- How has cinema represented racial differences and diversit...
How has cinema represented racial differences and diversity? Explore the way in which the use of stereotypes has often produced biased representations of the other? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.
Essentially this essay is aimed at purely investigating the
areas of representation and identity. The focus of this essay is to
look at issues around racial depictions within cinema.
Specifically, we'll be looking at how these depictions may have
changed throughout the history of cinema and how social and
political events may have affected these representations. We will
also be exploring issues around miscegenation, the blaxploitation
movement, depictions in early and classical Hollywood cinema,
representations in British films, particularly of the 60s otherwise
entitled 'swinger movies', and how the films of today may or may
not be progressing the representation and identity of different
racial groups. Though this thesis will cover as many different
racial groups as possible the focus is predominantly on the
representation of black people in cinema. However, we will also
touch upon the depictions and identity of Jews, Arabs, Asians and
Europeans (including the British).
The history of film essentially started as a predominantly white
medium. Having been set in motion by inventors, like Thomas Edison,
who created the suitable contraptions to instigate filmmaking, it
progressed initially by producing silent films. This term 'silent'
in itself is actually inaccurate as the films of the early 1900's -
features and shorts - were usually accompanied by instrumental
music. But as we were discussing the medium was essentially a white
medium. Given the social status of black people at the time,
playing a part in the progression of such a scientific and
intellectual creation would have been out of the question. Other
races in general were perhaps depicted negatively in early film due
to the time that it came about. Though the history of film began
around 1895, the institution of the cinema took a few more years to
develop. It was until post-1910 that cinema really began to see its
most influential films and the depictions found in those films
were, whether done consciously or not, catering to a predominantly
In the 21st century depictions have begun to be more complex.
Even through the crass humour of modern films like Team
America (Trey Parker, 2004). In this film Arabs seem to be
mocked by making the Arab characters speaking in some random
mumblings designed to sound like Arabic even though it actually
means nothing. But the representations here can actually be read as
ridiculing the racial attitudes of white America towards Arab
nations because of the insane reactions politically of a select few
(destruction of Twin Towers on 9th September 2001). Similarly, Jews
and Arabs are depicted as stingy with money and mistrustful of
everyone. This is notable in The Mummy (Stephen Sommers,
1999), where Gad Hassan (Omid Djahlili), mistrusting the white
leading characters, insists on travelling with them so that he can
be sure he gets his share of the wealth. Likewise in
Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000), Doug Denovitz (Mike Reid)
pretends to be Jewish, wearing the appropriate headdress so that he
can be more influential within the Jewish community and make some
monetary gains for his own benefit.
Yet it can still be argued that other races are being able to
make their own paths within the industry but their representations
are often still negative. From the ignorant depictions of Arabs in
Team America (2004) - particularly shown by the mocked up
language and the poor make-up job done on the lead character - to
the disrespectful representations of Jews in Snatch (2000)
- where a leading character seems to pretend to be Jewish for his
own gains - despite the massive progressions made throughout the
80s 90s, there is still a bit of a way to go in order for Black
people not to be stereotyped on screen.