English Film Series addresses racism

Jonathan Rainey, Staff Writer
February 12, 2012
Filed under News

The English Film Series continued on Tuesday, Feb. 7 with the screening of Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled.” The film was chosen because of its relevance to African American History Month.

Dr. Shawn Smolen-Morton, professor of film studies, said that the English Department was interested in exploring African American history through film during the month of February.

“This time we were looking at those racial stereotypes and how they are produced in and perpetuated by popular culture and specifically by popular media,” Smolen-Morton said.

“Bamboozled” presents one such interpretation, though it is certainly a controversial one. The film follows the rise and fall of a young African American TV writer, named Pierre Delacroix, with high aspirations.

Although starting off on a light and humorous note, the film quickly turns to the dark and tragic.

“(‘Bamboozled’ is) a film that shifts from comedy and satire to tragedy, which is strange,” Smolen-Morton said. “And a lot of critics had a hard time digesting the film and reacted poorly to it.”

Freshman AJ Caldwell, who watched the film, also saw these parallels.

“It was kind of funny at first, but as I watched it I got a more serious reaction to it,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also talked about the satire of African Americans causing others of their race to act in accordance to racial stereotypes.

“Even though we are made fun of, we shouldn’t do that to ourselves . . . as an African American race,” Caldwell said.

Another student who attended the screening, freshman political science Jasmine Campbell, said that she saw how Bamboozled pointed out the inherent racism tolerated in films and TV shows generally regarded as classics.

These well-known and acclaimed films “…actually portray us in a negative light,” Campbell said. “Shirley Temple and ‘Imitation of Life’ are supposed to be good movies, but they showed us acting like fools.”

Director Spike Lee has always been known to produce controversial movies, and “Bamboozled” certainly is not an exception.

According to Smolen-Morton, the purpose of the film is to show how race and racism are really just a cultural construction and how the costs of believing in them are costly.

“I think that’s what (Spike Lee) is trying to do,” Smolen-Morton said. “He’s trying to creep you out a little bit: Trying to get you out of your skin.”

The English Film Series will continue next month on Tuesday, Mar. 6 with the 1954 melodrama, “Magnificent Obsession.”

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