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October 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Marc Pitre <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 27 Oct 1994 10:01:32 -0700
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (129 lines)
I'm sorry if this is too long, but I felt a need to comment further on
this subject.
On Wed, 26 Oct 1994, J Roberson wrote:
> OK, but how similar ddo you have to get? To continue my previous example,
> an Australian aborigine is more biologically similar to a black American
> living in Nebraska, but their cultures are castly different (though not as
> different as a city boy ;) Their cultures are different, too. I would argue
> that anyone - regardless of race - who has not had their culture preserved
> through time has less connection to said culture than is often claimed -
> unless introduced to the culture of their long-gone ancestors, both a black
> child who claims the heritage of the Zulu nation and a white child who has
> Ukrainian ancestors are so far removed that it's almost irrelevant -
> especially if both gro up in the same suburban culture in modern America.
> Furthermore, race is not culture, nor is it defined by culture (except in
> America, where blacks *had* to group themselves by skin color since they
> were being repressed by it. Before and even during the European
> enslavement, black people were fighting and killing each other because they
> were in different tribes and cultures. Taken far enough, black children who
> claim an African heritage may discover that they should be killing each
> other because they are descended from opposing tribes. The same is true of
> white people - Germans and French animosity is humorous now but for a long
> time was quite serious. White people have no need to be one big group; why
> should blacks, or any other minority, except for the fact that they are
> oppressed as a group.
I'm pretty sure you know this, but culture is a *lot* more than
identifying who your enemies are.  As I stated before, common biology,
geography and culture all play a part in defining racial identity.  I
never said race=culture, nor did I, nor would I, say race is defined
exclusively by culture.  I was trying to state that race is a
murky concept which involves many factors, including biological traits.
I see no purpose to your Australian Aborigine/African American comparison.
Do you refuse to believe there is a distinct African American culture, or
that there truly are vestiges of African culture in African American
culture?  Next time ask somebody or do some research before you weigh in
so confidently about African American culture.
> It seems to me that one solution is to have minorities succeed as social
> constructs, rather than as based on race. Why be a black boxer? Be aboxer?
> Why be a good black lawyer? Be a lawyer. It's not a matter of ignoring your
> skin color - it's a matter of putting in in perspective and making it
> simply a part of you.
> By that token I think the character of Marcellus is "raceless". He was a
> gangster. He was also a black man - but that's a different hat.
You're kidding, right?  Being black is not a hat that I can choose to
wear.  There's nothing wrong with being black.  It's not the only aspect
of my being, and it is a permanent part of me, regardless of what
profession I pursue, regardless of what talents I have.  I am an
individual, yet I am part of a group.  You must have heard of yin and
> If I may digress into another example in a similar field. . .out of respect
> I will not name a name, but there is a female musician who was once male.
> Now, one would think that she would write songs about gender and sexuality,
> but she doesn't - her songs are pretty "normal". She is a transsexual, but
> she is also a muscian. And whle one may affect the other, they are two
> seperate identities. Likewise, Marcellus is both a black man and mob boss -
> but to call him a black mob boss is to blur those identities and confuse
> the issue.
Yes, too often being black confuses the issue, doesn't it?  You are
entitled to your opinion, but I completely disagree that all aspects of an
individual can and should be treated separately.  I think that does a
disservice to the richness and complexity of individuals.  I'm also galled
by your repeated comparison between a person's inherent biological traits
and said person's chosen profession as separate, equal identities.
> >And that's your perspective.  I, on the other hand, have been keenly aware
> >of the "racial significance" of black people (or lack thereof) and African
> >American cultural references and racial slurs in each of QT's films.
> But what makes this vocabulary distinctly black (or African America, as
> some prefer)? Sure, there are some things that will be discussed
> differently - hair for one ;) but most of the dialogue I recall from the
> movie was pretty "raceless", for lack of a better term.
Hmm.  Wait, I get it: you're kidding again.
> But all I'm saying is that [Marcellus'] role as a black man is
> distinct from his role of husband, gang boss, and lover. They may affect
> each other, but the roles are different - and through most of the movie I
> didn't see him as a black man so much as a mob boss.
> Maybe that's just another difference between us - I'd rather be defined by
> my ideas than my flesh. Sex, race, etc are pretty superfluous and just get
> in the way sometimes - though they do provide for interesting situations
> that inspire discussion.
They may get in the way, but they're there.  Again I say being black is
not a role.  We are defined by our ideas AND by our flesh, regardless of
what we prefer.  You can try to separate mind and body all you want.  It
ain't gonna happen.
> >What QT intended is beside the point.  He continues to make films rife
> >with racial epithets and African American cultural references (right down
> ANd this bugs you?
It bugs me because I don't enjoy hearing "nigger" sprayed at me from every
direction.  I don't even like typing it.  But maybe, to you and others, the
inherent malevolence of the word is irrelevant because blacks AND whites
say it in the movies now.
It particularly bugged me in Reservoir Dogs because there were racial
epithets all over the place and even discussions of old blaxploitation
films and shows, yet there were no significant black characters.  I
didn't think that aspect of the film was cool.
It bugs me also because Tarantino is considered "cool" in part because of
his knowledge of and liberal appropriation of black culture and dialog.
The man obviously has talent, yet his current demi-god status incites
parallel pop-culture images of Elvis and Eric Clapton in my mind.
You, J, are obviously not shy about expressing your views on blacks and
references to black American culture in QT's films.  My concern, at the
beginning of this thread, was directed at how few others acknowledge the
racial questions raised by QT's films.
I'm through.