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Tyehimba
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« on: July 13, 2003, 05:20:14 PM »

Headline: Face of an angel

Date: 07/11/2003

(NEW YORK)What do the films "Bruce Almighty" and "The Green Mile" have
in common
with "The Family Man," the "Matrix" movies, and "Ghost"?

All feature black characters whose main function is to help a white
hero through magical or supernatural means. These are Hollywood's
"black angels," whose popularity has surged in recent years - so much
so that in an episode last year of "The Simpsons," Homer mistook a
black man in a white suit for an angelic visitor, all because
(according to his embarrassed wife) he'd been seeing too many movies
lately.

Of course, there are many films aimed at African-Americans that star
blacks in a variety of parts, from villainous to heroic. But casting
blacks as angelic characters has become an increasingly common trend in
mainstream movies.

For their part, many African-Americans see this heavenly designation as
less than beatific. Filmmakers like Spike Lee have spoken out against
such roles, calling them patronizing and unrealistic.

"Black-angel movies appeal to a genuine desire for reconciliation among
whites and blacks. But they also exploit a distorted fascination with
blacks that many whites have," says film historian Krin Gabbard, who
will explore this subject in his book "Black Magic: White Hollywood and
African-American Culture," due out next year. "In vast amounts of
entertainment and culture, whites have trouble regarding blacks as real
people. That's depressing, but true."

The traditional choice: thug or maid

The record supports Dr. Gabbard's charge. In one tradition of American
filmmaking, dating to D.W. Griffith's epic "The Birth of a Nation" in
1915, black people are portrayed as villains and monsters - like the
lust-crazed Gus who forces Mae Marsh's character to choose death before
dishonor.

This practice lives on in many films that still cast black performers
as criminals or thugs. Recently, Denzel Washington played a crooked cop
in "Training Day" - and won an Oscar for it last year. (Halle Berry
also won in 2002, causing many to hope that African-Americans had
finally written themselves a bigger part in Hollywood.)

In another tradition, exemplified by "Gone With the Wind" in 1939,
blacks are often lovable, but also ignorant and subservient, like the
characters played by Butterfly McQueen and Hattie McDaniel. In the most
common tradition of all, African-Americans are excluded altogether or
allowed a few seconds of screen time to lend local color or comic
relief. They may also be depicted as anonymous hordes, as in war
pictures such as "Zulu" and "Black Hawk Down."

For decades, most film historians agreed that these traditions served
to reinforce the racial prejudices of their times, and that little or
nothing can be said in their favor. More recently, revisionist critics
have noted that at least such roles allowed black performers to hold
careers in the entertainment industry and to display their talents for
large audiences.

"Why should I complain about making $7,000 a week playing a maid?"
asked Ms. McDaniel, referring to the character type that dominated her
career. "If I didn't, I'd be making $7 a week being one."

Viewed in this context, black-angel movies can be seen as an attempt at
compromise, giving on-screen blacks more dignity - without taking much
of the action away from the white hero. Key examples include "The Green
Mile," where black death-row inmate John Coffey heals a white prison
guard and his wife before marching obediently to his execution, and the
"Matrix" series, where a black "oracle" (the late Gloria Foster)
dispenses prophecy and wisdom to the white "chosen one" (Keanu Reeves).
The "Matrix" films, however, can't be accused of tokenism, since they
also feature African-American actors, such as Laurence Fishburne and
Jada Pinkett-Smith, in prominent roles.

And overall, African-American stars, from Queen Latifah to Will Smith,
are commanding higher salaries and headlining more movies than in the
past. (Certainly, no one is going to claim that Bill Pullman and Randy
Quaid were the main heroes of "Independence Day.")

But the list of heavenly visitations could stretch all the way down the
Walk of Fame. In 1998's "What Dreams May Come," Cuba Gooding Jr. plays
an angel who leads Robin Williams, who is in heaven, on a quest to
rescue his wife from hell. That same year, Andre Braugher provided
comfort to fallen angel Nicolas Cage in "City of Angels." A seminal
film was "Ghost," where a psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg helps a
murder victim (Patrick Swayze) communicate with his widow, Demi Moore.
Ms. Goldberg won an Oscar for her role.

"Hollywood has to tread a very fine line," Gabbard says. "It can't keep
putting blacks into subservient positions ... because that would turn
off the huge black audience. So in these [black-angel] movies, at some
moments [a black character] gets to have total control over the white
people. That way blacks don't feel demeaned, and whites don't feel ...
threatened, because the blacks aren't really from their world, they're
from heaven.

"And heaven appears to be administered by white people," he adds,
"because the black people [in these films] only give their help to
whites. John Coffey only helps one character who isn't a white person
in 'The Green Mile,' and that's a mouse!"

The racial dimensions of films like "The Green Mile" have deep roots in
US culture, says Linda Williams, author of "Playing the Race Card:
Melodramas of Black and White From Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson."

"They come from the tradition of melodrama," Dr. Williams explains,
"where to suffer is to acquire virtue. The person who suffers is
Christlike and has the moral authority to forgive and offer absolution.
The black man's initials in ['The Green Mile'] are J.C., and he seems
to exist for the purpose of serving and redeeming white people. You see
similar things in 'Bruce Almighty,' where a black person redeems a
white person, even though the white person's problems are of the most
trivial kind."

Williams says the "black angel" movies can be traced back 200 years to
"Uncle Tom's Cabin." "That novel came out of a moment when a certain
kind of strict Calvinism was in crisis, and the solution was a more
loving kind of approach," she says. "Today ... there is a feeling that
we need some kind of spiritual redemption, and we turn to black people
because they're the ones who have suffered."

A key quality of the black-angel movies is that they're not realistic
stories but overt, often flamboyant fantasies.

This summer, Hollywood's ideal black angel is embodied by Morgan
Freeman, whose many authoritative roles - the president in "Deep
Impact," a judge in "The Bonfire of the Vanities" - culminate in "Bruce
Almighty," where he plays God as a white-suited gentleman bent on
making the life of a self-indulgent journalist (Jim Carrey) more
fulfilling.

"There's an unspoken agreement in American culture that blacks are more
spiritual, more in touch with the Divine than whites," Gabbard says.
"Freeman manages to project that, along with an authenticity, a
folksiness, a lack of pretension. He's a man of wisdom, but not an
intellectual - a guy who feels the pain of the world. There's
compassion in his face, his speech, his manner.... This suits our
fantasies of how God would act."

Too patronizing?

But Gabbard points out that it also gives Freeman's character an
above-the-fray quality that other black angels share. Such figures are
isolated from the black community, and also from the complicated world
of politics, dissension, and difficult moral questions.

Hollywood's recent pattern of casting blacks in idealistic roles and
evading "the real world," is exasperating, say many race-conscious
critics and filmmakers.

"These movies don't really deal with race," says Armond White, an
African-American cultural critic for the New York Press, a weekly
newspaper. "They deal with the desire of white filmmakers to patronize
black people ... by portraying them as kindly, beneficent helpmates.

"These aren't progressive ideas," he adds. "They're a fantasy sold
mainly to people over 40, whose thinking is a vestige of the civil
rights era. Younger people are less interested in this, because the
commercial media encourage them to think racism doesn't exist anymore.
'Eminem showed anyone can be black!' But he's really Elvis redux -
another white performer appropriating black styles to get fame and
money." (As the rapper himself boasted in last year's hit song "Without
Me.")

Another black observer with a critical view of black-angel movies is
filmmaker Spike Lee, who expressed his outrage in a March 2001
interview with Cineaste magazine. He called Coffey of the "Green Mile"
a reworking of the "old grateful slave," and showed even more anger at
2000's "The Legend of Bagger Vance," with Matt Damon as a (white)
golfer who's supernaturally aided by his (black) caddy, played by Mr.
Smith. Observing that the story takes place in the Deep South during
the 1930s, when violence against blacks was common, Lee posed a pointed
question: "If this magical black caddy has all these powers, why isn't
he using them to try and stop some of the brothers from being lynched
and [mutilated]?... I don't understand this

by David Sterritt: Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor


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Bantu_Kelani
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« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2003, 10:46:01 PM »

Great post!! Thank you Ras-Tyehimba. I must say this is a fantastic article, there have been a number of "standard" stereotypical roles for Blacks, and even today, many of them still are in use, including this one. The "Black angel" or "magic Negro" is not offensive per se, but it is a subtle sign of ongoing unease among whites about BLACK POWER. The more "powerful" the character, the less "potent" they make him, especially when compared to the white principal.

The solution is at least to Control. Write the story, control the production money. Direct the film. Denzel Washington did it by directing The Antoine Fisher Story, one with no white folk in major roles! Others are doing it. We can do it, We MUST DO IT!!

Kelani-
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Bantu_Kelani
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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2003, 10:47:57 PM »

Here is an article by Courtland Miloy that compliments the article above.


White House Knows Black Can Be Magic

By Courtland Milloy

Wednesday, June 11, 2003; Page B01


It is well known that the Bush White House works hard at image control Hollywood-style. Every presidential photo op seems manipulated to help the public forget the Bush talk and remember the Bush walk -- whether it's a staged swagger across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln or a choreographed stroll over a made-to-order bridge in Jordan.

But impressive advance work to set the stage isn't always enough. A presidential image can still be tarnished by such unbelievable lines as President Bush's assertion a couple of weeks ago on the subject of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: "But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."

Even more needs to be done to burnish Bush, and it looks like the White House has taken another page from the moviemakers' bag of tricks.

Washington Post film critic Rita Kempley tells us that Hollywood has long employed a most effective casting technique for restoring the on-screen sheen of the troubled hero played by the movie's white star. Enter the "magic Negro," whose sole role is savior of white souls.

In the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance," for instance, Will Smith plays an "angelic caddy" -- as Kempley put it -- who shows up in Georgia during a time in American history when black people were being lynched all over the place. This was no ordinary angel of mercy. The magic caddy was there to help a white golfer get his groove back. Heavenly priorities, you know.

Todd Boyd, a black screenwriter, told Kempley that such characters are "pawns" who "help white people figure out what's going wrong and fix it, like Whoopi Goldberg's psychic in 'Ghost.' "

So is the president no longer making any sense? Is he saying one thing about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction one day and something a little different the next. Does he have a credibility problem?

Who you gonna call?

In the Bush administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell is the magic caddy. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice stars as the gung-ho psychic.

Remember Powell's performance in February before the U.N. Security Council? Until then, Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld provided most of the official war talk. But it wasn't working.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll asked, "Who do you trust more when it comes to U.S. policy toward Iraq?" The results were stunning: Powell beat Bush 63 percent to 24 percent. Rumsfeld did worse than Bush.

Perhaps, the president was behaving too much like a mad cowboy, Rumsfeld like a mad scientist.

Their reputations at home and abroad were on the line. Bring in the magic caddy. And with the wave of a vial of fake anthrax, Powell seemed to mesmerize enough of the world to save the day for the hawks.

Now it's time for a sequel.

The credibility of the United States and the Bush administration is suffering because of assertions made before the war that Iraq was an "imminent threat" warranting an unprecedented "preemptive strike." So Powell and Rice materialized on the Sunday television talk show circuit.

Rice spoke mystically of having connected "hundreds of dots" in analyzing Iraq's weapons program, and she held to her prediction, which now appears based on nothing more than crystal gazing, that weapons of mass destruction will be found.

But that's okay. As central casting knows all too well, the image of a black woman -- especially one from Deep South Birmingham -- standing by a white man from Texas has an especially strong resonance.

"Historically, if a black person is thrust into a white universe, it is inevitable that the white people become a better person," Thomas Cripps, author of "Making Movies Black: The Hollywood Message Movie From World War II to the Civil Rights Era," told Kempley.

"Sidney Poitier spent his whole career in this position," he said. "Sidney actually carried the cross for Jesus in 'The Greatest Story Ever Told.' "

Now we have Powell as the magic black caddy, carrying the double bags of incomprehensible Bushspeak and his own dubious statements before the U.N.

Nevertheless, the load does not appear particularly heavy. Bush is doing just fine in the polls. And with Powell's approval rating at 80-plus -- the highest in the administration -- and Rice still maintaining "low negatives," if not especially high positives, it appears that the old black magic still has America under a spell.



© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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We should first show solidarity with each other. We are Africans. We are black. Our first priority is ourselves.
Ayinde
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2003, 11:38:51 PM »

Fair analysis, and these articles are good only if the intention is to encourage Africans to develop their own.

Why are Black people still expecting Hollywood to cast Blacks in any other role than through their own fears and ignorance?

I see no reason to be alarmed if we conclude that America have not come to terms with its own racist past. OK, so Blacks know this and Whites know this... It is to be expected that they will portray images through their own prejudiced perceptions.

It is not enough to tag the movie industry alone when there are Blacks in America who have the funds to make a difference but they prefer to indulge in the same fantasies of excesses that drive the U.S. economy.

While some Blacks, when they are not materially well off, do see the 'problem', often when they get resources their priorities change. This should tell us that there is far more to these issues than simply condemning Whites and Blacks.

I certainly will not expect Whites to portray Blacks 'correctly' especially when most Blacks cannot even agree on what is a correct African/Black portrayal. Africans today comprise a wide variety of personalities. We have not been homogenous for a very long time.

I submit that there is nothing that is really stopping Blacks/Africans from developing our own movie industries and media houses.

Those who are incensed about Hollywood's depictions should also focus on developing the alternatives and not simply lobby Hollywood to do better for Hollywood to make the money.
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italnational
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2003, 06:04:22 AM »

Greetings to Sister Kelani, you even know that the 15 billion fake aid to Africa,from Bush is to save his own fake ass,from his questionable blunder in Iraq.TO the woman who qouted about Mosses bringing the law to the light.Light is the TRUTH & Darkness is shading the truth with lies.For example,the lie that was spread that the Blackman had an inferior brain capacity.Darkness brought forth by you know who,principalities & powers that cannot be seen.
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italnational
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2003, 06:14:55 AM »

greetings brother Ayinde in rightousness, Yes I totally agree with you that the few Blacks who make it,the majority are not doing enough for the community,& in some instances they are doing the racist dirty work for them. We need a plan of action to bring down racism without violence.the boycotting of the bus company in 50's,brought about desired results. Believe or not Blacks influence alot of fashion, hence trainers tracksuits, caps.If we decide with our white brethren to boycott certain goods we could turn this world on it's head.Power to Jah people.
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Tyehimba
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2003, 12:31:56 AM »

Quote
It is not enough to tag the movie industry alone when there are Blacks in America who have the funds to make a difference but they prefer to indulge in the same fantasies of excesses that drive the U.S. economy.  

While some Blacks, when they are not materially well off, do see the 'problem', often when they get resources their priorities change. This should tell us that there is far more to these issues than simply condemning Whites and Blacks.  

I certainly will not expect Whites to portray Blacks 'correctly' especially when most Blacks cannot even agree on what is a correct African/Black portrayal. Africans today comprise a wide variety of personalities. We have not been homogenous for a very long time.

I submit that there is nothing that is really stopping Blacks/Africans from developing our own movie industries and media houses.  

Those who are incensed about Hollywood's depictions should also focus on developing the alternatives and not simply lobby Hollywood to do better for Hollywood to make the money.  


Developing alternative sources of Media has to be imperative in negating the effect of miseducation and misinformation. By not having access to different viewspoints, people are less equiped to make the right choices. It is a fact that Hollywood, Bet, MTV, CNN, and BBC can't be relied on to represent viewpoints that are contrary to everything that they hold aloft and that will expose their lies.
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wezekana
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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2007, 12:12:42 PM »


http://racerelations.about.com/od/stereotypesmentalmodels/a/blackimage.htm

Media and its Portrayal of Black Americans

Discussing "The Black Image in the White Mind"

"The Black Image in the White Mind" - a wonderful book and multiple award winner, written by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki, discusses the effects of life in a segregated society. It offers a comprehensive look at the intricate and subtle racial patterns in the mass media and discusses how these powerful images play a significant role in shaping the attitudes of Whites toward Blacks. White Americans, they show, learn about African Americans not through personal relationships, but through the images shown by the media. In addition, they reveal a subtle pattern of images that communicates a racial hierarchy (with Whites on top) and promotes a sense of difference and conflict.

Entman and Rojecki illustrate how the television news focus on black poverty and crime is grossly out of proportion with the reality of black life, how use of black 'experts' is limited to 'black-themed' issues, and how 'black politics' are often distorted in the news.
In short, they conclude that although there are more images of African-Americans on television now than ever, these images are often harmful to the prospect of unity between the races.

A brief summary of some of their findings are listed below:


    * A mug shot of a Black defendant is 4 times more likely to appear in a local television news report than of a White defendant

    * The accused is 2 times more likely to be shown physically restrained in a local television news report than when the accused is White

    * The name of the accused is 2 times more likely to be shown on screen in a local TV news report if the defendant is Black, rather than White

    * "Telegenic" figures aren't always the most representative leaders though they are presented as if they were. Some statistics from 1994:


          o 40% of Black adults stated that Jesse Jackson represents Black people "very well"

          o Only 11% of Black adults stated that Louis Farrakhan represents Black people "very well"

          o 22% of Black adults stated they had "never heard of" Louis Farrakhan

          o Stories about, or soundbites from, Jesse Jackson on ABC World News: 13 versus stories about, or soundbites from, Louis Farrakhan on ABC World News: 25


    * The media sowed discord during the affirmative action debate of the 1990s despite the considerable common ground between Blacks and Whites. Reporters often predicted affirmative action would be one of the key issues in the 1996 election because of the "rage" among Whites.


          o A mere 1% percent of survey respondents named affirmative action as their top priority in voting against a presidential candidate

          o 61% percent of White men ("angry" or not) favored affirmative action programs as is or with reforms

          o 76% percent of White women favored affirmative action programs as is or with reforms

          o Somehow only 12.5% percent of White "persons on the street" were shown to support affirmative action in a sample of network news, while the percentage shown to oppose was 87.5%

    * While Black actors are now more visible in films, it is an open question as to how well they are being represented. Compare, for example, how Blacks and Whites are portrayed in the top movies of 1996.
          o Black female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 89%

          o White female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 17%

          o Black female movie characters shown being physically violent: 56%

          o White female movie characters shown being physically violent: 11%

          o Black female movie characters shown being restrained: 55%
          o White female movie characters shown being restrained: 6%


Research findings are reprinted with permission. Copyright notice: 2000 by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki. This text appears on the University of Chicago Press website by permission of the authors. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki and the University of Chicago Press are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text (or the rest of the text on the website) on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki.


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wezekana
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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2007, 12:22:10 PM »

It would seem that a more sinister method is being employed here as media representation, unfortunately, routinely changes peoples opinion... even some peoples opinions of themselves. What might white supremest society be trying to push by showing negative, homosexual, powerless images of Africans in the media? Hmmmm...?

Blacks disrespected and underrepresented in the media, Black men in dresses. Somebody wants to show our children these images. Somebody wants somebody to think this junk is o.k..

BRINGING THEM OUT is a short, black expose on Africans in Hollyweird (Hollywood) and the image of Africans as portrayed by the Media. Some language and images may be offensive to younger viewers, but I think the contextual information is relevant.

LINK TO VIDEO



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