In Jacqueline Bobo's article, "The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers", it is discussed how black women create meaning out of the mainstream text of the film "The Color Purple." In Leslie B Innis and Joe R. Feagin's article, "The Cosby Show: The View from the Black Middle Class", they are explaining black middle-classed responses to the portrayal of Black family life on "The Cosby Show." In their articles, Bobo, Innis and Feagin are investigating the representation of race, particularly African American race, in the mass media. However, these two shows are better portrayed than what was seen in the first article. This article "Midnight Ramble" portrays a much earlier media perception of African Americans. The information shows the first blacks in films, as well as the white actors who were painted up to portray the black characters. "Midnight Ramble" occurred between WWI and the 1950's.
This, while not an excuse, does at least show that things have changed some. The chief concerns of the investigations of the articles, lie in how African Americans deal with the way these representations portray them individually and their social group as a whole. This paper's purpose is to compare the issues in each article and analyze the larger sociopolitical implications of these media representations. In Bobo's article, the chief concerns of the author are "the savage and brutal depiction of black men in the film", "black family instability", and the way that black women embrace the film and use their own reconstructed meaning of it to "empower themselves and their social group" (Bobo, 90-92). Film, as a medium, starts out with many potential limitations and problems when it comes to representing a whole race of people. No two people ar exactly alike no matter what race they come from, so there is no one film that can represent all people.
Unfortunately, many people believe that this is possible. Some believe that a certain depiction of black people characterizes all black people, which is certainly not the case. This is dangerous because it involves stereotyping and discrimination. The viewing public pays for movies, therefore, movie producers have to tailor their product so that the majority of viewers will enjoy, and agree with their product, so that the majority of viewers will enjoy, and agree with the ideas behind the film. The majority still, almost always means white America.
Even African American based movies are made for white audiences. The representation of blacks in this type of environment does not always portray the real African American person. The film "The Color Purple" has been the center of controversy since it was made in 1985. many feel that the film is a bad portrayal of black family life, and that it is stereotypically portraying black men as evil and brutal who imprison and abuse women.
The main purpose of Bobo's article was to find out why black women loved the movie so much and if they saw the film as helping or hindering their cause. Bobo did find that while many black women loved the movie, they found things inherently wrong with the way black men were portrayed. They did find the film positive, though, because it did portray black women in a more positive way than most other films. The women found power in the film and were able to identify with this search of power and their own identity. "The Color Purple" presented a new type of feminism to black women who were used to seeing black women characters portrayed as slaves, maids, or nannies. "The women saw the film as a little bit of truth wrapped in a blanket of stereotypes" (Bobo, 102).
They did believe that it was a story that needed to be told. The larger implications of "The Color Purple" are very serious. Black family life is presented as dysfunctional. Women are seen as fragile and easily abused by their men. And, even though it is suppose to be a middle classed family, it is portrayed as a lower classed family. In Innis and Feagin's article, the chief concerns of the authors are how black middle classed people are viewed on television, particularly, on "The Cosby Show." Unfortunately, television presents many potential problems.
This occur because it is watched by such a wide variety of people, there has to be some identifying characteristics to tell people who is being presented and what they stand for. Usually this type of identifying information consists of stereotypes for comic relief. Also, due to the nature of television sponsors, writers are unable to tackle pressing issues, and challenge the majority. Instead, it uses stock characters and scenes to tell the same stories over and over. This leaves little room for showing reality. The authors conducted a study.
They gathered 100 people and recorded their views on the show "The Cosby Show." The responses varied from harshly negative to extremely positive, depending on who that person related themselves to on the show. People who said the show was negative had no similar experiences to compare themselves to the Huxtable family. These people felt the show was too "white" and did not portray the living experiences of a black middle classed American family. Others felt "The Cosby Show" made respondents feel that real problems suffered by black families such as racism, classism, and lack of opportunity, were irrelevant because they were not even mentioned on the show.
According to the article, the shows popularity has set back race relations because its view of black assimilation fails to take into account the context of the world outside of the four walls of the Huxtable household. (Innis, 692). "The Cosby Show" shows easy upward mobility with no signs of discrimination at all. This is hardly what people consider to be the typical black experience. If after watching "The Cosby Show", "white America" takes the previous idea as true, black people will have an even harder time gaining equality because whites have a false vision of what blacks have been through, and may just believe that they are lazy and don't want to better themselves.
In reality, it is a great challenge for black Americans to overcome all of these preconceived notions and are able to be themselves. In analyzing these articles, the studies of how black people respond to how they are represented on television and movies, we see that a lot more ground needs to be covered. This especially is true in the areas of equality and political correctness when it comes to the media. We can see, however, that people are not just sitting blindly in front of the televisions. People are thinking about images presented to them and analyzing them once they are presented on the screen.
This idea shows that people can be good media consumers and can make good choices as to what is and is not good media. Television may never be a rainbow colored nation that represents us all, however, it is hoped that what is portrayed will at least one day be close to true, and will not harm how society thinks of a group of people. 4 aa Bobo, Jacqueline. "The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers." E. D.
Pri bram (Ed. ) Female Spectators: Looking at film and Television. London: Verso, 1988. Innis, L. and J. Feagin.
"Views from the Black Middle Class." Journal of Black Studies, 1995, Vol 25, pp. 692-711. Stewart, Neil. "Midnight Ramble." Modern Times. 1998.
Online. Internet. 28 Apr. 2000.