1 – A Girl Like Me
My first media example from things that we have covered in class is the Youtube video titled “A Girl Like Me” from the organization, Media That Matters, from their 6th Annual Film Festival. The description of this video is “Color is more than skin deep for young African-American women struggling to define themselves”. The video shows the young women having difficulty and frustration with how society and their own environment interpret and perceive them, who they are, and who they should be. At the beginning of the video they list off stereotypes associated with Black women –
“Every black female has a big butt and big boobs.”
“Light skin being more attractive than dark skin”
“That we’re not smart. We’re this way, we’re that way and a lot of the time we have to prove ourselves”
The girls in this video speak a lot of truth as to how young black females feel towards the stereotypes and judgments about them in America. Being a mix between a first and third world country there is a struggle to understand what their life is supposed to be in society. With a usually unknown heritage from Africa, the knowledge of the history of Blacks in America, these girls are left without many public role models or inspirations as to who they are or even what they should be. Images like Madea, Big Momma, and Rasputia are all definitions of what these girls listed as negative stereotypes. These caricatures take all of the negative characteristics and compress them into one person, while this video itself is an example of how there are other types of young Black women who should be represented and demonstrated to the public and how there is a problem among Black youth and their perception of race. There is a part in the clip that surveys little children asking them which doll is the more preferable in different aspects, letting them choose between one white and one colored doll. 15 out of 21 children preferred the white doll as opposed to the black, however all of the children surveyed were black. This survey is clearly evidence to support that there is less value for blacks and more negative associations with them.
The three characters that I have looked at in media (Madea, Big Momma, and Rasputia) are all negative representations that make it harder for Black females to live in society and figure out who they are. In my last blog post, I mentioned that the stereotypical “mammy” figure was dark skinned; in this video one girl directly addresses the light verses dark battle – “There are standards that are imposed upon us, you’re pretty…you’re prettier if you’re light skinned” (1:16). It is known that there is this misperception of light skin being better than dark. When looking at those characters, whose color had to be intentionally chosen, there was a conscious effort to make them dark ladies – adding on to the negative stereotype that Black females have no choice but to carry around with them.
2 – Guy Debord
Guy Debord’s first thesis in The Society of the Spectacle is “Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation”. When trying to connect this thesis to my project, I’d have to disagree. Many different Black women have “directly lived” but have not moved into any representation; instead these women just disappear away from the world. There isn’t a representation of these real women in any form or history, which goes against (and therefore disproving) Debord’s theory.
3 – Marlon Riggs ‘Tongues Untied”
Going into the subject of Black representation in media there are many subcultures. While I have chosen to look into the subculture of Black females, Marlon Riggs focused on the subculture of homosexual Black males. While these two groups are different genders and sexualities, the fact that they have the same race is the all-encompassing factor –on its own it’s enough to help a group of people relate. His work to represent Black gay males began, in part because of the lack of representation he saw of himself in culture. Many of the organizations and theories about Black females in media were started for the same reason. Thought of as the other, he decided to speak out with his voice, and unlike the poor images shown today, such as Madea, real Black women are trying to do the same thing. Society and mainstream culture distance themself from the other, foreign, and marginalized topics and people. The strive for recognition and realistic representation, (in my case Black females, in Riggs’ gay black men) is a fight because of the fear of the new and unknown.
4 – Yvonne Welbon + Video Advocacy
Last week we discussed video advocacy and participatory videos. Yvonne Welbon started a project called “Sisters In Cinema” which stemmed from her doctoral dissertation. Her dissertation turned into a documentary which turned into a website and community. Witness is an organization who has a campaign, Video for Change, where they set out to create documentaries and advocacy videos. In addition to Witness, Mapping Memories uses the practice of participatory video to get the subject working in collaboration with advocacy groups. Welbon has done this by recruiting Black female filmmakers from today for her documentary. She created a visual and audio timeline that goes through the history of film contribution.