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Movie Ethnic Notions

Essay by   •  October 31, 2010  •  Book/Movie Report  •  606 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,328 Views

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Movi "Ethnic Notions"

The movie "Ethnic Notions" describes different ways in which African-Americans were presented during the 19th and 20th centuries. It traces and presents the evolution of the rooted stereotypes which have created prejudice towards African-Americans. This documentary movie is narrated to take the spectator back to the antebellum roots of African-American stereotypical names such as boy, girl, auntie, uncle, Sprinkling Sambo, Mammy Yams, the Salt and Pepper Shakers, etc. It does so by presenting us with multiple dehumanized characters and cartons portraying African-Americans as carefree Sambos, faithful Mammies, savage Brutes, and wide-eyed Pickaninnies. These representations of African-Americans roll across the screen in popular songs, children's rhymes, household artifacts and advertisements. These various ways to depict the African -American society through countless decades rooted stereotypes in the American society. I think that many of these still prevail in the contemporary society, decades after the civil rights movement occurred.

The film observes and analyzes the origins and consequences of more than one-hundred years of bigotry upon the ex-slaved society in the U.S. Even though so many years have passed since the end of slavery, emancipation, reconstruction and the civil rights movement, some of the choice terms prejudiced still engraved in the U.S society. When I see such images on the movie screen, it is still hard, even for me, to accept these vicious stereotypes.

Beginning at the early 19th century with the happy, dancing, toothless, drunken Negro with big, bold and white lips to the image of the mid 21st century African-American, the media has always used these images to convey inferiority. These images implied inherent traits in the black community. This whole community was represented in the new media as one who can not be collateralized and integrated in to society without being happily enslaved. Most of these images had great commercial values that made it all the more impossible for the rest of the nation not to embrace the African American stereotypes.

Commercialization justified and imposed negative usage of black images as an example of the entire black community. The tremendous commercial value it had is what enabled the marketing industry to give good reason for the use of the above mentioned negative images of blacks.

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