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Race In Entertainment Media Essay

2080 words - 9 pages

The portrayal of race in entertainment media is a fluid concept that is constantly changing, just as our views on different races change over time. Although I feel that the media makes a more conscious effort to remove degrading racial stereotypes from films, the acknowledgement of the existence of these stereotypes confirms that they are still present. After watching a movie from three different time periods, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Stand and Deliver (1988), and Our Family Wedding (2010), I have found that representation of race in film has largely remained the same, while the acknowledgement of existing stereotypes has become more obvious.
The 1960’s-1970’s ...view middle of the document...

McMurphy also successfully fits the many Irish American stereotypes that existed during this time. America’s lazy attempt to depict the Irish includes showing people who “enjoy drinking to excess, creating havoc and celebrating such unworthy characters as Bishop John Hughes” (Golway 2003, 6). We see this happen clearly at the hands of McMurphy as he is constantly creating havoc, such as when he wants to watch the World Series on television, but Nurse Ratchet closes the vote and will not include his last attempted vote, leading him to break the window to Nurse Ratchet’s office. Other instances of this behavior include when he takes the patients of the ward out to go deep-sea fishing on an unchartered boat as well as when he sneaks prostitutes into the ward and successfully gets the patients as well as the night guard, Mr. Turkle, drunk (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975).
Mr. Turkle and the ward’s guard are all African American characters that fall in the Hollywood conservative backlash films category. This time period occurs after the Blaxploitation film era and almost completely excludes Black from films, and Blacks that are included have very neutralized characters (Larson 2006). This is to create a nonthreatening characterization of Blacks in an attempt to qualm disruption stirred up by the Blaxploitation films. Mr. Turkle can be described as the typical pure coon, which possesses all the negative stereotypical assets of being African American (Larson 2006). He is lazy and gets himself in huge trouble, and his qualities make him a comic figure in the film. He is easily persuaded to open the gate for the prostitutes that McMurphy calls late at night and when he realizes that havoc has erupted while he was having fun with one of the prostitutes, instead of dealing with the issue, he drinks himself to sleep (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975). The other African American characters, the ward guards, typify the Tom stereotype, “socially acceptable, good Negro characters” (Larson 2006, 27), who always remain subordinate to their White head figure—in this case, Nurse Ratchet—and are submissive and stoic. These men do anything and everything that Nurse Ratchet commands them to do, and are always the mediators when violence occurs in the ward (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975).
The portrayal of American Indians in American film is not absent, but its presence has “misrepresented their character, their history, and their treatment by Whites” (Larson 2006, 44). In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chief Bromden exemplifies a mixture of the good and degraded Indian. Everyone in the ward believes the Chief is deaf and dumb, key characteristics of Indian’s viewpoints not being heard in the media (Larson 2006). We, as the audience, view the Chief as degenerate, pitiful, separated from his Indian brothers and obviously unable to assimilate with the other patients in the ward. But once McMurphy discovers the true Chief and his back-story, we...

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