Movie Ethnic Notions-Response Paper The movie "Ethnic Notions" describes different ways in which African-Americans were presented during the 19 th and 20 th centuries. It traces and presents the evolution of the rooted stereotypes which have created prejudice towards African-Americans. This documentary movie is narrated to take the spectator back to the antebellum roots of African-American stereotypical names such as boy, girl, auntie, uncle, Sprinkling Sambo, Mammy Yams, the Salt and Pepper Shakers, etc. It does so by presenting us with multiple dehumanized characters and cartons portraying African-Americans as carefree Sambos, faithful Mammies, savage Brutes, and wide-eyed Pickaninnies.
These representations of African-Americans roll across the screen in popular songs, children's rhymes, household artifacts and advertisements. These various ways to depict the African -American society through countless decades rooted stereotypes in the American society. I think that many of these still prevail in the contemporary society, decades after the civil rights movement occurred. The film observes and analyzes the origins and consequences of more than one-hundred years of bigotry upon the ex-slaved society in the U. S. Even though so many years have passed since the end of slavery, emancipation, reconstruction and the civil rights movement, some of the choice terms prejudiced still engraved in the U.
S society. When I see such images on the movie screen, it is still hard, even for me, to accept these vicious stereotypes. I view myself as an individual who grew up separated from racist influences. If a movie of this sort had such an emotional impact on me, it is no wonder people embraced these ideas back then. The use of new and popular media methods in those days was more than adequate in transferring the black inferiority ideas to the general public. Beginning at the early 19 th century with the happy, dancing, toothless, drunken Negro with big, bold and white lips to the image of the mid 21 st century African-American, the media has always used these images to convey inferiority.
These images implied inherent traits in the black community. This whole community was represented in the new media as one who can not be collateralize d and integrated in to society without being happily enslaved. Most of these images had great commercial values that made it all the more impossible for the rest of the nation not to embrace the African American stereotypes. According to my understanding, commercialization justified and imposed negative usage of black images as an example of the entire black community. The tremendous commercial value it had is what enabled the marketing industry to give good reason for the use of the above mentioned negative images of blacks. Although words are not used, the sudden attitude changes and actions indicate what could be easily translated by the use of the "n-word", "boy" or other obvious language.
What is outraging is that most of those nicknames can still be found in our contemporary society covertly if not overtly. Black women were viewed as the ugly nannies with no attractiveness in comparison to the white slender and petit lady which is another example to the dehumanization of the black society. The various ways portraying the black society as comfortable, joyful and having good life at the master's house justified that black people were better off living under slavery. The main point that the director is trying to convey can truly cause me to take a good look at our representation and treatment of blacks and all other people of color in this country. Generally, using visual imagery is the most effective way in representing and engraving the negative image in its viewer's mind. This notion is definitely intensified by the horrifying impact of the examples shown in this documentary.
It might have been belabored but I think that the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" is still true and this documentary example justifies it. For me, I know that visual imagery is the best way of implanting information in my mind. Even today, the visible notion that a white doll looks better than a black one is an example of racism. This documentary shows the importance of having a black pride month in-contrast to the levels of humiliation the black community has endured.