The Portrayal Of African American Women In Recent Films

1760 words - 8 pages

The portrayal of African American women in recent films, has served to highlight the negative stereotyping against them and increase awareness to their plight. The negative stereotyping occurred before the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, where African Americans were predominantly bought and sold as slaves. It is only after the passing of the amendment and the Civil Rights Act, were African Americans considered citizens of the United States, granted the opportunity to vote and had the right for equal treatment. As such, this allowed for the empowerment of African American women, allowing them the opportunity of more work options and given the freedom of decision-making. However, the negativity that skin colour represented in the past still pervades, hence, film has become a platform for the exposure of the oppression and restrictions faced by women of colour, and allow for the exploration of the disadvantages that plague them. This has brought about revisionism (Barbu, 2011), which has granted African American women with more compassionate views, as compared to their white counterparts. Although the oppression of African American women are brought to light, their ultimate empowerment is not shown, leaving the audience to question their future.
The pursuit and glorification of the “white standard of beauty” (Patton, 2006, p. 24) by African American women in film, highlights the insecurity and stigmatization they face due to their colour. This desire to look like models on billboards and magazines, has drove them to peruse the shelves of beauty products, undergo plastic surgery and skin bleaching in order to have lighter skin. The mismatch between the comparisons of their black physiques against white ideal body shapes, has resulted in an overall decrease in self-esteem and lack of satisfaction in their own appearances, strengthening the need to achieve perfection. Moreover, the portrayal of beautiful women in an intangible light by the media, constructed a distorted concept of beauty standards (Hudson, 1998, p. 249). The repeated emphasis of “large breasts, thin waist and large buttocks” (Brooks & Hébert, 2006, p. 301) that African American women should possess, along with exalted traits, like blue eyes and silky hair, has resulted in the formation of an unattainable image of beauty. This reinforces the insecurity African American women face with their physical attractiveness due to perceived differences.
The film ‘Precious’ (Daniels, 2009), shows the struggles of Claireece Precious Jones, who lives in a dysfunctional environment and has undergone years of physical, verbal and sexual abuse from her parents. The character Precious is a severely overweight, 16 year old teenager who does not fit in with her peers. Her huge size has resulted in her being ridiculed and she often envisions herself as a beautiful white woman (Jarman, 2012, p. 169). The scene before Precious attends an alternative school, she sits before a vanity and her reflection...

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