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The Evolution And Cultural Influence Of American Cinema

3305 words - 13 pages

When asked to name some typical characteristics of Asian people, what comes to mind? Chopsticks or a strong belief in cultural heritage? How about American families? Based on many different facets, you probably feel as though you know what ideologies your culture believes. If we look at the media through time, it has evolved through a dependency on the growth of technology. As technology advances, old forms fade while content shifts with the culture. The most popular form of entertainment, that provides an escape from the real world, film has a tremendous amount of influence on the way in which we perceive our world. As these ideas spread, our beliefs become warped and mold into forms that we have been taught to strive for. With rapid expansion comes a fast paced lifestyle in America. As we rely so heavily on the media to keep us up to date on societal norms, the content for which the media decides to display needs to be calculated and thoughtful. We learn from what we observe. That being said, this project focuses on the evolution of film through time and explores the negative cultural influences that film has had on American culture, more specifically on race, gender, and class.
Emotion is defined as a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body (Merriam-Webster). By this definition, emotions are subjective to the individual perspective. If this is the case, why is it that certain colors are associated with different emotions? In America, the color red is said to evoke energy, action, desire, and passion (Scott-Kemmis). These are all emotional responses to the visual appeal of the color. What about the color black? According to Scott-Kemmis, black represents the unknown, creates fear and intimidation, and is seen as unfriendly. These negative traits breed a visual handicap to all things of this color, but more specifically humans. If these emotional responses hold true, African Americans are at a great disadvantage in society. American cinema has developed stereotypes surrounding the African American culture. Many of these stereotypes and derogatory images were borrowed from pre-existing cultural artifacts popular in the antebellum era (Benshoff, 78). Slavery tarnished the African American image and has held it’s ground ever since. The struggle for equality has proved challenging with the media’s negative portrayal of African culture. Throughout the 1915 film, The Birth of A Nation, African Americans are depicted as lazy, ignorant, vicious, and rapacious (Benshoff, 80). The movie stereotyped blacks in such a negative way that the NAACP sought to have it removed. “The organization held protests against the film, but as often happens with the marketing of Hollywood films, these protests actually made the film more successful, as audiences flocked to see the source of the controversy” (Benshoff, 81). The...

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