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Stereotypes and Prejudices: An Analysis of the Media Representation of African-Americans

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Stereotypes and Prejudices: An Analysis of the Media

Representation of African-Americans


An introduction that outlines the larger conversation surrounding this topic, defines a coherent research problem and question, and asserts what is at stake with this particular problem and the issues surrounding it.

A clear, debatable thesis that says something nuanced and meaningful about your topic that you can back up with evidence and good reasons, and that contains all aspects of your argument while not going beyond what is included in the paper.

All black women are cheeky, angry, and obnoxious. Black guys are all incredibly violent in different ways. Black lives only consist of nothing but pain and struggle. African Americans are just here to serve and to care for “us.” These are few of many stereotypes that always seem to arise when it comes to Hollywood movies. The problem is that these film stereotypes continue to come to reality, black’s male crime and imprisonments rates are gradually increasing, black unemployment rates are higher than any other race, and more and more African Americans are losing homes being forced to live in what America calls poverty ( In this day and age film has the ability to change the way we think and what we believe about other people, specifically the black culture. Seeing that this is the case, most critics say that white filmmakers should not direct motion pictures that portray or tell stories about the black race and that they basically don’t have the authority to. For example, a Variety cover story about the film Detroit asked: “How could Bigelow — a white woman raised just outside San Francisco by middle-class parents and educated at Columbia University — understand and illuminate [this] kind of raw experience?” This movie relates to“the problem with watching black pain through a white lens,” said a writer for the Huffington Post. But the question is not “Should we let white people direct narratives about African-Americans?” instead the question that we should ask is “How do we assure that narratives of African-Americans, regardless of the filmmaker, will be helpful to the social position of the African-American community?” In relation to these questions, this paper will be argued that when examining historical filmmaking, who is creating these films, what images are being displayed on the screen and how cinema has impacted the African-American neighborhood, one can see how cinema has affected the black image. In this essay, the history of films portraying African-American characters will be tackled, of which the timeline will mainly be from the early days of cinema to around late 80s. What will be shown is the undertaking of the current level of representation of African-Americans in film and TV; in continuing the timeline, this argument would run in the framework from films/TV from the 90s to present. Then I will discuss the importance of who sits in the director's chair for films about African-Americans; fourth is a discussion on Hollywood and how it helped and damaged the civil right movement’s capacity to move within the industry. Lastly, I will analyze how these forms of media have directly affected the social perception towards the African-American community. In sum, by going through the history of representation in cinema, I hope to offer insight to directors to help them portray the correct and positive image of the black race; this will gradually change the perspective toward the African American people and soon decrease the amount of stereotyping.

A series of body paragraphs that work out your argument through sophisticated rhetorical maneuvers and the demonstration of sound evidence and reasoning. You must: provide ethical summaries of your sources with correct techniques (paraphrasing, quotation, etc.), give relevant attention to possible counterarguments and effective responses to them, and, finally, use language that ties everything together.

Evidence from credible, cited sources that show you have done careful research on this topic and that substantiate your argument.

A History of Portrayals of African-Americans in Film

There is a long, complex history of African-Americans portrayed in the history of Hollywood, and a look in the history of African-Americans in a classic film would demonstrate the indifferent, and aggressive representation of the minority group. Even the roles for African Americans that might be seen as more favourable--such as loyal servants, mammies, and butlers--reinforced a belief that the proper social position for Blacks was that of a servant who was precisely devoted to his/her White masters and to upholding the current social order (Duke Library). African American characters, in keeping with the dominant stereotypes, were portrayed as incompetent, child-like, hyper-sexualized, and criminal (Duke Library). These films seemed to assume that there would always be a social and racial inequality between the minority and the majority. But one cannot single-out and individually blame the filmmakers/writers of that time. Being a profit-based institution, the film industry’s productions are always turned towards the rhetorical desires of its consumer; which, at the time, was the acceptance of discriminative ideas towards the African-American community. Note that this time period was the early 20th century, that these filmmakers were directing from and the memories of Civil Rights were still fresh, so there’s always the idealized version of the majority of their stories were movies adding difficulty to the problems and issues already being displayed (Duke University's Library).

In the early 1910s to 1930s, few African-American owned production houses that produced movies with an “All Colored Cast” and tried to represent the minority positively. The small and subtle move by these few African-American Production Houses would heavily impact the industry as it spawned a whole genre of a film at the time called “Race Films.” Race Film is a designation applied to films produced for African-American audiences, between about 1910 and 1950 (Field). These were films that featured talented actors, directors, and writers that were African-American, this gave them the ability to penetrate the industry. Although aimed only at a colored audience, race films were still accessible to other demographics, as well. The story of the oppressed that was portrayed in these Race Films garnered enough attention for it to help the growing Civil Rights movement (Field). It drew sympathy and admiration from the audiences. The graph shown below is a representation of the amount of “Race



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