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Burden Of Representation In Film Essay

1160 words - 5 pages

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Representation is defined as a likeness or image of something, a definition that implies a visual component to this act. In terms of minority groups, such as women, people of color, all non-normative sexualities, the issue of representation is one that many film theorists and filmmaker’s struggle to contend with. Both the scarcity and the importance of minority representations yield what many have called " the burden of representation". Since there are so few who have the means and access to the "apparatus of representation", they are often burdened with the responsibility of "speaking" for ...view middle of the document...

As a spectator, the black male could “enter an imaginative space of phallocentric power”. As hooks demonstrates, the distinction between black male and black female spectatorship was determined early on in cinematic history. For black women, cinema negates their existence, by presenting them in a negative light or not at all. In response, many black women choose to resist by avoiding cinema, and derive a sort of pleasure from saying no. Exclusion from discussion of spectatorship, as well as feminist theory, has forced black women to be critical in order to establish an identity, to adopt an oppositional gaze, which they employ in the deconstruction and interrogation of the status quo. The oppositional gaze is a spectatorial strategy adopted by black women, who have chosen not to identify with Hollywood films, which has contributed to the ongoing effort to combat the negation of black female representation in television and the film industry. Furthermore, this strategy helps to shape new spaces for the assertion of critical black female spectatorship.
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 One of the problems with the burden of representation is finding a voice. In his essay, Mercer notes that there is no one black, gay, male identity, but rather a "multiplicity of experiences expressed lived by black lesbians and gay men". Similarly, hooks asserts the same idea that black women do not speak all in one voice. In her essay, hooks examines the contrast between her own perception of Sapphire of Amos n' Andy and the perspective of other black woman. While hooks believes that black women cannot identify with Sapphire as a black women when "visibly constructed, [she] was so ugly", she finds from her conversation with black women that they actually claimed Sapphire as a "symbol of that angry part of themselves white folks and black men could not even begin to understand" (97). The contrasting perspectives amongst minorities lead to further division among subaltern and makes it increasingly difficult to include the historically marginalized in mainstream culture.  Mercer, however, sees this diversity as a means to combat the burden of expression, rather than an impasse in the issue of representation. In his essay, he analyzes Marlon Riggs' Tongues Untied, and the effects of the dialogic voicing that is used in the film. In Tongues United, Riggs speaks from the specificity of his own experience as a black gay male, and simultaneously illustrates the degree to which black cinema attempts to present one heterosexual voice for the entire black race. By forgoing the master codes of documentary in favor of a personal non-representative story, Mercer asserts that Riggs successfully challenges the “heterosexual...

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