The Third Cinema: Deconstructing Negative Stereotypes of Africa
The arts, literature, music, internet, motion pictures, print and broadcast media and other artifacts of modern media culture share a common cultural conception –educating and shaping public perception. They provide the codes of recognition for self-definition and construction of meanings across socio-economic, political, gender and ethical issues. Thus, an individual’s lifestyle, fashion taste, arts appreciation, choice of consumer products, definition of beauty, et cetera is largely a factor of media exposure. The contemporary definition of feminine beauty as a woman with the tall and thin physique for instance, is as symbolized in movies and TV commercials. Cognizant of these socio-cultural dynamics, the Euro-American societies have endlessly exploited the media to foist their value system on the rest of the world. The outcome is a polarized world along dominant culture and sub-culture divides, in other words – the ‘us’ versus ‘other’. Africa, Asia and Latin America and the ethno-racial communities in the dominant Euro-American societies or the Third World societies constitute the so-called ‘other’, among which Africa is worse off in the cultural disequilibrium. Decades after sovereignty by the 53 countries that make up the continent, the regime of repression dating back to the arrival of the slave ships and subsequent colonialism has been sustained through the vast cartel of cultural producers of the Euro-American system. ‘Godfathered’ by the multinationals, governments and the non-profits, the cultural producers recycle and proliferate a mixed bag of hegemonic ideologies and image to devalue the African essence and potentials to attain natural capacity. The largely denigrating images, iconography, symbols, text, news and narratives stereotypically depict a savage and primordial people, endlessly beleaguered by an epidemic of poverty, starvation, diseases and genocides, compounded by corrupt, incompetent and despotic leadership. Swamping both the traditional and modern media, the images showcase thatched roof mud houses, sprawling shanties with rusty corrugated iron sheets, germs breeding latrines, drinking wells with a ‘zillion’ bacteria, skinny domestic animals with suppurating sores and a flock of undernourished kids swamped by masses of flies, wolfing rations in refugee camps. Chavis (1998) observes, nouns and adjectives such as hut, dark, tribe, primitive, nomad, animism, jungle, cannibal, savage, underdeveloped, third world, and multiple others are favorite in telling the stories Africa in news and endlessly providing references for conceiving the worldview of Africa and its people. However, the cinema has proved the most manipulative in fostering the Eurocentric agenda of the dominant culture. Kellner (2005), remarks that media spectacles, “demonstrates who has power and who is powerless, who is allowed to exercise force and violence, and who is not. They dramatize and legitimate the power of the forces that be, and show the powerless that they must stay in their places or be oppressed.” Stagecoach, a 1939 western film directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne exemplifies Kellner’s viewpoint. Through an assortment of discourses and iconography, the film accentuates the superior race between the Caucasians and the native Indians, representing the former as civilized, gallantry and invincible and the latter as savage, primitive and feeble. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1990) tows a similar path; disparaging the value and belief system of the Bushmen of Kalahari land in favor of the Europeans visitors on exotic sightsee of Africa. Regrettably, the off-putting portrayals have increasingly depleted the African cultural identity and self-worth. Today not only have Africans progressively been vanquished as the ‘other’, but have their mindset colonized to perceive selves as the ‘other’. Resulting from...
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