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CriticalAnalysisofRaceinFilm

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago

Critical Analysis of Race in Film

Katie Houilihan and Sarah Staples

 

We're studying the uses of films such as Do the Right Thing, Boys 'N the Hood, Remember the Titans, Crash, A Time to Kill, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to express an understanding of racial tensions in contemporary urban neighborhoods, and the ways in which these forms reflect cultural beliefs and attitudes. Please note that for our purposes on this wiki page, films are considered "texts," and viewing may often be interchanged with "reading," as in the reading of a text (that is, one's understanding of the elements of the film as a cultural text).

 

One of the things we hope to change, as future English teachers, is the way "viewing" is assumed ot be simply "entertainment." As Beach notes, "it is therefore perceived as lacking a certain intellectual or cognitive rigor associated with the analysis or production of print texts" (101). This wiki page will explain ways that redifine the English language arts curriculum in terms of the "basic processes involved in interpreting and constructing both print and media texts" (Beach, 101). We aim to show ways that other educators can use film to teach critical analysis, as well as how to incorporate both film and print texts in cross-case analyses.

 

One way to incorporate critical race analysis within a multicultural language arts curriculum that involves both film and print text is to view the following movies and juxtapose them with the following texts: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain), Beloved (Morrison), Black Boy (Wright), Brothers and Keepers (Wideman), The Invisible Man (Ellison), A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass), and Native Son (Wright).

 

In an excerpt promoting The Merchants of Cool (a FRONTLINE special that examines the tactics, techniques, and cultural ramifications of marketing moguls) the producers touch on what effect media representations has on teenagers, “But in doing so, critics ask, is MTV truly reflecting the desires of today's teenagers, or are they stoking a cultural infatuation with music and imagery that glorifies violence and sex as well as antisocial behavior and attitudes?”

 

The same can be asked about media representation of race, in such films as we’ve outlined on this wiki page. Does American culture, infatuated as we are with movies and heated race relations, rely on images of Black men that glorify violence and sex as well as antisocial behavior and attitudes? Of course, the excerpt goes on to admit, “In today's media-saturated environment, such questions, it seems, are becoming increasingly difficult to answer,” and we agree; however, that doesn’t mean that these issues shouldn’t be picked apart within the walls of the media-savvy, high school English classroom, especially if such representations have negative ramifications for how students shape their views on the world.

 

Concerning the long-term impact of forming such representations for adolescents, Brian Graden, MTV’s president of programming, admits, “Even though I work at MTV...I am starting to see the world more like someone who's approaching forty than someone who's twenty, and I can't help but be worried that we are throwing so much at young adults so fast. And that there is no amount of preparation or education or even love that you could give a child to be ready.”

 

As future English teachers, we must believe, however, that education is the best preparation for processing such an onslaught of race representations in the media and the world at large because if we don’t help our students to learn new ways of seeing, who will?

 

 

Check out more about The Merchants of Cool

 

Movie #1:

 

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

 

Historical Background:

This film was a radical success in the racially volatile year of 1967 and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture. Hepburn won for her role as Christina Drayton and William Rose won for best screenwriter.

It is important to note what was going on in American history between 1966 and 1967 in order to put this film in a cultural context. In 1966 the Black Panthers formed and were beginning their fight for black power. While in 1967 we have two major race riots includind Newark on July 12 and Detroit on July 23. Newark was a place of extreme racial tension in America. "At the time in Newark, and elsewhere, blacks were treated like second class citizens (www.factmaster.com, Retrieved December 12, 2006)". The riot began when Mr. Smith a local working class African American was severely beaten and brought to jail. Rumors spread that he had died in jail because of the wounds inflicted by the police. However, the 4th precinct says that he was injured because he resisted arrest. Although the rumor of his death was a lie, it was what caused the uprising in Newark. Many African Americans were tired of the injustices that had been inflicted upon them, and forty percent of African Americans were unemployed. African Americans were the first to lose their jobs in factory jobs that were decresing in the area. The Detroit riots began over a raid at a local after hours drinking club or "blind pig".

The blind pig was located in a predominately black community located at 12th Street and Clairemont. It is important to know where this incident took place so that reason for the riot can be explained. In the early 1960's this area was commonly patrolled by the Big Four or also known as the Tac Squad. This group would roam the streets of this area for bars to raid or prostitutes to arrest. Many young African Americans were stopped for no reason and asked for identification. Often the police would humiliate African American men by calling them "boy" or "nigger". Sometimes they were beaten or killed on the way to jail, and had done nothing to provoke the police. Knowing this hisory it is easy to understand why the race riot happened in July 1967.

Once again the police were going to raid a after hours bar. However, the police only thought that the Blind Pig would have a few patrons. The police found out that there were eighty-two patrons at the Blind Pig because of a party for two Vietnam vets who had just returned from the war. The police attempted to arrest everyone that was on the scene. After the last police car left, "a small group of men who were confused because they were kicked out of the only place they could go lifted up bars of an adjacent clothing stor and broke the windows (www.67riots.rutgers.edu, Retrieved December 12,2006)". The violence continued to escalate and within forty-eight hours troops arrived to the area. The riot lasted for five days and forty-three people died, 1,189 were injured, and 7,000 people were arrested. It is interesting to watch the video clips of this event

The origins of the riots were rooted in a multitude of of political, economic, and social factors including police abuse, lack of affordable housing, urban renewal projects, economic inequality, black militancy and rapid demographic change(www.67riots.rutgers.edu). This year also brought about radical feminism and radical Supreme court rulings.

While the civil rights movement was going on women began to formulate their own groups to gain political equality. Women were tired of living in the shadow of men, by not getting paid as much and maybe not even getting hired at jobs. The great divide between the sexes was beginning to bubble up and women begain to fight for their rights. Citizens were fighting for political and personal rights in 1967, and no longer would take the abuse of the system.

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs Virginia that laws against interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Sixteen states were forced to revise their laws on interracial marriage. I find it interesting that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner illustrates this issue in a very daring way and shows its support of this very important historical Supreme Court ruling.

 

 

Brief Synopsis and How Race is Expressed:

Matt and Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn) are liberals who have raised their daughter Joey (Katherine Houghton) to be liberal, think for herself, and be anything but conventional. When Joey returns from a vacation in Hawaii she also brings home a fiance! What makes it shocking, is that her fiance is an African American doctor named John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). Although Joey's parents might have proclaimed being liberal, they still harbor some predjudices against the union of their doctor to John Prentice. John talks to his parents on the phone and would not tell his parents that the girl that he met in Hawaii was white. All of a sudden, they decide that it would be a good idea to come and visit John and his new woman. They were shocked to discover that the new woman was white! They were even more surprised to find out that they were engaged. John proclaims that if Joey's parents have any doubts about the union he would not marry Joey. John's father doesn't support the union of this couple anymore than the Joey's father. The fathers try and stop the union from happening, while the mothers support the happiness of their children. To make matters more complicated, Joey's parent's have a disapproving maid (Isabel Sanford) and a bigoted bussiness associate of Christina's who always have to put in their opinion. The dialogw within the film tells a lot about the racial oppinions of the 1960's.

When the couple arrives at Joey's house sultry music is playing as a character named Dorthy walks by them. She is a very attractive African American woman who "helps Tillie during the week." It is obvious that Joey noted the class difference between her and Dorthy. She recognizes that she is from an accomplished family and that she would be a good match for John the doctor. John asks to use the phone, and calls his parents to to talk and tells them that he met a woman. Even though John knows that he is engaged to Joey he is not brave enough to tell his parents. When John is one the phone he does say that the relationship is "serious" and he is shown sweating profusely. There is also an age difference between the couple because Joey is twenty-three and John is thirty-seven. the age difference seems normal for the historical period and John's father says "women age faster than men." The father asked if they were considering marriage and John says "thinking about it." Even though he knows that he is engaged and that he is not ready to tell his parents. During the phone call Christina comes home to find her unannounced daughter back from vacation.

While John is on the phone Joey talks about how she had fallen in love. She gives a long a detailed speech about John saying "he knows what he believes, where he's going." She also tells her mother that John has been married before but their was a terrible accident. John's former wife and son died in a train crash in Belgium. The mother seemed very impressed with what she was hearing when John enters the room. He says, "she's only known me for ten days." Christina looks faint, and John says that she should sit down. All of a sudden Joey chimes in and says, "he thinks your going to faint because he's a negro." Joey continues her statement by saying, " I fell in love with a negro and nothing will change that. Even if you were the govenor of Alabama!" Meanwhile the maid Tillie does not beleive that she should have to do her maid work for an African American man.

Tillie is a very interesting character in the film because she looks like a very stereotypical African American servant or mammie. She is short, a litle heavy and very outspoken. She told John that she had raised Joey since she was little, and he should stay away from her if he knew what was right. Tillie says "civil rights is one thing, this is something else!" While Tillie is giving John a hard time about his relationship with Joey the father is checking up on the background of John.

When the information comes back about John it is all positive. John is a known man who has a history of being top of his class and active in many community/professional establishments. John said "he got so far because people were afraid to admit their predjudice". This statement takes away some of he great ways tha John has been portryed in the film. Obviously john must have worked very hard to become who he was in this film. It is surprising that John was so successful in this film, because his parents came from a working class background.

John's father was a mail man and worked very hard for his son to be successful. John and his father have an altercation in the film. His father proclaims, "I have worked to get your ass where it is today!" The father is also concerned with what people will think about an interracial couple. "That don't change the wya that people hink about this." John gets very angry wih his father and says, "Their blind hatred and stupid fears. Scre all those people! Let's work on you father!" John understands that life would not be easy for him and Joey, but that they need the support of their family.

This film was revolutionary for its time and these issues are still prevalent in society today. Interracial couples are still looked down on in our society today. This film would be great to incorporate in a multicultural literature class.

 

 

Teaching Activities:

1. I would give the class the case of Loving vs. Virginia and divide the class into two groups. I would have the class critically analyze the case and the film. I would then divide the class into two debate teams and have them argue for or against interracial marriage. For this activity it is essential that the teams only use information that it is the film or in the Supreme court case of Loving vs. Virginia. At the end of this activity, I would like to have a discussion on whether interracial marriage is accepted today.

 

2. In this activity I would give students th opportunity to do research on 1967. The class would be divided into small groups, and each be given the following topics: music, Detroit riot, Newark riot, radical feminism, and the case of Loving vs. Virginia. I would have the students do research on each of these topics and present o he class. After having heard of of what was going on in 1967, I would ask the students to debate whether this film is radical for its time in history. I would have the students analyze the film by looking for textual clues that would prove their point. I would hn have a discussion wih students wbout whether they think that this is still an issue today. I would ask them by using prompts such as, Are interracial couples treated equally when the go out together? Have any of you known any couples who have been treated better or worse because they are an interracial couple?

 

Movie #2:

 

Do the Right Thing

 

 

Historical Background:

Roger Ebert, the film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, called Do the Right Thing "the finest, the most controversial, most discussed and most important film of 1989. Of course, it was not nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture (that award went to Driving Miss Daisy, which has a view of race in America that is rotated just 180 degrees from Lee’s). To an extent, Ebert thinks some viewers have trouble seeing the film; it is blurred by their deep-seated ideas and emotions about race in America, which they project onto Lee, assuming he is angry or bitter. On the basis of this film it would be more accurate to call him sad, observant, realistic—or empathetic."

 

Brief Synopsis and How Race is Expressed:

According to Wikipedia, "The film features a multitude of characters, almost all of whom are portrayed sympathetically. The main character in the film is Mookie (Lee), a young man who lives with his sister and works as a pizza delivery man for the local Sal's Pizzeria. Sal (Aiello), the pizzeria’s Italian-American owner, has owned the shop for decades because he respects his customers. His youngest son Vito (Edson) shares his view, but his eldest son Pino (Turturro) "detests the place like a sickness."

 

The Bed-Stuy street corner the characters populate is filled with distinct personalities, most of whom are just trying to find a way to deal with the intense heat and go about their regular day-to-day activities. A philandering drunk called Da Mayor (Davis) is constantly trying to win both the approval and affection of the neighborhood matron, Mother-Sister (Dee). Three unemployed men on the corner constantly crack jokes on passersby, and comment on the Korean owners of the nearby convenience store. Mookie's girlfriend, Tina (Perez), is constantly nagging him about caring for their infant son. A young man named Radio Raheem (Nunn) lives for nothing else but to blast Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" on his boombox wherever he goes, and wears a "love" and "hate" four-fingered ring on either hand to symbolize the struggle between the two forces. A mentally handicapped man named Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) constantly meanders about the neighborhood, holding up hand-colored (with marking pens) pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. We also meet Mookie's sister, Jade (Joie Lee, the director's real life sister), and the local DJ, Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson) who operates a radio station nearby and acts as both a narrator and a character.

 

Buggin' Out (Esposito) is a wannabe Black nationalist who makes sure his points are heard by whoever is in ear shot. Upon entering Sal's shop, he notices that Sal's "Wall of Fame" is decorated with dozens of pictures of celebrity actors, athletes, etc.--all of them Italian. When Buggin' Out questions Sal about the "Wall of Fame" and demands he place some pictures of African-American celebrities on the wall (since, he explains, Sal's pizzeria is situated in a black neighborhood), Sal replies that this is his store, he is proud of his Italian heritage, and that he isn't going to put anyone but Italians on his wall. Buggin' Out attempts to start a protest over the "Wall of Fame", but no one will listen to him or take his trivial issue seriously except for Radio Raheem, who had been criticized by Sal earlier that day for playing his boombox.

 

Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out march back into Sal's, and stage a sit-in protest until Sal changes the pictures on the wall. Radio Raheem's boombox is blaring, as always, Public Enemy's "Fight the Power", and at the highest volume possible. Sal demands that they turn the radio down or leave the shop, which the two men refuse to do. Reaching his wit's end, Sal snaps and destroys Radio Raheem's boombox with a baseball bat. His prized possession destroyed, Radio Raheem becomes enraged and begins choking Sal. A fight ensues between Buggin' Out & Radio Raheem on one side and Sal & Pino on the other, with Vito and Mookie trying to break it up. The fight spills out into the streets, where a white policeman apprehends Radio Raheem and places him in a choke hold that kills him (a reference to a 1983 incident where graffiti artist Michael Stewart was apprehended for defacing public property and killed by the arresting officer in a similar manner). An underlying issue that instills in this series of arrests is that of six officers present in this mostly African American neighborhood, only one officer on the scene is black and the rest are white. Buggin' Out is arrested, but refuses to go quietly, stating angrily "You're taking me to jail, huh, you're not taking Vito or Pino or Sal.", and "You can't kill all of us" (Referring to the African American race), adding to the tension.

 

The fight had by this time gathered a large crowd of onlookers, all of whom become enraged after the police kill Radio Raheem. Deciding that the floodgates are going to burst open eventually, Mookie grabs a trashcan and, screaming "HATE!", slings it through the window to Sal's. The angry crowd becomes an angry riotous mob, and rushes into the restaurant and destroys everything within and Smiley starts a fire. Firefighters arrive and begin spraying the building as the crowd are held back by riot patrol. With the crowd becoming more unruly and the police unable to hold them back, the firefighters turn their hoses on those in the mob.

 

When it is all over, Sal's pizzeria is burned beyond recognition, Sal and his two sons (saved by Da Mayor just before the riot starts) are out of business, Buggin' Out has been carted off to jail, and Smiley, with no one else around to see, wanders back into the smoldering restaurant and, sympathetic to Buggin' Out's cause, hangs on what's left of Sal's "Wall of Fame" a picture of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. shaking hands.

 

The next day, Mookie goes to Sal's, where the two discuss the incident, Mookie gets his money, and he and Sal cautiously reconcile.

 

The film ends with two quotations. The first, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances. The second, from Malcolm X, argues that violence is "intelligent" when it is self-defense."

 

Teaching Activities:

1. Your student could, for instance, present a critical literary analysis of race and identity in The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. By analyzing the main character, "The Invisible Man", you can surely see that Ellison portrays an unnecessarily polarized view of African American culture that makes him appear to support white racist beliefs about black institutions in nineteen fifties American society. By processing the invisible man through a never ending series of debacles in his schooling and activist life, we can see Ellison's negative view of is own race vilifying racist attitudes in white supremacy. Compare this view to Buggin' Out, the wanabee Black Nationalist from Do The Right Thing, and have your students analyze the discourse used by each character in representation. What values do they share? What values do they disagree on? How do they both work to define how American culture views the African American race? Students could have the option to write a term paper, or, create a website, blog, wiki, imovie, or the like, rather than a traditional paper.

 

2. A second idea for teaching Do the Right Thing in the classroom is to have your students read Roger Ebert's article on this movie, written for the Criterion Collection edition of the film in 2000, and discuss Ebert's ideas about racism and values in your class. Students can then write their own response, either as a retort, directly to Ebert, or to a wider audience, on the issues of race in America in relation to the film. You can find the article at

 

In this article, Ebert notes that, "among the many devastating effects of Lee’s film, certainly the most subtle and effective is the way it leads some viewers (not racist, but thoughtless or inattentive or imbued with the unexamined values of our society) to realize that they have valued a pizzeria over a human life." He points this out in relation to Lee, who, "because he is black and deals with anger, he has been categorized as an angry man." Because this film continually plays with and challenges the tensions between stereotypes about Black life (and black men, in particular)- absent fathers, drug use, violence, and unemployment - this would be an important opportunity for students to examine the ways in which this film (and other films on this page) addresses issues of race, class, and gender.

 

3. A third idea for teaching with this film deals with seeing this movie within the critique of media representations. In the next paragraph, I modified a suggested teaching activity from page 207 of Teaching Literature to Adolescents (Appleman, Beach, et. al, 2006).

 

First, (if you think you can have students do so respectfully and sensitively) have students list adjectives associated with different racial groups, and with different gender groups within those racial classifications. Then, have them find examples of such representations from the film, Do the Right Thing, and compare them to representations found on/in televeision, commercials, magazine articles, advertisements, newspapers, Web sites, books, songs, music videos, and cartoons. Students can make presentations, in which they address the following questions, "What adjectives describe the black men and women being portrayed in their examples? What adjectives describe the white men and women being portrayed in their examples? If there is a power dynamic between people, who has the power? Who solves the problems? How do they solve the problems? What activities are the people doing in the images? Are all forms of media providing the same range of representations of race and gender? Are some widely different? If so, which ones? How can you account for the differences? How do the audiences affect the representations offered? Where are certain representations most prevalent?

 

Students then view St. Clair Bourne’s 60-minute documentary The Making of Do the Right Thing, and Public Enemy’s video for “Fight the Power,” directed by Spike Lee. Students then reflect on their preconceptions about race and gender, finishing the unit by either writing a critical, final review of the film, or by considering which popular music of their own generation (Eminem, Limp Bizkit, etc.) could be viewed as modern day protest music (similar to Public Enemy) and then write a cross-case analysis of the power dynamics between race and gender, as evidenced in the two songs, and how that reflects the values of society at large.

 

 

Movie #3:

 

Boyz N The Hood

 

 

Historical Background:

The bulk of the storyline in Boyz N The Hood takes place in 1991, shortly before the 1992 Los Angeles riots, also known as the Rodney King uprising or the Rodney King riots, which were sparked on April 29, 1992 when a mostly white jury acquitted four police officers accused in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King, after he fled from police. Thousands of people in Los Angeles joined in what has often been characterized as a race riot, or a mini-civil war, involving acts of law-breaking compounded by existing racial tensions, including looting, arson and murder. In all, 55 people were killed during the riots. Racial tensions in Los Angeles were heated before the riots and remained incensed afterwards. The setting, therefore, in this story of black boys growing up in the ghetto of Los Angeles in the 1980s and '90s, is as much a character as any of the adults on screen.

 

 

Brief Synopsis and How Race is Expressed:

According to Wikipedia, "Before the opening scene of Boys N' the Hood, two important messages flash across the screen. The first is a statistic: 1 in 21 African American males will die of murder in their lifetime. The second expounds upon this point: “Most will be killed by other African American males.”

 

The story then begins in 1984 with 10 year old Tre Styles and three other youths heading to school. The four children stop to inspect a crime scene rife with police tape, gunshot holes in the walls and puddles of blood on the ground. At school, Tre misbehaves in front of the teacher; he is obviously bored with the curriculum about Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims (and not just bored; this scene also highlights the potential for cultural irrelevance with an educational curriculum presumably designed by far-away academic whites but being taught to inner-city blacks) and receives a three-day suspension after fighting with a classmate. We learn during a phone conversation that Tre’s mother, Reva (Angela Bassett), is completing a master’s degree; she seems angry at the white schoolteacher on the telephone (who reacts with surprise when Reva states her level of education and the existence of Tre’s father) and is also tired of Tre’s disobedience. She decides to send him to the Crenshaw neighborhood of his father, Jason “Furious” Styles (Lawrence Fishburne). On Tre’s first day at his new home he is ordered to rake the entire front lawn; later, Furious instructs him on his household responsibilities, which include cleaning and taking care of the house. Although these tasks seem unfair and harsh (the other boys do whatever they want), Furious explains that learning responsibility will make Tre a man and keep him from ending up dead or in jail. During his first night in his new home, Tre hears a pistol shot — Furious has awakened and fired at a burglar. The police arrive more than an hour later and decide the crime is unimportant because nothing was taken and the burglar escaped unharmed.

 

The next day Tre meets up with three old friends, brothers Ricky and Darin (nicknamed Doughboy — the moniker that stays as he enters the world of crime) from across the street and a mousey boy named Chris. Doughboy and Ricky are half brothers from two different fathers; they live with their unmarried mother in a small house. Ricky is naïve and trusting, Doughboy aggressive and street smart. The boys walk along train tracks to the site of a dead body, they are then harassed by a gang of teenagers who steal Ricky’s football. Doughboy picks a fight with an older, stronger boy; he ends up getting kicked in the stomach. The ball is returned to Ricky through the philanthropic actions of another older boy, a rare act of kindness between strangers in the movie.

 

Furious, who appears to be the only father present in the neighborhood, takes Tre on a fishing trip, where he warns him about unprotected sex and instructs him to use condoms. The pair then returns to Crenshaw, where a handcuffed Doughboy and Chris are being led by police officers into a squad car -- they’ve been caught stealing and are ostensibly headed to juvenile hall.

 

The story jumps ahead seven years. A party is in full swing at the Baker home, Doughboy (now played by Ice Cube) has just been released from prison/juvenile hall, he sits at a table playing dominos with his friends, Chris, Dookie, and Monster. Ricky (Morris Chestnut) mans the grill and holds his newborn baby son - Ricky’s girlfriend and son live at home with him and his mother Brenda (Tyra Ferrell). Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) arrives at the party and is greeted by Brenda, who asks him to try to pass some of his responsible behavior to Doughboy. We learn that Tre holds a steady job and has stayed away from pushing drugs. Tre tries to talk to his girlfriend Brandi (Nia Long) but he becomes nervous and she leaves in a huff.

 

Furious and Tre then have another conversation about sex; this time Tre boasts he had unprotected sex with a girl while her mother was at church. The story is pure fantasy, Tre is still a virgin, but Furious does not know this; far from being impressed he berates his son for not using protection. A montage of scenes follows where we learn more about each of the main characters. Ricky is a star running back for Crenshaw High and hopes to earn a full ride to college; Doughboy, a highschool dropout, spends most of his time hanging around the neighborhood drinking and dealing drugs; Trey hopes to attend college on academics as does Brandi, whose sexual abstinence is part of her Catholic faith.

 

A college recruiter from USC visits Ricky one night for an interview; Brenda kicks Doughboy and his friends out onto the porch where they discuss first college, then girls. Meanwhile, the recruiter promises Ricky a berth at USC if he earns a minimum SAT score of 700.

 

Ricky struggles during the test, looking often at Tre for help, and seems unsure of passing. Later that day, Furious tells the boys that the English section of the test is culturally biased and only the math is fair (later on in the movie we see Ricky’s test results -- he scores 110 points higher on the math to highlight this point.) Furious drives the boys to Compton and lectures them and a group of Compton citizens on gentrification, explaining how violence and drug use divide the black community by decreasing property values, allowing real estate companies to buy the land cheaply from black residents and sell it at a profit to developers. The influx of white investment money raises property values and taxes, pushing out the remaining old residents in the process. Furious tells the crowd that the rest of the nation will not help the urban poor because they are not personally affected by the violence -- the blacks must themselves end the cycle of murder and violence plaguing the neighborhoods.

 

That night when Ricky is provoked by Ferris, a local gang leader, Doughboy pulls out his pistol to defend his brother and the scene degenerates into gunfire, though nobody is hurt. While speeding away from the scene, Tre and Ricky are pulled over by the LAPD. One officer is the same officer who responded to Furious’s 911 burglary call. He is a self-hating African-American cop who, fully enjoying the power his badge allows him, shoves a gun in Tre’s face and asks him what he will do about it. On the verge of tears Tre arrives late to Brandi’s house; later that night they have sex for the first time.

 

The next day, Ricky, annoyed when his girlfriend tells him to go get a box of cornmeal, provokes a fight with Doughboy. Brenda rushes to Ricky’s aid while neglecting Doughboy, even slapping him, further amplifying that she values Ricky and his impending scholarship more than Doughboy. Most viewers see Doughboy more sympathetically by this point in the movie; he seems well read from his stay in prison (although he voices his ideas using curse words and street tongue) and only acts the way he does both because he has been neglected and to stand up for his brother and himself against the harsh realities of urban life. Ricky and Tre head to the grocery store, but on the way back are attacked by Ferris and his gang — a man rolls down the window and shoots at them both, this time Ricky is killed, shot in the leg and abdomen. He dies in Tre's arms and his body is taken home by Doughboy. Brenda immediately blames Doughboy, who tries to comfort her but is rebuffed (he also tries to remove Ricky’s son from the room where his father lies dead). Later on that night Brenda sobs over Ricky’s test results, he earned a 710, just enough to qualify for the scholarship.

 

Doughboy, Dooky, Monster, and Tre vow revenge on the enemy gang; Furious finds Tre holding his .357 Magnum pistol, seemingly ready to go shoot someone. He convinces Tre to put the weapon down but Tre escapes out his bedroom window to join Doughboy and the gang as they search for the killers in Doughboy's low-rider. That night Tre decides to part ways with the gang, he gets out of the car. Doughboy accepts Tre’s decision quietly, as if he expects it. Later that night the gang finds Ricky’s murderers and guns them down drive-by style with an AK-47 in an empty parking lot. Doughboy shoots one of the injured gang members in the back, killing him. As wounded Ferris begs for his life and screams that he wasn’t personally responsible for Ricky’s murder, Doughboy pauses for a moment before shooting his adversary in the head.

 

The next day Doughboy explains to Tre that he has no hard feelings about Tre’s decision to leave the car before the shooting; and that he knows he might be killed soon. Doughboy seems to have changed, realizing that his drug dealing and crime played a part in the ongoing violence in the ghetto, but he also seems resigned to his fate and despondent about the overall situation in the neighborhood. Before the credits roll it is mentioned that Doughboy is murdered two weeks after Ricky’s funeral, but that both Tre and Brandi go on to college."

 

Teaching Activities:

I think Boyz N The Hood would be an excellent film to teach, using two different theories related to teaching literature in the high school classroom; namely, reader-response theory, and critical literary theory.

 

1. First articulated by Louise Rosenblatt, though summarized here by Deborah Appleman in her book, Critical Encounters in High School English, "a reader-response approach to the teaching of literature allows students to employ a variety of interpretive strategies and encourages students to bring their personal experience to the text" (4). Using this film as a text, we will use reader-response to provide students with a way to engage personally with the text in order for them to make meaning out of it. Depending on the cultural make-up of your classroom, and whether you're teaching in an urban or suburban school, your students will likely respond to this film with distinct reactions and will therefore construct a wide range of interpretations. Therefore, by introducing the reader-response diagram (which graphically illustrates the principles of Rosenblatt's transactional theory of reader response) students are first asked to "consider what personal characteristics, qualities, or elements of their personal histories might be relevant to their reading of a particular text. We stress that the relevant personal qualities or attributes they choose are dependent on the particular text" (Appleman, 35). For example, it would be obviously relevant to my students that they are black males when considering their response to Boyz N The Hood. However, the fact that they are black is irrelevant when considering their responses to Finding Nemo. "On the right side of the diagram, students are asked to consider the textual properties that might affect their response and to list those properties. They might, for example, list the presence of vernacular or other aspects of vocabular, the length of sentences, or the narrative structure. I point out to the students that all of these factors do contribute to a reader's response to a particular piece, but they are characteristics of the literary work, not of the individual reader. In addition to considering both textual and personal characteristics, students are also asked to consider what contextual features may have influenced their reading" (Appleman, 35). For example, if you show this movie in class, students would notice different contextual elements than if they had previously viewed this film, or if you asked them to watch it on their own, outside the classroom, in the comfort of their own home. Appleman notes that other factors that may contribute to the reading context are the amount of homework related to the reading (viewing) and what else may be occuring at school or at home as they are experiencing the text. Finally, "after we desceibe the mechanics of the transaction or dialectic between reader and text, we further discuss how that dialectic created individual responses for the readers that enabled them to construct their own personal meaning for the text" (Appleman, 36).

 

2. Using critical literary theory is a second option for teaching this text. When you decide to move on from reader response theory, it is not, as Bruce Pirie, in Reshaping High School English, points out, "that we shouldn't care about individual students and texts. We should, and I do. We also recognize, however, that students and texts are embedded in huge, living, sometimes contradictory networks, and if we want students to understand the workings of textuality, then we have to think about those larger systems." Using this justification, then, as a framework for incorporating critical literary theory into a high school classroom, I would suggest using the Marxist lens with Boyz N The Hood, because it is "political, it interrogates textual features with considerations of power and oppression, and it invites us to consider the kinds of prevailing ideologies that help construct the social realities in which we participate (or sometimes become unwitting participants)" (Appleman, 58). Using such a critical theory to question the cultural norms of society, even as portrayed in film, is especially important due to the increasing diversity of our students. High school students in particular are at an age where they "need to be able to place their own particular situations and the texts they read into a larger system or set of beliefs" (Appleman, 60). The Marxist lens helps students do such a thing.

 

In order to teach the Marxist lens, I would start by engaging students in important ideas and social issues that shaped the making of Boyz N the Hood. The political context of the 1992 LA riots is a subject ripe for dissecting with the Marxist lens, as is the setting of the movie and the archetypes the black males in the film represent. "Students can consider the issues presented in the text through the lens of the prevailing ideologies of the author's political and historical context" (Appleman, 61). For example, in viewing Boyz N the Hood, students might consider the plight of young black males living in South Central Los Angeles, and the myriad of violent experiences they endure, much like African-American film director, writer, and producer, John Daniel Singleton intended to portray through his film. The Marxist lens may make possible such readings as “the eventual escape from the Hood that Tre manages mirrors Singleton’s success at the University of Southern California where his campus involvement included pledging and being initiated into the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity” (wiki author example). Appleman reminds us that “in addition to examining the political content of the texts, Marxist literary theory also encourages students to consider the ways in which literary texts and the reading audiences for those texts – including themselves, their classmates, and their teachers – are socially constructed. As McCormick (1995) argues, ‘using culturally situated theories such as Marxism is important so students can see that they, as readers, are socially constructed subjects, that texts are also constructed in particular social contexts – which may be quite different from their own and which they may need to study – and that different ways of telling stories have consequences’ (p. 307)” (61).

 

One of my favorite ways Appleman suggests using the Marxist lens is through the social ladder exercise. First of all, give your students a brief overview of the key ideas of Marx, through a combination of handouts, class discussion, and readings. Explain that Marx believed that history moved in stages from feudalism to capitalism, socialism, and ultimately communism, and provide additional materials to explain each of the stages. Then, ask your students to discuss some examples of ideologies they have come across in their experiences thus far. Have them consider the prevailing ideology represented in Boyz N the Hood, and ask them if there are differing views of the Hood world that fight with one another within the text. For example, the ideology of helplessness/pointlessness that drug-selling/using world of Doughboy and his friends represent versus the ideology of social climb and achievement that Tre and his girlfriend strive for. Next, because “Marxist criticism pays a lot of attention to the social structures that allocate power to different groups in society” (Appleman, 164), have your students list some of the social groups that are represented in Boyz N the Hood. Give them a diagram of a “social ladder” and have them try plotting some of the characters on the social ladder graph. Another way to look at this is to have them name some of the primary power struggles that Boyz N the Hood portrays, like between Tre and Furious, Furious and Reva, Furious and the gentrification of society, Tre and Brandi, etc. Who has the power and who doesn’t? Taking it one step further, you can have your students identify which power struggles could also be considered class conflicts. As a reflective activity, have your students depict their own social ladder and power struggles to reflect where they exist, relative to where power and money are located.

 

As issues about class conflict, ideologies or beliefs and struggle emerge from these class activities, give your students a chance to respond to some of these big political questions that surround their concerns through an essay or class presentation.

 

 

 

 

Movie #4:

 

A Time to Kill

 

 

Historical Background:

Since January 1995, more than 100 churches have been burned. The burnings were predominately in black congregations. The Civil Rights commission started to hold community forums in six southern states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Civil Rights Commission was looking at if the church burnings were racially motivated or if it was prejudice against a particular religion. “the church burnings were symptomatic of the larger racial problem in America” (Retrieved December 13, 2006, Http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/race_realations/ ).

Race relations are prevalent in 1996, and the film portrays the injustices that are happening in the community of Alabama. In fact, in Green County Alabama there is a still a racially segregated high school. It seems that Green County still believes in the Jim Crow laws and separate and unequal. The rural areas seem to hold the most extreme amount of racial tension. Rural areas contain a great deal of joblessness and lack of economic opportunity. It seems that economic hardship exacerbates racial tensions in many areas.

 

There are also studies going on about how the judicial system is controlled by affluent white people who are not willing to treat African American people fairly. The judicial system is being called “the new enslavement of colored people.” It is starting to be exposed that many people are not being treated fairly in the courts of law. Television shows such as LAPD, COPS, and local news reinforce the idea that the African American is a criminal and that the justice system seems to serve and protect only white America.

 

 

Brief Synopsis and How Race is Expressed:

According to Wikipedia: "The story revolves around a small southern Mississippi town where a young black girl is raped and beaten by two white men. The father, Carl Lee Hailey, distraught and seeking vengeance, guns down the two men involved in the courthouse when it seem they are going to get off on a lesser charge. Local lawyer Jake Brigance works to defend Hailey in the midst of growing racial tensions that threaten to break out into a full-fledged race riot, with the Ku Klux Klan, National Guard and local citizens locked in a bloody battle on the streets of Canton. Jake Brigance receive help from his old lawyer friend, Lucien Wilbanks, a hard-hitting divorce lawyer Harry Rex Vonner and his new freeworking secretary Ellen Roark. The story ends with the jury unanimously deciding on a 'not guilty' verdict."

 

In A Time to Kill we are shown a somewhat rural area of Canton, Alabama. The first couple of images show us a ten-year-old girl named Tonya and a yellow pickup truck with a couple of mullet wearing rednecks. The girl is peacefully walking down a dirt road in Alabama in order to get groceries for her family. It is obvious that the community is segregated by race. The grocery store seems to be for “blacks only.” That is why when the redneck men enter they insist on dominating the store with their attitude of “I can go anywhere I want.” Of course the rednecks are at the store to buy beer, and continue down the same dirt road that Tonya is walking throwing beer cans out the window as they drive. In their intoxicated state, one of the men notices the girl. He says “How old do you think she is?” The other replies “she looks kind of young.” The third man replies, “if they are old enough to walk…” all of a sudden a beer can is thrown out the window hitting the girl in the head and knocking her down. The men take turns gang raping her, hang her from a tree, and throw her into a creek bed. The camera movements during the brutal rape show the perspective of Tonya using a spinning motion to show that she is no longer conscience.

 

In the next scene we find some local African American teenage boys running toward Tonya’s house. They had found Tonya battered and almost dead, and her mother was devastated. Tonya’s father is called at work, and comes home to find his daughter nearly dead. There is no sign of an ambulance, and her father Carl Lee Haley (Samuel L. Jackson) carries his daughter outside where the whole black community seems to be waiting.

Meanwhile, Jake Brigance is in a local area coffee shop and finds out about Tonya’s rape and attempted murder. They begin to talk about other cases in the area where men were let free after raping and murdering black victims. After talking with Jake in a late night meeting Carl Lee Hailey decides to avenge his daughter by killing the perpetrators of this crime. Carl Lee storms into the courthouse and kills all of the men and injuries a cop.

When Jake visits him in jail Hailey says, “I just figured a lot people are tired of all the rapin’ and killin’.” Jake begins to think more about what he would have done if someone would have done this act to his daughter. At the same time, he is on a mission to prove that a black man can receive a fair trial in the south. He proves this point in his line “some folks say that a black man can’t receive a fair trial in the south…justice will be color blind.” However, at the same time it seems to be very important that he get a change of venue for Carl Lee Hailey.

The change venue is important so that the whole jury is not white. If it were switched to another area the ratio of blacks is higher and it would be possible to have a jury that is not all white. They want to switch the location to another area where the ratio of blacks is higher than whites. Buckley anticipates this, and goes into cahoots with Judge Noose for personal gain. Buckley wants to be governor of Alabama, and Judge Noose wants a higher position in the courts. Not only is the change of venue denied, but Noose also gives Buckley the confidential envelope, which lists the potential jurors for this case. It becomes very obvious that a black man cannot receive a fair trial in Canton or in Noose’s opinion “anywhere”. This decision makes Jake visit Noose at his home. Noose says “Jake, you are a good lawyer. Do you really want to be known as the man who defended that murderer?” It is obvious that more is a stake for Jake than just the court decision of Carl Lee Hailey.

During all of this the town becomes heavily involved and becomes segregated on the issue of Carl Lee Hailey. It is the African Americans for the freedom of Carl Lee Haily and the KKK against the freedom of Carl Lee Hailey. Personally, I wonder what is going on with the rest of the town because not all white people are in the KKK. I think that this is a little biased in the film, but for Hollywood’s sake it works because we get the reality of modern day racism on the all white jury. When talking at the restaurant all but a couple of people are ready to convict Carl Lee Hailey.

This film gives an excellent depiction of the reality of racism in the judicial system. The film brings to light many issues on how the courts treat people who are not white. This topic is still important today because oftentimes-black people are portrayed as criminals on many local shows. There is so much bias involved in shows like LAPD, COPS and the local news. I think that it is important that students learn about how the issue of race is treated by the judicial system, TV, and film. It is important that students recognize how the media influences our social norms and values. It is also important that students become aware about multiculturalism and the law. My hope is that students will gain a better understanding of modern day racism and injustices that are prevalent in our society today.

 

 

 

Teaching Activities:

In order to raise students’ awareness of multicultural and the law I have designed the following activities. I also want students to understand how the media influences our social norms and values.

 

1. After students watch A Time to Kill, I would have them be movie critics and write a review of the film. In this review students will focus on the justice/injustice of the criminal justice system. Students will be asked to write down any issues that deal with the violation of human rights. Students will ponder if they are satisfied with the ways that the film handled the issue of racism. Students must use specific lines of the film that illustrate their perspective.

 

2. After having written a review for A Time to Kill, students will be asked to go home and view an episode of LAPD Blue or COPS. Students will write down the names of the producer, actor/actresses, camera operator, sound/audio person, and make-up artist. Students will write a review of the episode, telling of the justice/injustice of the criminal justice system. Students will be told to change the ending of the episode they watched. Students will also be allowed to change the episode using an ethnic group that is different from their own. Students will address issues that violate human rights, and become exposed to the issues of injustice in the criminal justice system.

 

 

 

Movie #5:

 

Remember the Titans

 

 

Historical Background:

In 1971 America, this country was still very much divided by racial tensions and residual effects of the Civil Rights movement that swept America in the 1960s. According to an online encyclopedia, "The early 1970s were characterized by the controversial issue of busing as a tool to promote integration. The Supreme Court continued, in the early 1970s, to back busing plans. By 1974, however, a more conservative court had moderated its position, allowing in Miliken v. Bradley (1974) the predominantly white Detroit suburbs to be excluded from a desegregation plan. By the mid-1970s, however, only about 12% of black students in the United States remained in completely segregated schools; the number of students still in such schools remains very low. Nonetheless, in the late 1990s about one third of all black students were in schools that were 90% nonwhite. Moreover, studies showed that from the mid-1980s through the 1990s American classrooms in grades K to 12 had become increasingly segregated, a trend linked to court decisions limiting and reversing desegregation as well as to a decline in federal support for desegregation and to enduring de facto segregation in housing." Learn more here.

 

 

Brief Synopsis and How Race is Expressed:

According to Wikipedia, "The film takes place in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971, at recently desegregated T.C. Williams High School. Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired as head coach for the school's football team, working under head coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton). The School Board then names Boone head coach. Yoast at first refuses Boone's offer of a position as assistant head coach, but then changes his mind. The black and white members of the football team clash in racially-motivated conflicts on a few occasions throughout their time at football camp. But after forceful coaxing and team building efforts by Coach Boone, eventually the team manages to achieve some form of unity, as well as success. The main conflict is taken to a personal level by the portrayal of the conflict between Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) and Julius Campbell (Wood Harris), two players of equally outstanding athletic ability who at first can't stand one another but eventually become sworn brothers (the turning point of their relationship becomes a focal point for the team in its racially divided ways giving way to true unity). Upon return to school, the team runs through its regular season competition undefeated while battling the prejudicial influence of the rest of 1970's Virginia. Eventually, Bertier is involved in an automobile accident while celebrating one of the team's victories. While Bertier is unable to play in the final game due to his injuries (including paralysis), the team goes on to win the championship, and sets an example for the town. The team's excellence in its unity despite racial differences ultimately unites the city of Alexandria to find common ground with one another."

 

 

Teaching Activities:

Remember the Titans would be an excellent film to have your student study as a genre film. As suggested in Teaching Literature to Adolescents (Appleman, Beach, et. al, 2006) students could analyze "prototypical roles of hero, heroine, sidekick, criminal, mentor, villain, and so forth; settings, imagery, plot and story lines having to do with the nature of the problem, who solves the problem, and how they solve the problem; and the themes and value assumptions reflected in the text (Appleman, 209). Because Remember the Titans is such a prototypical sports hero drama, with strong themes of race relations pulsing throughout, students could study the portrayal of the "good" heroes (The united and biracial Titan team) versus the "evil" forces (racism, the segregated city at large, the opposing white teams, etc.) that test their moral fiber when encouraged to turn on each other and fight as black vs. white. Films with this theme show the heroes enduring many trials (the many football games in the season) with some major setbacks (Bertier's injury) before eventually triumphing over their opponent (winning the State title). Underneath the surface storyline, however, the movie aims to represent racism as the ultimate evil that must be overcome through trials and teamwork, such as what the Titans endured. Students could study how representations of masculinity differs across cultures and how the film toys with both race and gender by representing Yoast's white daughter as the ultimate tomboy while Boone's black daughter is a stereotypical prissy girl who plays with dolls and hair.

 

Movie #6:

 

Crash

 

 

 

Historical Background:

This film contains a multitude of different kinds of racism that happen in our country.

According to wikipedia;

Institutional Racism: is the theory that aspects of the structure, pervasive attitudes, and established institutions of society disadvantage racial minorities, although not by an overtly discriminatory mechanism. There are several factors that play into institutional racism,, including but not limited to: accumulated wealth/benefits from racial groups that have benefited from past discrimination, educational and occupational disadvantages faced by non-native English speakers in the United States, ingrained stereotypical images that still remain in the society (e.g. Black men are likely to be criminals).

The established institutions of society are taking some steps to combat the various claimed structural disadvantages in modern American society, particularly in the case of non-native English speakers or those raised in homes that spoke broken or pidgin English. Several states are attempting to reduce these educational disadvantages by developing a more culturally aware curriculum. For example, the 2005 Californian 6th grade statewide examination contained the question Patio comes from the Spanish word meaning what? Including questions such as these provide opportunities for non-native speakers of English to have greater educational access.

All major racial groups have also been the subject of racism in the mass media through advertising campaigns utilizing references to stereotypes such as "White Men Can't Jump", and the Taco Bell chihuahua.

 

Latin Americans

Americans of Latin American ancestry (often categorized as "Hispanic”) come from a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds; however, Latin Americans have often been viewed as a monolithic group by other Americans. Latinos are often portrayed as passionate, sex symbols or violent in literature, films, television, and music. Furthermore, recent increases in illegal Hispanic immigration have spurred anti-Latino sentiment, particularly in highly educated areas of the United States that have traditionally had historical conflicts with Mexico. Due to the diversity of backgrounds encountered in the Hispanic population of the United States, racist policies have varied widely. The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo granted Mexicans in the territories acquired after the Mexican-American War access to United States citizenship and legal status. Miscegenation laws were rarely applied to Mexican Americans, and intermarriage between Anglos and Latin Americans has been fairly commonplace in the United States Southwest for decades. Most Mexican-Americans were of mestizo ancestry, and in much of the United States, illegal Hispanics have generally been socially excluded from "old white immigrants " of Northern European descent. However, there are exceptions; in southern Louisiana for instance, Latin Americans are regarded as part of the "old white immigrant population." For example, Leander Perez’s ancestors were compiled mainly of Isleno’s people who immigrated to the New Orleans area in the late 1700's, yet Leander had the appearance of and was considered by just about everyone to be a white man. Many Cuban Americans, particularly those from the exile generation that arrived immediately after the Communist takeover of the island, are also largely integrated into American society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racism against Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Americans

Racism against Arab Americans has risen proportionately with tensions between the American government and the Arab World. Edward Said recalls how an Ivy League graduating class in 1973 (just weeks after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War) wore Arab dress in racist mockery. Racism spiked during the 1979 Tehran embassy hostage crisis, the 1991 Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing (despite the lack of an Arab connection). Following the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States, discrimination and racialized violence has markedly increased against Arab-Americans and many other religious and cultural groups. Public opinion polls and think tank observers also note a "backlash" against Muslims and Arabs since 2001, with 34% of Americans reporting recently hearing prejudiced remarks about Islam and 25% assessing themselves as prejudiced towards Arabs.↑ In 2001, an Indian-American Sikh businessman, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot to death in Mesa, Arizona in a racially-motivated incident, as the victim's turban and beard - required symbols of Sikhism - may have invoked a perceived connection to Osama bin Laden.2

In Houston, Texas, political involvement of the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian American community have resulted in the election of a Pakistani American, Masur Javed (M.J.) Khan, to a district seat on the Houston City Council. It seemed that the political climate for Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Americans was impossible; however Khan, a realtor, was commended by former mayor Lee P. Brown for his activism in the Pakistani and Muslim-American community regarding hate crimes against South Asian Americans. Although Khan is currently an incumbent in a city council district (representing 1/9th of the City of Houston since there are nine geographical districts and five at-large council-members), the 2005 election to fill outgoing at-large council-member Gordon Quan led to a Desi candidate, Jay Kumar Aiyer (a Houston Community College trustee of Asian Indian descent), to campaign for Quan's vacated council seat. During the 2005 runoff election with Democratic National Committee delegate Sue Lovell, alleged race-baiting occurred where a Lovell supporter was accused of making anti-Asian Indian remarks, which was denied by the individual in question. Aiyer lost to Lovell by 600 votes in the December 10, 2005 runoff election; because of the Lovell campaign increasing their grassroots base, there are a few in the grassroots community who suggest that Aiyer's endorsement from prominent Houston-area Democrats (including former mayor Lee P. Brown) was no match for grassroots politics in the City of Houston. Although Aiyer lost the runoff election, he was appointed as the current board president of the Houston Community College System in January 2006.

Critics such as Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky have suggested that racism has played a significant role in US foreign policy in the Middle East and it's treatment of the Arabs.Various critics have suggested that racism along with strategic and financial interests motivated the Bush Administration to attack Iraq eventhough the Bathist regime of Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction nor had any ties to Al Quaida or other terrorist organizations.

 

 

Brief Synopsis and How Race is Expressed:

According to Wikipedia, "The film depicts several characters living in Los Angeles, California during a 36 hour period and brings them together through car accidents, shootings, and carjackings. Most of the characters depicted in the film are racially prejudiced in some way and become involved in conflicts which force them to examine their own prejudices. Through these characters' interactions, the film attempts to depict and examine racial tension in the United States."

In this film we are given a variety of characters who are experiencing a variety of injustices in their ehnic group. It could be the Middle-Eastern man who is called a terrorist,Latino man who is called a gang-banger or the white Asian Americans who are consistantly being trod upon in the film. Matt Dillon's role as the police officer and protective son grows in his hatred of African Americans until the end of the film. Part of his hatred comes from his father who lost much of his bussiness because of Affirmative Action. Matthew Dillon also uses his police officer position to treat African Americans as second-class citizen's. The Latin American character who fixes locks is accused of being racist because the Middle Eastern man believes that he is in cahoots with a man who fixes doors. The Middle Eastern man feels that he is being ripped off by him, and eventually blames him for his store getting robbed. The Middle Eastern man takes the law into his own hands and goes to the locksmiths house. He shoots the gun and it would have killed the daughter of the locksmith, but the Middle Eastern man's daughter had bought a gun that was loaded with blanks. The Chinese woman who gets into a crash at the beginning of the film is made fun of because of her broken English. She is also made fun of because of her small size "maybe if you could see above the steering wheel, you would have seen my blink light".

This film does an exellent job of portraying how all races are being trod upon in our country. It represents people from a multitude of ethnic groups, and what their experience is in America. I think that this film would be great to incorporate in the English classroom.

 

Teaching Activities:

1. Have students choose a charachter to follow through the film. Students will not he justices and injustices that each characer goes through on a daily basis. Students must use lines from the film to illustrate the justics and injustices. Each scene that their character is in the student is to note what is happening and how they are being treated. At the end the students will present their chosen character to the class and state how well the movie represented their chosen person. Students will address th issue of modern day racism. Does this film represent an accurate depiction of our society today?

 

Other Resources and Links pertaining to Ethnic Notions in film & the historical portrayal of African Americans in media

 

 

National Institute on Media and the Family

Children NOW

A medialiteracy.com guide to representation in media.

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