor of a language of "discourses" with its implicit reference to co~umty affiliation and to intertextuality. Reformulating the question as one of "VOIces" and "discourses" disputes the hegemony of the visual and of the image-track by. calling a~ention t~ its complication with sound, voice, dialog, 1<1U'_uu",~. A VOIce, we might add, IS not exactly congruent with a discourse for discours.e is institution~, trans?ersonal, unauthored, voice is personali~ed, authonal acc~nt. ~d ineonanon, and constitutes a specific interplay of .discourses (w~eth.er individus] or communal). The notion of voice is open to

, a VOIce IS never merely a voice; it also relays a discourse since even individual voice is itself a discursive sum, a polyphony of v~ices. What

. calls "h~te~oglossia," aft~r all, is just another name for the socially .arto~nto" co~tradictIons that consutute the subject, like the media, as the site of CO[lt!I(;tIIJlg. ~scourses an~ c~mpeting voices. A discursive approach also avoids moralistic and essen?alist traps embedded in a "negative-stereotypes" and

positrve-tmaaes'' analysis, Characters are not seen as unitary essences as actor-

ru;nalg~~, too ~asil~ fantasized as flesh-and-blood entitie~ existing omewnere 'behind the diegesis, but rather as fictive-discursive constructs. Thus whole issue is placed on a socioideological rather than on an individual-

. plane. Finally, the privileging of the discursive allows us to compare discourses. not with an .inaccessible "real" but with other socially cognate ~I~courses formmg part of a continuum - journalism, novels, news, television shows, political speeches, scholarly essays, and popular

discwrSiv~ analysis would also alert us to the dangers of the "pseudodiscourse that marginalizes and disempowers certain voices then ~o dialog with a puppet-like entity already maneuvered into c~cial -.t'<"uu,.,,,.,. The film or TV COmmercial in which every eighth face is Black, eX'lilljJle, has more to do with the demographics of market research and the

.' . of liber~sm than with substantive polyphony, since the Black

ill such mstances, IS usually shorn of its soul, deprived of its color and Polyphony does not consist in the mere appearance of a representative group but ra~er. in the fostering of a textual setting where that group's be heard WIth ItS full force and resonance. The question is not of but of multivocality, an approach that would strive to cultivate and even cultural difference while abOlishing SOcially-generated inequalities.

One methodological alternative to the mimetic "stereotypes-and-di~tortions" approach, we would argue, is to speak less of "image~" than .of "voices" "discourses." The very term "image studies" symptomatically eli?es ~e oral the "voiced." A predilection for aural and musical metaphors - :'Olces, uU.VUQU'Jll. accent, polyphony - reflects a shift in attention, as Ge?rge Yudice ~uggests, the predominantly visual logical space of modernity (perspective, ~Lllp.uJl"<ll evidence, domination of the gaze) to a "postmodern" space of the. vocal. ethnography, a people's history, slave narratives), as a way of restonng VOIce

the voiceless.>' The concept of voice suggests a metap~or. Of. seepage. boundaries that, like sound in the cinema, remodels spa~ality Itself, while visual organization of space, with its limits and boundaries and bor~er nn""o« forms a metaphor of exclusions and hierarchical arrangements. It IS not

purpose merely to reverse existing hierarchies - to replace the .

the visual with a new demogoguery of the auditory - but to sug.ges~ ~at VOIce sound) and image be considered together, dialectically and dIacntlcall~. A nuanced discussion of race and ethnicity in the cinema would emphasize one-to-one mimetic adequacy to sociological or historical ~th th~ .the of voices, discourses, perspectives, including those operative Wl~ the itself. The task of the critic would be to call attention to the cultural VOIces at

not only those heard in aural "close-up" but also those distort,~d .or ". by the text. The analytic work would be analogou.s to that of a mixer m a studio, whose responsibility it is to perform a senes of compen~atory" . to heighten the treble, deepen the bass, amplify the instrumentation, to bnng

the voices that remain latent or displaced.

Formulating the issue as one of voices and discourses helps us get

"lure" of the visual, to look beyond the epidermic surface of the text. (?':.question, quite literally, is less of the color of the face in the ima~e than

i • akin "tbr h" the imaze 55

! actual or fi zurative social voice or discourse spe g oug '" .

! important than a film's "accuracy" is that it relays the voic~~ ar:d the . \ - we emphasize the plural- of the community or communiues in question,

\ the word "imaze" evokes the issue of mimetic realism, "voice" evokes a

I of delezation :md interlocution, a situated utterance of "speaking / "spe~g to." If an identification with a :o~u~ty voice/discourse ""-question of "positive" images falls back into Its nghtful pl~ce as a

issue. We might look at Spike Lee's films, for example, not m terms of "accuracy" - such as the lament that Do the Right Thing portrays an untouched by drugs - but rather in terms of voices/discours~s. We can absence of a feminist voice in the film, but we can also note ItS repeated

of wars of community rhetorics. The symbolic battle of the boombo~es African-American and Latino music, for example, evokes larger tensions

cultural and musical voices. And the final quotations from Martin and Malcolm X leave it to the spectator to synthesize two compten

214

215

(

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

NOTES

1 Steve Neale points out that stereotypes are judged simul~e.ous~y in relation to .. al "real" (accuracy) and an ideological "ideal" (positive image). See Neale, ~~~~ame Old Story: Stereotypes and Difference," Screen Education, Nos 32-3

(AutumnlWinter 1979-80). . . th O'R ill

2 For more on FBI harassment of civil rights acuvls:S, see Kenne e y, .

Matters": The FBI's Secret File on Black America, 1960--1972 (New York.

Press, 1989). . I d ts t th

3 Pam Sporn a New York City educator, had her high-schoo stu en go o .. e

and video-interview civil rights veterans about their memories of the civil struggle and their reactions to Mississippi Burning. .. . . Indi

4 See "'Gretchen Bataille and Charles Silet, "The Ente~ammg ~achr~msm. lans

American Film," in Randall M. Miller, ed., The Kale,doscop'c Lens. How r Views Ethnic Groups (Englewood, NJ: Jerome S: ?ze:, ~980~. 5 Kobena Mercer and Isaac Julien, in a similar spint, distinguish between "representa-\<

tion as a practice of depicting" and "representation as a p.racuce of "

Kobena Mercer and Isaac Julien, "Introduction: De Margin and De Centre, ;SCI"eel'I.\·· •• liii·

Vol 29 No 4 (1988), pp. 2-10. , . G .

6 An ·article in Moving Picture World (July 10, 1911), entitled 'Indians neve

Picture Shows," reports on protests by Native Ameri~ans from s?uthern v.anrornra, ••••• I.i .. < concerning Hollywood's portrayal of them as warnors when m fact they

peaceful farmers. . A G

7 Relisious tensions sometimes inflect cinematic representauon. ennan

com;any plan in 1925 to produce The Prophet, :vith Muhanrrn~d. as the character shocked the Islamic University Al Azhar, smce Islam prohibits tion of th~ Prophet. Protests prevented the film fro~ being made. Moustapha The Message (Kuwait, Morocco, Lib~a.' .1976), m contr~st, ~lls ~e th

Islamic norms, respecting the prohibition of graven ~a",es 0 e

representation of God and holy figures. T~e film ~aces the life. of t?e Prophet

his first revelations in AD 610 to his death m 632, m a style which nvals Biblical epics. Yet the Prophet is never seen on the screen; when other speak to him they address the camera. The script was approved by scholars

Al Azhar University in Cairo. . N 4

8 Judith Williamson makes a similar point in her essay in Screen, Vol. 29, o.

pp. 106--12. Th J . h J S' zer

9 See Michael Rogin, "Blackface, White Noise: e eW1S azz mg

Voice" Critical Inquiry; Vol. 18, No.3 (1992), pp. 417-44. ,,'

10 Michael Dempsey and Udayan Gupta, "Hollywood's Color Problem, American

(April 1982).

11 See New York Times (Sept. 24, 1991). . P' "

12 See interview with Spike Lee, "Our Film Is Only a Starting oint, L-tlteU"I~,

XIX No.4 (March 1993). , .

13 See Gary M. Stem, "Why the Dearth of Latino Directors",' Cineaste, Vol.

2-3 (1992). r h . f

14 Translation by Robert Starn and Randal Johnson. A fu~ ~ng l~ versalohnltl°tlerltor<l

be f d in Randal Johnson and Robert Stam, Brazilian Cinema

can e ,oun . . U' ity

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982; republished Austin: nrversi

Press, 1987). SIR b I

15 See Isaac Julien and Colin MacCabe, A Diary of a Young ou e e ,~,.~~.--

Indiana University Press, 1991). .., th

16 See Rob Nixon, "Cry White Season: Apartheid, Liberalism, and e Screen," South Atlantic Quarterly, No. 90, Vol. 3 (Summer 1991).

216

STEREOTYPE, REALISM

. 17 Reported in Vrye Weekblod (Nov. 17, 1989), cited in Keyan Tomaselli, "Myths, Racism and Opportunism: Film and TV Representations of the San," in Peter Ian Crawford and David Turton, eds, Film as Ethnography (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1992), p. 213.

18 The White Brazilian musicians who worked on Black Orpheus were also exploited.

The French producer Sacha Gordine refused songs already written for the source play in order to be able to copyright the songs in French, with a contract that gave him 50 per cent of the profits on highly popular songs, while the composer and lyricists (Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes) got only 10 per cent. See Rui Castro, Chega de Saudade (Sao Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1992).

19 See Clyde Taylor, "Decolonizing the Image," in Peter Steven, ed., Jump Cut:

Hollywood, Politics and Counter Cinema (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1985), p.168.

See Jean Franco, "High-Tech Primitivism: the Representation of Tribal Societies in Feature Films," in John King, Ana Lopez, and Manuel Alvarado, eds, Mediating Two Worlds (London: BFI, 1993).

Clear social hierarchies also inform the practice of substitutional casting. The evolution of casting in Israeli cinema, for example, reflects changing strategies of representation. The heroic-nationalist films of the 1950s and 1960s, which focussed on the Israeli-Arab conflict, typically featured heroic Euro-Israeli Sabras, played by European Jews (Ashkenazis), fighting villainous Arabs, while Sephardi Arab-Jewish actors and characters were limited to the "degraded" roles of Muslim Arabs. In most recent political films, in contrast, Israeli-Palestinian actors and non-professionals play the Palestinian roles. Such casting allows for a modicum of "self-representation." And at times the Palestinian actors have actually forced radicalization of certain scenes. In some films Palestinian actors have even been cast as Israeli military officers (for example, Makram Houri in The Smile of the Lamb (1986) and in the PalestinianBelgium film Wedding in Galilee, 1987). For more on casting in Israeli cinema, see Ella Shohat, Israeli Cinema: EastlWest and the Politics of Representation (Austin:

University of Texas Press, 1989). .

See Ngiigi wa Thiong'o, Moving the Center: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms (London: James Currey, 1993), p. 33.

See David Spurr, The Rhetoric of Empire (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), p. 104.

Gloria Anzaldua, ed., Making Face, Making Soul: Hacienda Caras (San Francisco:

Aunt Lute, 1990), pp. xxii, 177.

For more on language and power, see Ella Shohat and Robert Starn, "Cinema after Babel: Language, Difference, Power," Screen, Vol. 26, Nos 3-4 (May-August 1985). See Ward Churchill, Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of American Indians (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1992),

p.237. .

Ibid., p. 238.

F?r a thorough discussion of Dances with Wolves from a Native American point of View, see Edward Castillo's essay in Film Quarterly, Vol. 44, No.4 (Summer 1991). See Christian Metz, "The Imaginary Signifier," in The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoand the Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982).

C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 34.

Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks (New York: Continuum, p.36.

G. Pettit, Images of the Mexican American in Fiction and Film (College Texas A and M University Press, 1980), p. 24.

217

UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM

33 Analysts have also performed extended analyses of specific films from within perspective. Charles Ramirez Berg analyzes Bordertown (1935), the first sound film to deal with Mexican-American assimilation and the film which laid

the pattern for the Chicano social problem film. Among the narrative and Ideolclgical

features Berg isolates are:

1. stereotypical inversion (that is, upgrading of Chicanos coupled denigration of the Anglos, portrayed as oversexed blondes (Marie), malteriialilltic< socialites (Dale), and inflexible authority figures (the judge));

2. undiminished stereotyping of other marginalized groups (for example

Americans);

3. the assimilationist idealization of the Chicana mama as the "font of gerl11;n, •.•••

ethnic values";

4. the absent father (Anglo families are complete and ideal; Chicano families

fragmented and disfunctional); and

5. the absent non-material Chicana (implying the inferiority of Chicanas to

women).

See Charles Ramirez Berg, "Bordertown, the Assimilation Narrative and the -·~,~~.u< Social Problem Film," in Chon Noriega, ed., Chicanos and Film (New York: Garlana..

1991).

34 Quoted in Prisoners oj Image: Ethnic and Gender Stereotypes, (New

Alternative Museum, 1989).

35 See David R. Roediger, The Wages oj Whiteness: Race and the Making

American Working Class (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 88-9.

36 Herman Gray, "Television and the New Black Man: Black Male Images in Time Situation Comedy," Media, Culture and Society, No.8 (1986), p. 239. 37 See Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis, Enlightened Racism: The Cosby Show, and the Myth oj the American Dream (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1 38 For a critique of Eurocentric language concerning African religions, see Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy (Oxford: Heinemann, 1969).

39 See also Alfredo the Bosi's brilliant analysis of the confrontation between cism and the Tupi-Guarani religion in his Dialetica da Colonizariio (Sao

Companhia das Letras, 1992).

40 For positive portrayals of African religions, we must look to African (A Deusa

1979), Brazilian (A Force de Kango: The Force ofXango, 1977) and Cuban 1980) features, and to documentaries such as Angela Fontanez's The Orixa Lil Penn's Honoring the Ancestors, Maya Deren's The Divine Horsemen, and

Rolando's Oggun (1991).

41 The 1993 Supreme Court decision allowing the animal sacrifices associated

Santeria was in this sense a landmark affirmation of religious rights.

42 Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Clarence Thomas, and the Construction oj Social Reality (New York:

1992), p. xv.

43 See Jan Pieterse, White on Black: Images oj Africa and Blacks in Westem

Culture (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 207.

44 Ibid., p. 106. 45 On The Cosby Show, see John D.H. Downing, "The Cosby Show and Amencan

Discourse," in Geneva Smitherman-Donaldson and Teun A. van Dijk, and Discrimination (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988); Gray,

and the New Black Man," in Todd Gitlin, ed., Watching Television

Pantheon, 1987), pp. 223-42; Mark Crispin Miller, "Deride and Conquer,"

ed., Watching Television; and Mike Budd and Clay Steinman, "White

218

STEREOTYPE, REALISM Cosby Show," Jump Cut, No. 37 (July 1992).

See Gerard Genette, Na:rati~e Discourse: An Essay in Method, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca, .NY: Cornell University Press, 1980).

See Chidananda das Gupta, "The Politics of Portrayal" Cinemaya, Nos 17-18

(Autumn-Winter 1992-3). '

For more on liberalism in Hanna K., see Richard Porton and Ella Shohat "Th Troub~e wit_h Hanna," Film Quarterly, Vol. 38, No.2 (Winter 1984-5). ' e Antonio Priet~-Stan~augh po~ts out a kind of homology between the protagonist, who sympa~lzes WIth the SIOUX but ultimately leaves the reservation, and the fi~aker ~chael Apted and screenwriter John Fusco, who sympathized with the SiOUX and, m the case of Fus~o, even li~ed on the reservation, but who ultimately returned to fame and fortune in the White world (unpublished student paper for a course at New York University).

See Ed Guerr~ro, "Feve~ in the Racial Jungle," in Jim Collins, Hilary Radner, and Ava Pr~acher C.ollins, eds, Film Theory Goes to the Movies (London: Routledge, 1993). Michel Chion, Le Son au Cinema (paris: Cahiers, 1985).

For ~ore on the fissures between the ethnic-racial and the national in Israeli cultural pracnces, see Shohat, Israeli Cinema.

See Johnson and Stam, Brazilian Cinema, pp. 82-3.

See George Yudice, "Bakhtin and the Subject of Postrnodemism" unpublished

paper. '

Two ~f Clyde Tayl_o~'s defining traits of New Black Cinema - the link to the AfroAmencan oral traditl_on,. and the su:ong articulation of Black musicality - are aural in natur~:. and ~o~,are indispensable ill Black Cinema's search for what Taylor himself cNallS Its CV~lce. sNe~ ~;yde Taylor, "Les Grands Axes et les Sources Africaines du

ouveau merna orr, Cinem/sction, No. 46 (1988).

J~es Naremo~e:s analysis of Cabin in the Sky deploys this kind of discursive analyis ~1tl1 great p.re~:lsiOn.and subtlety. Naremore sees the film as situated uneasily among fou_r . CO~Ctlng. ~,Isc.ourses about ?lackness and entertainment in America": a ~estiglal folkloric discourse about rural Blacks; NAACP critique of Hollywood !~agery; t_he ~ollabora~on between mass entertainment and government; and the ~osh Africanism of high-toned Broadway musicals." See James Naremore The

Films of Yincent Minnelli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). '

219

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful