Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Perceived Roles of Different Races

       The article by Rita Kempley, "Mystical Black Characters Play Complex Cinematic Role" in the Washington Post, gets us thinking about movies and the stereotype associated with the role. Kempley highlights the stereotypical image of how blacks are shown in movies as the "magic negro." She mentioned movies such as Bruce Almighty, where Morgan Freeman plays God, Laurence Fishburne plays a demigod in The Matrix Reloaded, and Queen Latifah plays a ghetto goddess in Bringing Down The House, saying that in each film, the "magic negro" was helping a white guy. Other movies were mentioned but all came to the same conclusion that it was to "help white people figure out what's going wrong and fix it." In this article it is clearly shown that blacks have one purpose in life and that is the help mate of whites. It is said that life imitates art but in this case I think art is imitating life. This holds true in that in the movies, blacks appear to be the holy ones but in essence are only there to assist the whites to attain what they want. Seems society is stuck in an era where it is all about race. Kempley uses quotes from movie producers and screenwriters highlighting the perceived notion that whites are superior to blacks. Such as "The white community has been taught not to listen to black people," and "The bigger point is that no minority can be in today's structure."
        The quote by Robert McKee, "You can't expect writers to think like sociologist. They aren't out there trying to change the world; they are just trying to tell a good story," I think is reflecting the cultural attitudes of society. They are merely imitating life in their potrayals. They are writing how life is sticking to the norm instead of writing it where the white person helps the black to attain what he needs. Normally when I look at a movie I do not think too much about the characters in this way as blacks only help mate for whites, I think of the entertainment had while looking at it but after reading this article it gets one thinking that most mixed race movies end up with the blacks as helpers.
     This article and H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, both are similar yet different at the same time. King Solomon's Mines, showa lot racism and can be seen in the way Quartermain talks about the natives, saying they are uncivilized and stupid. It is also seen in the way he looks and speaks with Umbopa  when Umbopa speaks up. It is seen that the natives are used as beasts of burden to carry the load instead of the white men carrying the load. At the time of this novel whites were known to be superior. Different in that the tables are turned as to who the help mates are. The white men in the novel are seen as playing the "holy roles."  On reaching Kukuana  Land they are thought of as Gods having great power. They then help Ignosi ( Umbopa) to obtain his rightful position as King of Kukuana Land.


  1. I agree with the quote by Robert McKee, we cannot expect writers to think like socialist. But, could they just be following a racist trend? Maybe they are ignorant about it, maybe they honestly view it as equal opportunity role. We will never know what goes through their minds as they write the parts and select the actors. I too normally do not notice the "magic negro" role in black characters while watching a movie, the article has opened my eyes to this. This prejudice is unjust.

    1. I disagree; I think we should absolutely expect writers to think like sociologists! If they're blindly following whatever prejudice that they are being inundated with, it's irresponsible of them to continue passing it on. The problem with this, is that they can't change something they're unaware of or, even worse, they agree with that prejudice regardless :-/

      Thankfully, I think most successful writers are in tune with the times and the message that their work might send; we (the audience) just may not agree :-)

    2. Like you said, some may be unaware and those that might be aware probably just don't want to upset the apple cart.