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Discrimination And Misrepresentation Of Minority Races In Film

2494 words - 10 pages

Discrimination and Misrepresentation of Minority Races in Film

Racists often believe that alternative races are inferior. Stuart Hall, an expert in the field of cultural studies who is also interested in media studies, believes that it is difficult to completely eliminate race as a "floating signifier" because it is impossible to remove the obvious physical differences of distinct races. These distinctions are made increasingly aware by filmmakers to their audiences in such films as West Side Story, Birth of a Nation, Gringo in Mananaland, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Even when films were silent movies, "The technology of film entertainment was so powerful…" in altering the mindsets and viewpoints of minority racial groups that, "…one of the side effects of American cinema was often crushingly brutal portrayals of other races and cultures, depictions that spread to larger audiences than ever before possible around the nation and even around the globe"(Keller 5). The representation of Latino men, in my opinion, was the most severe and the most commemorated stereotype from the era of silent film to present day films because even from the earliest days, "racial stereotyping and distortions of Latino, Latin American, and Spanish history and culture were present…"(Noriega 20).

From 1903 to 1915, the United States film industry catapulted race and ethnicity stereotypes from the emergence of technological advances as well as cultural developments, leading to decades and decades of depictions by American cinema (Keller 13). American cinematographers were delighted by the use of such racial slurs as "chinks," referring to those of Chinese descent, "darkies," "coons," "niggers," in reference to African Americans, "Hebrews," "greasers," which refers to those of Latino descent, "redskins," in reference to those of Native American descent, and similar derogatory innuendoes still seen and heard today (Keller 13). "Greaser" was used to refer to Mexicans who supposedly had used grease to comb their hair, but soon it spread to incorporate other Hispanic groups as well. Racial epithets were commonly used and construed into the plots of films, and minority racial groups tended to be increase the profit in film sales (Keller 13). These epithets were reinforced to define a characteristic style of stereotyping by playing on the attitudes that predominated among Anglo filmmakers and their white audiences (Keller 14).

Two particular silent films both exemplify how stereotypes have played on racist Anglo-American attitudes: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Birth of a Nation. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, shows how minority groups are kept as subjects to Anglos. For example, several camera shots showed how this was thought to be true. A monkey, to which African Americans have been commonly referred then and even now, is shown climbing a stick, and a white bird is perched at the peak of the stick, pecking at the monkey to...

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