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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 white audience.

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.

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