An analysis of the representation of ethnic minorities in Training Day and Se7en.
Representation of ethnic minorities is a controversial issue. This study explores the representation of Denzel Washington in Training Day (2001) and Morgan Freeman in Se7en (1995). Although there have been many social developments and shifts in cultural hegemony, ethnic minorities are no longer restricted to the number of roles they play and ethnic minorities are not so explicitly stereotyped.
The movie Birth of a nation represented black people as ‘savages’ and in one scene a black man sexually assaults a white women thus representing black people as if they are possessed by lust. The movies glorifies white people and in this case the Klu Klux Klan. The movie stereotypically represents black politicians and shows them devouring chicken and ogling white women once the inter-racial law was passed. Black characters didn’t seem to be allowed to deliver a self fulfilling performance and were instead placed into one of five preset characters. These characters were the ‘House Nigger’ who is a black person who does their best to please white people even if that means disowning their own racial identity or ‘ the Coon’ who is someone who stereotypically represents black people i.e. conforms to generalisations of black people. Furthermore, other preset characters include ‘The Mammie’ which is a black woman who is from the southern United States who worked as a nanny for a white family she is generally trusted and held in a higher regard compared to other black people. ‘The Tragic Mulatto’ is a preset mixed race character that is sad because they do not fit in to the ‘white world’ or the ‘black world’ and finally, there is ‘Brutal Buck’ who is an angry black man out to wreak havoc. Examples of ‘The House Nigger’ can be seen in Django Unchained were Samuel L Jackson plays ‘Stephen’ also it could be argued ‘Jamie Foxx’s’ portrayal of ‘Django’ could be an example of a ‘Brutal Buck’ where he wants to seek revenge for his wife. An example of the ‘Tragic Mulatto’ could be Will Smith although he isn’t mixed race he has a light skin tone. Will Smith is a black actor who has been in to the ‘White World’ as well as the ‘Black World’. Will Smith’s character ‘Steve Hiller’ in the movie Independence Day was originally supposed to be a white male however Will Smith representation caused him to become popular among black people as well as white people.
Blaxploitation emerged in the 1970s Rahner (2004) despite it’s incendiary name, Blaxploitation genre was about empowerment’. One of the first films commonly identified, as Blaxploitation is Shaft where Richard Roundtree plays ‘John Shaft’. The Blaxploitation genre generally consists of African American actors, urban settings, sex and action. Shaft was a movie where ‘John Shaft’ who is a private detective who has a series of run-ins with Harlem gangs and the mafia. It can be argued movies such as Django Unchained are examples of Blaxploitation where there are similar characteristics. These characteristics include action, a black actor and the prevailing black character in the end.
The ‘Old Hollywood’ days were around the 19th-20th century where racial tension was high and Hollywood avoided using black actors and would use white characters. The series ‘Blackface’ employed a white man ‘Al Jolson’ to portray a black character. The series was aimed to mock African people, however, over a period of time, the series began to decline because it was linked with racism as well as bigotry. Despite this, in 1964 the first black actor Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for his performance in ‘Lilies of the fields’ and was not portrayed as one of the five preset characters. He is a ‘Jack of all trades’ and helps a group of nuns. This was the beginning of the revolution for Africans within cinema.
Although in the ‘Old Hollywood,’ black people were restricted to the roles they play e.g. ‘Brutal Buck and the Coon’ etc. In the middle of the twentieth century, the portrayal of black people in cinema shifted nonetheless there are still certain archetypes that remain in contemporary movies and television examples of this are Denzel Washington in Training Day.