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Race And Media

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Race and the Media: Evaluating "I Think I Love My Wife"

Reading "Screen Saviors" affirmed many of the thoughts I have often had about the effect of media on mainstream attitudes towards race. According to article, "Americans spend 1577 hours in front of the television, 13 hours in the movie theater, and 55 hours watching pre-recorded videos (Vera and Gordon 2003:8)." With twenty eight percent of our waking time being spent absorbing daytime soap operas, movies, reality series, and comedies, we cannot deny that the images portrayed somehow shape our views on a myriad of subjects (Vera and Gordon 2003).

It is true that the concept of "whiteness" if often unexplored until it is compared alongside a person of color (Vera and Gordon 2003:10-11). In my opinion, white people, not necessarily Caucasians (because within the spectrum are groups that are not "white" per se), do not face the same scrutiny in their character roles. I watch frequent movies in which an actor like Adam Sandler or Paulie Shore can be frequently cast in roles that display less than noble behavior, drug use, and persistent use of vulgarity. However, when minorities assume these same roles it is considered somewhat career suicide to choose roles that are unbecoming of a rising actor trying to establish a career in Hollywood.

The writing is on the wall that a double standard exists in the media and in America as far as race. As Chris Rock, whose movie I'm evaluating in this paper comically said in a stand-up performance, "It's alright if it's all-white!" Some feel that there a necessity to conform to what early functionalists would call assimilation. By definition, this is the "process where members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups become absorbed into the dominant culture. (Kendall and Miller 2007: 320)" By adapting the "lifestyle" of those of the dominate culture (Whites), the thought is that this contributes to the stability of society by minimizing group differences that could cause hostility. Since the ethnic groups are the minorities, it would seem only logical to the functionalist that they should be the ones engaging in the conformity.

Debuting in March of 2007, Chris Rock's "I Think I Love My Wife" is the movie I chose to analyze the concept of "whiteness" in for purposes of this paper. It was not until I had already watched the movie that I realized that he directed it as well, so in some respect I am looking at the way "whiteness" is portrayed through the eyes of a black director. In "Screen Saviors" movies directed by Spike Lee and John Singleton were omitted. However, I believe this movie has some interesting merit to this conversation.

The movie opens with Richard (played by Chris Rock) and his wife Brenda having an ideal afternoon playing with their two children. Richard is a banker for a large firm; his wife is a kindergarten school teacher and they live in a large house in the suburbs outside of New York City. Richard seems to have it all until he boldly announces that he is "bored" with his married life. The movie fast forwards to he and his wife in the office of a therapist while Richard complains that he would be happy if his wife would have sex with him. The couple seems unable to talk freely about their emotions and work their problems out, so Richard leaves still wondering why he can't just be happy with his ideal but "boring" life.

He quickly fast forwards to talking about work. He is employed by an all-white firm and claims he loves all of his co-workers and has made it his personal endeavor to know all the black people who work there who are the custodial workers unsurprisingly. He loves his boss, Mr. Landis and maintains a close relationship with his white co-worker George who is always telling Richard how he should act.

Randomly, a former girlfriend comes back into Richard's life and he begins to really question whether he loves his wife. She frequents his office and his secretaries who are white begin to stare and ask amongst them, "What's wrong with him? What is he doing?" Even George comes by to warn Richard that he has a good wife and a nice family and he shouldn't be chasing behind this "bitch." Richard reminds him that he's been married for seventeen years and a frequently cheats on his wife, even with several secretaries in the office. George responds to Richard that they are not the same and it's totally different for him. I was struck by this scene because Richard is being silently judged by his co-workers for activity that is common in his workplace. George and eventually Mr. Landis confront Richard about this immoral activity but they are both engaging in the same type of activity. The secretaries who whisper and treat Nikki rudely (she is the sexual vixen) are revealed to be sleeping with George and face no condemnation from each other.

The secretaries refer to her as "that girl" and always ask Richard why she is continuing to come to the office and call daily. Eventually his chief secretary asks Richard can she take him aside and talk to him, trying to slam the door in Nikki's face as she comes through the door. They seem to be his moral guardian angels while no judgment is cast upon their own hours. Richard is expected to be completely upstanding and not to give into the same vices that they do because he is the "token" that has been accepted and has assimilated his lifestyle to theirs, however his actions are not held to the same standard as theirs.

Even as the movie nears and Richard realizes that he doesn't want to entertain this love affair with Nikki and really loves



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