Friday, December 9, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #18: Jamie Kim - Reel to Real

“Reel to Real”  by bell hooks is a collection of 21 essays and interviews that engage “movies” and visual culture as a site of critical analysis. I couldn’t cover all the chapters in the presentation, but I encourage checking out some of them: e.g., “Artistic integrity: race and accountability” and “Neo-colonial fantasies of conquest: Hoop Dreams.”

“Reel to Real” in the Western Library Catalogue:

The chapter on Crooklyn: Crooklyn tells the coming-of-age narrative of a young girl named Troy Carmichael, daughter to Woody and Carolyn. Now Carolyn, the mother, is portrayed as an “emasculating Black matriarch,” who usurps her husband’s parental authority, shames her husband in front of the children; she is volatile and over-reactive and portrayed as standing in the way of pleasure and happiness.

“Powerful Black mothers, the film suggests, who work outside the home “fail” their families, as Carolyn does, by not fulfilling the sexist-defined feminine role. Their punishment is death.” (hooks 56).

hooks argues that Spike Lee represents “dead female mothering body” of the matriarch as an ungrievable death. The Angry Black Woman’s death is not seen as a loss of individual life, but rather, as a gain for the family as a whole; this is a death that is not mourned; instead, it is a sacrifice necessary to uphold patriarchy and white supremacy. Carolyn’s death is not only a punishment for a Black woman defying the role of subservience and passivity, it is also a tragedy that “needed” to happen to teach the young Black girl, Troy, a valuable life lesson. Implicit in this narrative structure, is the idea that a Black girl’s coming-of-age is supposed to have trauma or some form of violence.

“The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples” was written by Anthony Morgan, a lawyer and social justice advocate based in Brampton, Canada. This charter emphasizes that popular media and culture have a direct impact on the quality of lived experiences of Black people. It says that media representations are inseparable from issues of  impoverishment, incarceration, and institutionalized neglect of Black people; representations actually perpetuate and justify the precariousness of Black lives in a white supremacist society.

“The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples”:

The Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers (the third reading for the seminar), published in 2011, had this to say about racialized labels: “Black women have worked tirelessly since the 19th century colored women’s clubs to rid society of the sexist/racist vernacular of slut, jezebel, hottentot, mammy, mule, sapphire; to build our sense of selves and redefine what women who look like us represent.” This was a letter produced by Black Women’s Blueprint and signed by a host of other organizations across North America, in response to the “SlutWalk” which started in Toronto after a police officer advised a group of York University law students that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

The Open Letter commends the SlutWalk organizers for mobilizing against rape culture and misogyny, but criticizes them for the exclusion of Black women from leadership and design of the movement, and the erasure of the particular needs, histories, and lived experiences of women of colour. SlutWalk was centred on white women “reclaiming” the word “Slut” in defiance of slut-shaming and victim-blaming; However, the letter suggests that the word “slut” has different associations for Black women due to the history of slavery, Jim Crow lynchings and kidnappings, the racist and sexist constructions of Black women.

An Open Letter from Black Women to Slutwalk Organizers

Additional Resources:

YouTube Video - Tropes of Black Women in popular entertainment

“Another Round” Podcast - Black Films

The Black Film Canon - The 50 greatest movies by black directors

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