Depiction of Race Through Recent Films

Ever since the start of the film, numerous films have been created that are based on race and culture, with racial discrimination being a dominant theme and quite frequently resurfaces. Movies reflection on certain races has always been a distorted view towards the particular race. Ethnic groups are presented in some manner which is lessening and eventually discriminatory. This is evident in movies that paint certain ethnic groups as criminals, rogues, or subservient. American Films have an influence on racial ideologies, even at a global stage not only as perceptions of socio-cultural matters but also as a framework upon which ideas and expectations of different races and cultures are comprehended. The segregational ideas that were formerly inveterate in Americans’ mindsets for a long time have paved way for a little conscious alternative of segregation in a subtle exercise in film depiction. Films propagate negative stereotyping and inevitable stigmas that had been broken once segregation was broken (Horton et al, n.d.). This paper, therefore, seeks to elucidate the depiction of race in films.

The film industry is built upon old ideologies which sought to charm the majority and the peril of minority races, thus resort to giving actors from different races disparaging characters or may not include them in their films. White supremacies cannot be wholly blamed for this fiascos, but equal blame is placed on black entertainers who propagate these views when they are accorded a role as insiders of the races in question. Recent films like Marvel’s “Black Panther” present revolution ideologies, sending a message of resistance to the status quo of black threatening by white-dominated movies. This paper further seeks to look at this depiction as; Are races discriminated on purpose by certain directors? To what extent do films impact construction of an image of a certain race? The paper will incorporate other articles and academic writings for the sole reason of providing an in-depth analysis and views or racial discrimination and distorted racial depiction in films.

Many Literary articles have been written about the role of films in depicting racism. The articles can be described as unique in their own kind since all writers cannot fully agree on a particular approach. Bernard Beck in his article “It’s A Gift: Ray, The Incredibles, and Lives of Greatness” has believes that the roles the actors are given in a movie should be used by the actors themselves to show people that whatever the society pegs them to is not final and that they can overhaul and be the best that they can. He claims that any themes that movie portrays should be used by an actor to show their strengths (Beck, 2005). This, however, is not the case with most American films since the roles races such as Blacks are accorded are used to show that they are either plundering, weak or illiterate folks that should never be respected, failing to show the strengths and talent blacks possess.

Angie Beeman in the article “Emotional segregation: A content analysis of institutional racism in the US films, 1980-2001” delve totally into the matters of racism not only in the movies but in the US generally. The information presented in the article demonstrates emotional discrimination that films depicts and how they influence the obstacles to emotional engagement between blacks and whites. Generally, it illustrates how racial emotional discrimination is institutionalized and studies sexualized racism in films (Beeman, 2007). Apparently, films display Africans as non-supportive emotionally, lazy beings, and that are unable to make ends meet and support their partners. This is a true account of what the American film industry peddles.

Martha Mahoney’ article “The Social Construction of Whiteness” deals with racism from two perspectives, racism as a natural divisor of mankind, and also as a relational notion. Basing on the first perspective, she asserts that discrimination in residential areas is an inbuilt idea since whites view blacks as jobless and thus dangerous neighbors, and whites as good neighbors. Basing on the second concept, she asserts that the construction of whiteness as superior to blacks has since influenced the whole idea of racism and augmented it. The racial relations then support the white dominance. She claims that whites are not aware of their racism practices since based on history, they view white supremacy as a culture (Mahoney, 1995). This is quite non-substantive to only blame history for racism.

The other literary study which further reveals racism is institutionalized is Joe Feagin’s “Building The Racist Foundation” which attributes racism to the development of the world, colonialism, and slavery, which are the basis of our current cultures (Feagin, 2013). He claims that institutions, inferred to include films, are reproduced through practices and processes in the institutions, which the society wholly accepts this depiction and do not move away from it. However, these literary articles have not fully delved on the racism depiction and determined who does it. Instead, they have given quite a general view of the depicters as “the society” which is a broad view.

Critical race theory has averred race as a creation, however, racism still is part and parcel of daily experiences and racial stereotyping often recur despite living in an era characterized by conversations of race transcendence and intercultural celebrations (“The Bridge: Critical Theory: Critical Race Theory,” n.d.). The film industry can be understood as a perpetrator of white supremacy by producing distorted experiences of the black racial types of creations. Early films were centered on racial politics and upheld notions of white dominance by painting black male actors as loyal slaves or a hubristic lot, and black women as subservient subordinate workers while mixed-raced women were painted as beautiful yet tragic and troubled.

The film industry, especially in the US, depicts a bad image of actors they consider as non-normative such as blacks (Negra & Asava, 2013). In narration and in visualization, they position other races as second-rate to white males who are mostly considered as heroes, even if a certain insincere egalitarianism might be obvious. Modern films set out race issues skillfully but obvious problems are visible. Films may acknowledge or deny the idea of race as obvious considering the social and film literature continually use it as a social framework. Albeit it is recognized the idea of racism does not have any biological basis, film creators habitually dramatize racial variance notions and express them in their films.

The film industry was initially controlled by whites in the initial years, and blacks had to struggle to narrate their own stories since these white supremacists selected what they wanted in their films. Later on in the 1970s, blacks gained voices and united young Africans and encouraged them to stand against discrimination. Even then, they depicted blacks as violent due to enragement from discrimination. Further on, as black filmmakers made an entrance, their stereotyping was intended to better the black community by exposing faults of the previous films but instead earned them ridicule and augmented negative stereotyping. Some movies like Hughes brother’ “Menace II Society” depict negative images about blacks, since the intended message has been misplaced in the stereotypes (Horton et al, n.d.). This movie depicts blacks as thugs and part of ghetto life gangs.

One aspect of films, a comedy by Chris Rock tries to dissipate stereotypes by using humor with his intention being to bridge the racial rift between whites and blacks. However, his methods have contributed to the negative stereotyping. While he tries to differentiate non-responsible black societal problems, as he describes the violent criminals who are irresponsible to their families not only to the black society but also to the general public as those who are called “niggers” and those are the only ones. He unsuccessfully tries to sequester the bad and the good blacks but only results in further stereotypes (Horton et al, n.d.). He becomes part of the film industry perpetrating discrimination against blacks

Statistics have shown that actors’ ethnicity does not represent the composition of the US population. The approximation showed the composition of movie players as follows; whites comprised 71 percent, blacks 12 percent, Hispanic/Latino 5 percent while the rest of ethnic groups accounted for less than 12 percent (“MDSCI_Inequality_in_800_Films,” n.d.). This underrepresentation in itself paints a negative picture that there are just a few blacks and yet those blacks cannot be creative. Only a few movies have people from different races as leading characters. Even worse is the number of non-white directors in American films. “The theory of Paulo Freire” by Carien Fritze gives us the ideas of Freire on discrimination. The theory proposes that the only way to emancipate a group of discriminated people is to make then critical and offer them an enabling environment to prove people wrong (Fritze, n.d.). They would have been given an arena to showcase their capability against the preconceived norms in the society.

Further, a study by UCLA and on Chicano determined that actors from races other than white had a few acting opportunities, since some production companies had specifically reserved percentages for whites. The non-white actors are continually marginalized and even if they are given roles, it is those demeaning roles as native Americans being portrayed as savage. Similarly, a film like 2008’s “Hancock” positions races as unable to compatible and rejects romance between different races as taboos and proposes that unions of similar races are the best (Negra & Asava, 2013). This kind of painting taints the American societal view of racial intermarriages. Some directors in movies based on real-life stories shove aside the exquisite performance of people from non-whites with claims that time and space are not always enough to cover all topics.

The vast film industry is fraught with racial beliefs and actions. Despite the huge progress that the industry has undergone, and the moral responsibility that people always bestow upon it, what is being witnessed is disheartening at the least. It is apparent that most directors choose what to produce if it only assuages their mindsets. The push to have film industry sanitized racially has met cold shoulders since the very purpose of existence of films has shifted to making money and nothing less of that, and it would not matter to players what influence it will have on the society.

Albeit the quest would be to experience a quick and noteworthy alteration and reformation in the current system in the film industry, it is imperative that the black entertainers maintain decorum in this industry and lead in sanitizing it. The other races other than white should take this as a challenge and prove whatever is purported in the Film industry as wrong. Non-whites need to have a contemplative session and try to make the film industry players empathize with them and portray a more human approach to the whole issue of racism. Film industry players should understand that money is not all that matters, and probably, apt legislations would prove worthy of the cause of changing this notion portrayed in films.