Compare and Contrast Black Representations in 'Gone with the Wind' (1939) and 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' (1967).

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The representation of the black characters in ‘Gone with the wind' and ‘Guess who's coming to dinner' are very different. By watching both films we can see that in the almost 30 years between the films representation of black people in the media has changed vastly and they are no longer so discriminated against or stereotyped.

The late actress Nell Carter, describes a Hollywood at the time that ‘Gone with the wind' was made that cast black actors "as African savages, singing slaves and domestics." The character of Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel, has been linked with the stock character of the "happy slave", someone who implicitly condones slavery. However, some point out that despite her position as slave, she is not shy about upbraiding her white mistress, Scarlett; and indeed, she is yelling at Scarlett in her first scene. Mammy frequently derides other slaves on the plantation as "field hands", implying that as a House Servant she is above the "less-refined" blacks.

The character of Prissy played by Butterfly McQueen, is another black character in the film. Prissy is a dim-witted slave girl who gets slapped by Scarlett O'Hara when in Prissy's most famous scene of the film she admits to Scarlett that she has lied to her and knows nothing about delivering babies. Prissy does not retaliate because at the time the film was set black slaves would not have been able to argue with their white masters for fear of reprimand. The role of Prissy catapulted Butterfly McQueen's film career, but within ten years she grew tired of playing black ethnic stereotypes. When she refused to continue being typecast that way, it ended her career.

In ‘Guess who's coming to dinner' black people are represented in a far more positive light. The lead male John Prentice is played by Sidney Poitier who is black and this simple fact shows that by 1967 cinema audiences reaction to black characters had changed. Sidney Poitier was in fact some what of a sex symbol at the...
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