Monday, September 23, 2013

Media Moment, "Marlon Riggs- Ethnic Notions-Video" --Tenzin

This is a documentary that i watched last semester. It provided an excellent illustration of how media is manipulated to serve the purposes of the privileged and how it changes when social order is disrupted. In this documentary by Marlon Riggs, we are introduced to the various caricatured persona of the black person during the approach of the civil war. I want to focus on the persona of Mammy.  

Mammy was the character found in all Southern homes. She is the happy serving, docile, loyal and protective presence in the White home. Her physical traits are that she is overweight, her hair is always covered with a bandana, she does not possess fragility or beauty. In essence, she is stripped of her femininity. The documentary explains, Mammy would never be evoked as a sexual being so she wouldn't be seen as a threat to the mistress of house. Her image would be incapable of being desired by the master. With regards to her relationship with black men, she is the controller. She has the upper hand in the family while her male counter parts Zip Coon and Sam Bone are depicted as buffoons, lazy and child-like but nonetheless docile. These characters were all in the defense of slavery.
As long as these images were perceived in the way it was depicted, the plantation system was seen as a good program where everyone supposedly lived happy lives.
However, the portrayal of the black man in the media changed when slaves began to become emancipated. The media began to revert back to depicting the black person as a savage and began a program to instill national fear of the "black menace". Increasingly the once child-like Sam Bone became rapists who were in pursuit of White virgins as seen in Birth Of a Nation. The media set out to state that the emancipation of slavery was a big mistake. It justified racial violence and led the country to a racial hysteria. The mythology found in these new images of these characters told everyone that they needed to revert back to the plantation system where the 'brutes' were controlled.

Brief Reaction:
I chose to post this because it is a great example of how media is used to depict a certain ideology and how easily it can transform.

Are there any changing attitudes that you have noticed in the media lately?

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