The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators

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This has to be, by far, the best reading.  I was really intrigued by what Hooks had to say about black female spectatorship.  The way in which she began her article just drew me in.  It felt personal.  I am not black, but I can empathize with the way she was scolded as a child for seeming/being “confrontational” with my gaze when it came to looking at my mother.  I also empathized with the confusion as I was supposed to look my mom in the face when she was scolding me, however, I was too fearful to look yet I wanted to.

Hooks takes her article beyond the parental/child relationship and takes the gaze to a colonial discussion.  As I was reading, I came to comprehend that there was a fear in blacks to look.  This is due to the fact, that being slaves in our American history, punishment was administered to those black men who “dared” to look at the white woman.

This notion of white men taking control and preventing the black man from his white woman can be seen in many earlier films.  D.W. Griffith is a well known filmmaker who directed Birth of a Nation.  The whole premise behind this film was purely racist and showed no tolerance towards the black man.  The black men were present to “rape” white women.  It is quite pathetic to think that this was the mindset at the time and I’m sure there are many people who presently feel the same way.  This is the sad truth about people.

Aside from the colonial portion of her paper, she then discusses how early cinema had perceived blacks in general.  With shows like Amos ‘n Andy the portrayal of black women was offensive yet alluring.  Black women didn’t like what they saw because they couldn’t identify with the character because the black female wasn’t a true depiction – not a cinema verite.

I am no scholar but this is the first film theory article that I have read that addresses the black female audience.  Hooks attacks this idea by quoting another film theorist who talks about women and the apparatus.  Hooks quotes Mary Ann Doane in her essay “Remembering Women: Psychical and Historical Constructions in Film Theory”.

Hooks questions whether the “concept” of the word WOMAN means to define only white women.  It is a psychoanalysis of the concept behind the word and the semiotics behind the word that needs to be investigated further.

Reading further in her article, she speaks about the way women are portrayed before and how now it has changed.  Black women are no longer under the constraints of colonialism as that time has already passed.

There is a black audience  – black spectators both male and female.  I would really like to hear what she has to say now especially with Tyler Perry films making box office hits.  What would she say about the portrayal of black women or what would black female spectators say about watching films?  Would they have their guard up?  Would they embrace the cinema or be fearful that they might be misrepresented?

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Posted by christina421   @   17 April 2010

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May 12, 2010
9:46 am

I dont think Tyler Perry is a good example. I feel that he simply capitalizes off a pre-existing steriotype, successfully mind you, but at the same time if a white filmmaker made the same film he would be chastized as a rascist. I agree that there is a way in which certain viewers are disconnected from a film because they cannot connect with innacurate dipictions of their gender, race, or social class. Films depicting African Americans will always be criticized though eventhough the film is made by a black man. Racism has become part of the fabric of our country so much so that it’s become acceptable and even considered cool to greet your fellow black man with “wassup my nigga”, that is assuming you’re black. So with all this criticism about such a lack of blackness in films, I would like to know exactly what the definition of Blackness is?

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