Black stereotypes used in film
March 13, 2017 • 265 views
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It was a big spectacle last February when Moonlight won Best Picture at the Oscar Awards. Although the mix-up between La La Land and Moonlight was shocking, the real surprise was the fact that a mostly black acted, produced and directed film was able to win.
Not only does it consist of an all black cast, it also features multiple queer characters. Split into three parts, the film follows main character Chiron from childhood to adulthood. We see how he struggles to balance being black and being gay, all while being raised by a drug addict mother in a ghetto neighborhood. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the film challenges homophobia amongst the black community.
When you see a film or television show with a black character, you tend to get the same three narratives.
Most common is a thug with deadbeat parents who is trying to make a life for himself, but ends up getting drawn into something immoral, like drugs or gang violence.
Another recurring black character in major media is the token black friend who is only there to prop up another, usually white character, like Veronica Fisher in television show Shameless.
Sometimes the hidden racism is more obvious and nearly indistinguishable from slavery, similar to the servants Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson in The Help.
While these narratives are informative, provide humor and sell well, they are getting to be extremely repetitive and obnoxious. The lack of non-stereotypical black representation sends a message to black youth that they don’t fit in the mold of society enough for people like them to be shown. It also sends a message to white people that these archetypes are all that we’ll ever be.
Moonlight slowly breaks these molds by depicting a black man’s inner struggle with his sexual orientation, which is something we rarely see in people of color on the big screen, but still set in the “hood.”
Many directors and producers have said that films with black leads don’t sell as well. In 2014, an anonymous Sony producer claimed that this is true, since international audiences are racist. Moonlight has made nearly $17 million outside the U.S., clearly defying this false theory.
It seems that the only thing that the predominantly white media wants to show is how they’ve supposedly overcome racism.
They depict thugs to show that they understand the harsh lifestyle we go through in inner cities. They have white people with black friends to tell us that they accept us and sometimes even value us.
They include slavery to try to send a message that they know now that the slavery is wrong, but they are recognizing their history and are being honest about the brutality in it, so we should move on.
The problem is, we’re not going to move on. It happened, and nothing is going to change that. The devastating history continues to affect many black people in multiple different ways, especially the way many of us view ourselves. Instead of displaying blackness as multifaceted, diverse and as intricate as any other race, we are consistently fed repetitive and negative images of ourselves.
As a whole, we need to show the world the different sides of black people, whether it’s gay, affluent, intelligent or anything else besides the typical narratives we see. We need to support black directors, producers, and actors and give them the same opportunities that white people have.