Racial Representation In American History X

1505 words - 6 pages

A movie American History X (1988) deals with white supremacy and racism. We can see a variety of racial representation in this movie. We’re going to see implicit racial associations and racist stereotypes seen in the film first with the framework of John Russell’s discussion in his research “Race as Ricorso: Blackface(s), Racial Representation, and the Transnational Apologetics of Historical Amnesia in the United States and Japan,” examine the background and arguments on race in the movie, and see the editorial point of view of the film maker at last.
There are so many symbols that representing race in this movie. Two young white brothers are featured in the story. The older brother Derek had been a white supremacist. He killed two black youths and had been in prison for three years for voluntary manslaughter. He has many icons of white supremacy on his look including skinhead and swastika tattoo on his chest. However, after he gets out of the prison, he has his mild hair-style and does not shows his tattoo to other people any more (he only sees it in the mirror after taking a shower that reminds him of his old regretful past). His younger brother Danny has been inspired greatly by Derek and now becomes a member of a white supremacist group. He also shaves his head and has a collection of Nazi posters in his room. Their looks show a typical young white supremacist today. Derek changed his racist ideology while he was in prison. Not only because he was raped brutally by one of his white inmates, but also because he saw the reality of racial conflicts and disillusioned. There are a variety of racial symbols depicted in the prison. The prison guards say racial words to Derek. Macho black, white, and Hispanic groups are clearly divided in there. The main concern in this part of the movie is whether Derek would be raped by blacks or not. It turned out that they did not, but the notion of “being raped by blacks in the prison” is shared not only with Derek but also with the audience of the movie. This notion probably comes from what Russell calls “the sexual body images of black males” (Russell, 2011, p.132). Derek has no communication with any members of these macho black guys. In the movie, they are just depicted as “beasts that may sexually offend others.” Since the possible victim is a white, it also indicates that the rape would be a kind of interracial pornography (There is almost no description of black females in the movie. The only one is the black shop-keeper who was insulted by Derek and his racist members). The other symbolic icon of blackness can be found in the characteristic of Lamont, who is a black inmate and becomes a good friend of Derek in the laundry room in the prison. He talks and makes jokes a lot, which also characterizes him as a typical young black male who has a big mouth. Another representation of black character is Dr. Sweeny. He is a high school principle who holds Ph.D. and tries to help both Derek and Danny. He is seen...

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