5 Movies that Damaged Black Imagery

I found an article today from Feburary 25, 2012 (My Birthday) that discusses the top 15 movies that have hurt the Black image in America. These movies were stereotypical, goofy, explicit, coonish or any combination of the such. I was shocked at some of the choices (like Madea’s Family Reunion) and surprised that some movies were not included (for example I was sure How High would be on the list and it was not).

Out of the fifteen, I though 5 in particular stood out to me. Please note this is OPINION also included.

1. Soul Plane 2004

This movie was painfully not funny. It depicts a man who wins a case against an airlines. He spends all his money on opening his own airline with one, over gaudy plane. It plays on almost every modern sterotype of African American: unprofessionalism, the drug use, idea of being felons, the women being sexualized and the white innocents being “turned out” by Blacks.

2. Birth of A Nation 1915

This movie has been credited with recruiting many KKK members and providing a hateful image of Blacks in American. Birth of a Nation was set during the civil war times through the eyes and experiences of Southern whites who opposed the any progress made by the newly freed slaves after the Civil War..  Historian Thomas Cripps has characterized The Birth of a Nation as “at once a major stride for cinema and a sacrifice of black humanity to the cause of racism.”

This is a good article on The Birth of a Nation and the Black Image.

3. Bebe’s Kids 1992

There is a line in Bebe’s Kids that many like to quote: ” She’s so fine, she’ll make you go out and get a job with benefits”… Haha, okay are we done laughing? While the movie was admittingly funny, think about the core point… A  impoverished single mother with 3 unruly and untidy kids… This screams Welfare Queen and plays on that stereotype. According to Franklin Gilliam, the author of a Public Perception Experiment on Welfare: “While poor women of all races get blamed for their impoverished condition, African-American women are seen to commit the most egregious violations of American values. This story line taps into stereotypes about both women (uncontrolled sexuality) and African-Americans (laziness).”

4. Mandingo  1975

This film is based on the novel Mandingo by Kyle Onstottand  and also the play  by Jack Kirkland. in 1975 Roger Ebert said “‘Mandingo‘ is racist trash, obscene in its manipulation of human beings and feelings, and excruciating to sit through” and gave the film 0 stars.

There’s a scene at the end of the film that is horriflying. The master’s wife gives birth to a black baby, after poisoning his wife, the master intends to boil the father of the baby (his slave Mede) alive. Mede builds the fire but demurs at the invitation to jump into the pot. The master shoots him, and knocking him into the pot. He screams and struggles to escape but, the master pushes him under with a pitchfork. Enough said?

The name itself plays into the stereotype of the “Mandingo Negro” that was invented by white slave owners who promoted the idea that male African slaves were animalistic and bestial. And that “Negroes all the passions, emotions, and ambitions, are almost wholly subservient to the sexual instinct.”

5. Song of the South 1947

This movie has never been released on home video. Disney is sure to keep this one in the vault. Song of the South is targeted at children… starting the brainwashing young… It is credited with catch songs lyrics such as “Zip a dee doo dah” The story idea itself is not so bad: “The kindhearted storyteller Uncle Remus tells a young boy stories about trickster Br’er Rabbit, who outwits Br’er Fox and slow-witted Br’er Bear.” (imbd.com) But I’m sure the name Uncle Remus strikes a bell with many… Uncle Remus is character of post-reconstruction literature who perpetuates the idea of blacks as docile and content to serve their white masters.

These movies are even more damaging when you remember that there are some places where people have never had contact with a black person. Movies likes these are their only knowledge of African Americans. And from this perception… how would you feel if these movies were your only insight Black America?

The Grio has all 15 films that hurt black America.


2 thoughts on “5 Movies that Damaged Black Imagery

    • Wasn’t pleased at all with the movie. I’ve heard discussion on both supporting it and against it but my main points against it was how Django showed, once again, how African Americans needed a white savior to do anything. Also how he didn’t help anyone but himself in the situation it didn’t shine a good light on black and their lack of community. He could have helped to start revolts on the plantations he visited but he didn’t. Also the lack of historical accuracy was irritating. If the movie wasn’t going to be historical what was the point of using “nigger” so much and why further degrade two prominent black actors by showing their complete bodies. Okay that was the short version of how I feel about Django.

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