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January 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 20 Jan 1994 09:10:01 CST
Message of Wed, 19 Jan 1994 20:54:17 -0500 from <DBOUSE@ALBION>
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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On Wed, 19 Jan 1994 20:54:17 -0500 <DBOUSE@ALBION> said:
>Henry Jenkins raises some good points about stereotypes of the South --
>whether in films, TV, or the culture at large.
>And as for Southern racism, I have heard it said lately that Alabama
>has become a good place to live for blacks today, precisely because
>the legacy of racism has been directly confronted, challenged,
>opposed, and defeated.
I 'spose it's inevitable that I pipe up here, since I've lived in Alabama
for the past 13 years--after growing up in Arizona.
The racial discourse--on television and in the general culture--in the
South is quite perplexing to me.  When George Wallace ran for governor
in the *1980s* he did so with a media campaign targeting working class
voters of all races and succeeded in winning a substantial amount of
black support.  And this is the same man who promised "segregation
forever" a mere 20 years before.
And the respresentation of racial conflict has gotten more and more
conflicted and ambiguous as blacks have risen to positions of political
power.  Sure, there are still pretty clear-cut issues such as the
drive to remove the Confederate flag from atop the capital building in
Montgomery, but how, for instance, is one to interpret the racial
dynamics and discourse surrounding the following event that occurred
last week?
On my TV screen were images of black protestors being beaten with
nightsticks by Birmingham police officers.  One's initial, intertextual
reference is black-and-white footage from the '50s/60s.  But the
racial discourse, the racial power structure has changed since then.
The protestors are part of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a faction
within the black community whose principles the media reports gloss over,
but which has obvious associations with previous black activism.
Unlike days past, however, these black protestors were not opposed by
segregation-preaching racists.  Instead, their antagonists, the police,
were a mixture of black and white officers.   And, more significantly,
the Birmingham mayor and police chief are black.
I've been very curious to see how TV will represent this conflict, since
it doesn't fit into the tidy racial narratives that the medium has come
to rely upon.  Instead, it appears to me to be more an issue of class
and social power--two subjects unpopular with the U.S. media.
I would also be curious to know if national media have picked up this
story.  Usually the smallest racial conflict in Alabama is instantly
reported across the U.S.  Has that happened with this story, which doesn't
conveniently reinforce the discourse about the South?
P.S.  SCREEN-L is hosted by the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa).
          When from a long distant past nothing subsists, after the
          things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile,
          but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent,
          more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a
          long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping
          for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear
          unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their
          essence, the vast structure of recollection.
                                       --Marcel Proust, "Swann's Way"
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| Telecommunication & Film Dept * The University of Alabama * Tuscaloosa |