Unheardwords of Writers of Colour

unheardwords - bamboozled, fake depiction real impact

Fake Depiction, Real Impact

An article by Adeyinka Makinde (Pathers to Pimps) equating Gordon Parks’ role in the founding’s of blaxploitation as a means of social engineering, got me to re-thinking.

I remember the sense of identification I felt when I watched Spike Lee's film ‘Bamboozled’ in 2002 (its initial released was in 2000).

It was an identification with themes of perpetual mis-representation, black as mistrel: clown; criminal; feckless; hyper-sexualised; and talented sometimes, that is when it came to atheletics and or music.

Here I felt, was Mr Lee performing a public service in consciousness raising, connecting dots that up until that time I could only glimpse in isolation.

For me, the story behind the core of the drama, was of how a narrow depiction of black people had been used in film and TV as a lazy substitute for a full and fair, broad spectrum portrayal of black people and the lives they live.

Perhaps not so surprising when, to carry across the 'male gaze' theory, the idea that the perspectives of those who produce, make and distribute film and TV, will inevitably feed through into their content; a ‘white western gaze'.

More surprising perhaps, are the seemingly bizarre affects that this ceaseless diet of lazy shorthand portrayals has upon ALL viewers.

Such is the power of these mediums that if you see something repeated often enough, it can somehow slip into your subconscious and become a truth - regardless of your blackness or whiteness.

The core of Lee's film, though apparently simple in the telling, picks up on just how perverse and complicated the outcomes of all this mainstream misrepresentation can be. Take five of the movies characters:

Awoken by Bamboozled’s illuminating themes, we can consider the impact on countless lives over decades, of overly simplistic depictions of black people (and other groups); and the resulting multitude of cross-media minstrel-like portrayals and mimic behaviours.

Until the perspectives of 'all-lives' are genuinely reflected, we will all suffer the consequences of narrow and misleading depiction.


© Khome (editor), 2018


PS. The film is by no means perfect; I prefer a more manageable 90 minute cut, that removes the entire Mau Mau and kidnap of Manray sub-plot.
I also found Ashley Clark's article Bamboozled: Spike Lee's masterpiece on race in America is as relevant as ever a good read.