Analysis of a Film

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Blacks in the Media:
A Critical Analysis of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
Bridgette’ L. Miller
ENG225 Introduction to Film
October 25, 2010

Blacks in the Media:
A Critical Analysis of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
In the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary one definition of bamboozled reads: “to deceive or get the better of by underhandedness; hoodwink (p. 105)”. In Spike Lee’s movie, Bamboozled (Lee, 2000), he explores how society buys into the stereotypes of African American in the media. Bamboozled (Lee, 2000), is a satirical film that explores many different genres; including drama, comedy, perhaps black comedy, and music. Lee's basing the movie in satire form was a brilliant move because in it he was able to push the envelope harder than drama or straight comedy would have allowed. Spike Lee’s purpose throughout Bamboozled (Lee, 2000), is a strong one, and the use of blackface, while extreme, serves as a readily inspiring figurative sign of how the racism of yesterday still exists, but in different forms. Spike Lee’s purpose was to show how blacks are portrayed in the media and sets out to either get fired and/or erase black stereotypes from the minds of the American society. In this film it really had all of the “Marxist Approach” because it included consideration of racial issues, “Humanistic Approach” because the film makes a statement, cultural experience, human nature or human experience, and the “Thematic approach” because of the films unifying central concern, the element that unifies the work plot, a single character, emotional mood or effect, creation or certain style or texture” (cited from “The Art of Watching Films” p. 410-412). The movie was a mix of many approaches that I saw and all were put together very well. When I first watched Bamboozled (Lee, 2000), it seemed as though it was just exploring the demeaning act of minstrel shows, but there were other submerged themes. The submerged themes being that minstrel acts have not gone away, but instead it has been creatively hidden and in the watching and performing of this kind of comedy it explores the loss of identity that many African-American entertainers experience due to the way that the media portrays them. Minstrel shows are how blacks were able to get into the entertainment business. The performers had to portray naïve buffoons that sang and danced the days away; eating chitlin’s, stealing watermelons, chickens, and expressing their love for ‘massuh’. They played roles of the Uncle Tom, Mammy, Jigaboo, and Sambo. They had to darken their skin using burnt cork, create larger lips and use exaggerated facial expressions.

The characters are Pierre Delacroix, televisions producer and the main subject of this paper, Manray/Mantan, a tap dancer, Womack, Manray’s manager and sidekick, Sloan Hopkins, Pierre’s assistant, and Dunwitty, Pierre’s boss. Pierre Delacroix and Sloan Hopkins solicit Manray/Mantan and Womack to play in a minstrel show. Innocently, Manray/Mantan and Womack agree, thinking that this chance will help them improve their lifestyle of poverty. “And though their desire, being heavily influenced by the discourse of and American society, the achievement of this desire was revealed to be at the cost of losing their ethic and cultural heritage”, writes Todd in Am I Black Enough For You? (p.85) Manray/Mantan and Womack agree to pit on the blackface and sing and dance for the nations, not realizing the history and pain behind the minstrel show. Although Manray/Mantan actions are damaging to society, Pierre Delacroix is not any better.

Pierre Delacroix is the only African-American writer in the company (cited from In his climb to the top of the economic ladder, he reaches the “glass ceiling” and realizes that in order to break the “glass ceiling” he must produce a television show that will bring in higher ratings. His boss, Dunwitty, informs him that the public wants a television show that is funny and lighthearted....
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