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November 1994, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 13 Nov 1994 16:30:08 CST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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>to do with who uses it--remember history?  It makes a difference whether
>it is an African-American appropriating the word for him/herself or a
>white man perpetuating a racist tradition of using it against
>African-Americans.  Enough of this if-you-see-Spike-Lee's-films-then-what's
What about a white woman who appropriates the word for herself? Or a black man
perpetuating a racist tradition of using it against African-Americans. Such
animals exist. A movie example of the latter is the black cop in *Boyz in the
Hood* who addresses Fishburne's character as a nigger.
>        How can a white man appropriate something that was originally
>his?  It is the African-American who has appropriated something that was
>used against him.  The "cool blacks sorry african-americans" (sic) did
>not invent the *n* word to be cool.
The word itself is not being appropriated - its meaning is. If one group
forms a new meaning for a word, there's no reason another group can't use
that word with its new meaning.
Trying to say who "owns" a culture is silly, IMHO.
>        I do not believe this is an effective way to repair the wrongs of
But maybe he's not trying to repair the wrongs of history. Maybe, as has
been sugegsted before, he's pushing our buttons - getting us to talk about
it. In that respect Herr Tarantino has performed admirably.
>        The real history, the history that most people will remember and
>believe in, is what they see on the silver screen.  It's like people will
>always remember and believe that Cleopatra looked like Claudette Colbert.
At least, until someone remakes Cleopatra with someone else playing the
part, and this hypothetical new movie ascends to fame.
>        Let me conclude by citing another text that you might want to
>look at: *Ethnic Notions* by Marlon Riggs (1990).  A documentary on the
It is a good documentary - I had been unaware of where many of the
stereotypes used in Bugs Bunny came from until I saw the show (I got
more out of than that - I don't mean to diminish the value of the
>misrepresentation on African-American on the (silver) screen.  There is a
>price to be paid for the kind of smartness you laud Tarantino for.  The
>point is, some people pay higher prices than others.  And that has got to
Forcing people to stop doesn't eliminate the attitudes that allow it. If
things are going to change, it will be by throwing many images up there
and convincing people which one is best - not by censoring anyone or
declaring it "evil". You'd think we'd have learned by now, after over 5000
years of recorded history, that banning only halts the symptoms of a sick
society - it doesn't cure the disease.
J Roberson