On October 17th, “DEAR White People” will hit movie theaters! It is a satire movie (FYI, satire is a technique that is usually meant to be humorous; however, its overall purpose is to criticize something that is occurring in society. Satire helps to draw attention to the issue.)
The film focuses on African American students attending an Ivy League college (translation: very expensive and typically very white) in America and stars Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell, Kyle Gallner, Brittany Curran and Dennis Haysbert.
I hope this movie sparks some real discussion about the various ways people of color are portrayed in the media. By media, I mean all of it, including radio, movies, and television. But more than discussion, I’d love to see young people in disadvantaged communities get in on the conversation. I think race and class (how much money you and your family have) are nearly impossible to separate. Additionally, I would argue that most people are referring to poor/poorer black people when discussions take place about how black people are portrayed in the media. Think about it, when people talk about “ghetto” behavior, it is usually behavior that is affiliated with poor people or more likely to happen in poor communities.
But here’s another issue to think about: do we ever hear about white people being so upset about how they are portrayed? Personally, I think all Adam Sandler movies are ridiculous, but I never hear white people saying that they worry about the rest of the world thinking they are all like him. On the other hand, Spike Lee and Tyler Perry have an on-going battle about whether Madea movies are going to be the end of the black community’s image. BTW, does anybody believe that Spike and Tyler are really trying to become friends? The problem seems to be whether folks believe that black people are truly and ONLY like the images that are found in media. Do we have enough different various images of black people to keep black people from being put into a box in real life?
Consider this when you say that the media images don’t matter: black women are generally portrayed as sexually rigid whereas black men are often portrayed as thugs, criminals, and bad family men. Then, when images of black men and women come up that show black people as having money, education, decent careers, they are cast as selfish, mean, and selling out. In turn, I hear black people discuss each other along the same lines in real life. Additionally, there are countless studies that tell us that black men are thought to be more violent and aggressive than other groups, which, I’m sure, impacts how often black men are arrested (Attacked preemptively). It probably impacts how black men treat each other, too.
On the other hand, I don’t think every movie has to be serious. Where is the balance? How do we enjoy our lives as black people (btw, other racial and ethnic groups have issues with how they are represented, too) without being paranoid about races and image?