I loved reading Marlon Riggs article Tongues Re – Tied, his interview “Listening to the Heartbeat,” and most of all, watching his film Tongues Untied. Riggs, in Tongues Re – Tied explains why his film is so powerful with rhetoric so unique I could hear it in my head.
Riggs examines mainstream media, who controls it, who can access it and on what terms, and who, in turn, is disenfranchised by its perpetuation of the dominant group’s authority. Riggs discusses these ideas because his film, Tongues Untied, came under great attack by critics who wanted it censored and deemed it unfit for public television. What makes his film so powerful, consequently, is that it “affirms and demands…a frank, uncensored, uncompromising articulation of an autonomously defined self and social identity (p. 188).” To Riggs, censorship is “a critical tool of cultural domination.” And in mainstream American media, under the control of the majority, “minorities might be granted the right to speak and be heard, but only if we abide by the “master codes” of courteous speech, proper subject matter, conventional aesthetics, and “mainstream” appeal. Disobey this often unwritten rule and you risk banishment into cultural oblivion (p. 187-188).” In addressing the potential for altogether erasure from the mainstream, public eye, Riggs raises the question: abide by the majority’s rules and lose the power of your message (and integrity), or disregard them and risk cultural erasure? Riggs chooses a different path.
Riggs unrelentingly, and ultimately successfully, disregards the “master codes” with the placement of his film Tongues Untied on public television programming.
Is there anyway for minority groups to make progress in the mainstream media with the compliance to the “master codes”? Or is giving up virtue and autonomy so bad that it ultimately ruins the point that they are trying to get across?
Riggs in Tongues Re – Tied writes: “Straight America, black as well as white, now demands much the same of homosexual men and women: to win majority acceptance, we are asked to represent ourselves in ways that, in effect, reaffirm the majority’s self-image of privilege (p. 188).”
A quote from Tongues Untied that really stood out to me, and in my opinion demonstrates the lack of representation of minority groups in the mainstream media was:
“Where is my reflection? … I am rendered invisible.”