The African-American Image in Films

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The African-American Image in Films
Films serve many functions like education, entertainment, handbooks of social behavior, and a transmitter of cultural and social values. The most effective way in which stereotypes are perpetuated in America is through the mediums of film and television. American films mostly played an influential part in fixing images of ethnic groups in the minds of audience. The negative representation of films or movies sometimes reinforces false assumptions (as poor, dangerous and dumb) about minority groups, for example African-American. The way African-Americans were represented in past films can be proved misrepresentation of minority group by an average viewer. The lack of control of films over the representations of minority group has distorted the real image of African-Americans in the world. But, nowadays the image of African-American in film has made a gradual shift from the degrading and negative misrepresentation in past films, to the inspirational and breaking of role barriers of modern day films. It is important to understand how and why the African-American image and presence in films has such a significant importance to those of Africa-American descent especially but to those who are interested in their struggle in past films as well.

In the early years of motion pictures, African American actors were usually relegated to roles of servants, butlers, comedian and maids and that was very common in the majority of films that featured African-American characters, especially between the 1920’s and 1960’s. In 1927’s film, for example, ‘In Old Kentucky,’ through the majority of his career, Stepin Fetchit consistently played the comedian role to Uncle Tom. A good example of that would be his role in the 1952 film, ‘Bend of the River.’ What seems to stand out the most about the character that Fetchit plays, is the child like quality he showed (‘Armond White’) and in another African-American actor Nipsey Russell, known variously...
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