9 February 2013
Ethnicity and the Big Screen
Since the beginning of movies, the various ethnicities have been portrayed in ways which give ethnicities their own trademark stereotypes. Sometimes these portrayals can be powerful and thought provoking with movies such as Crash and Malcolm X. But usually movies play fast and loose with race, particularly with minorities. Most of the time these fast and loose portrayals are offensive without making the conscience effort to be. The stereotypical portrayal of race is so deeply embedded in the world of cinema that it’s actually rare to see a movie that doesn’t depict minorities in a derogatory manner in some way. Minorities in film are depicted in a way that is harmful to their ethnic identity.
Some of the biggest controversies in film surround the use of African Americans on the big screen. Nelson George asks some necessary questions about black people’s presence in film when he writes “Are black characters given…real-world motivations? Are they agents of their own destiny or just foils for white characters? Are they too noble to be real?” ( ). These questions apply for films that have a black lead or blacks in an important supporting role. In Django Unchained, a black slave named Django is freed by a white guy named Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter who trains Django to become a bounty hunter and ultimately becomes his mentor. This causes George to raise the question of whether Django is an agent of his own destiny or a pawn in Dr. King’s master plan. The student-teacher relationship Django shares with King personifies white authority and brings up an age old movie stereotype historian Michael Winston calls the “submissive Negro” (Omi 629). The submissive Negro can never be in charge of his/her own destiny because the white man already has his/her destiny lay out on a platter. The submissive Negro phenomenon in movies implies that black people live in a...