Tuesday, April 26, 2011

hooks - Reel to Real

hooks, bell. Reel to Real: Race, Class and Sex at the Movies. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Hollywood suffers from inherent white supremacy, as well as masculine dominance. As a result, it is extremely difficult for films to portray minorities and women in a non-discriminatory way.

Hooks writes approvingly of Stuart Hall's theories on audience viewing, and describes that blacks must find themselves consistently viewing films from an oppositional viewpoint. "When most black people in the United States first had the opportunity to look at film and television, they did so fully aware that the mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy. To stare at the television, or mainstream movies, to engage its images was to engage its negation of black representation. It was the oppositional black gaze that responded to these looking relations by developing an independent black cinema. ...looking was also about contestation and confrontation." 255-6

Hooks also notes the difficulty for black filmmakers in creating a truly radical, revolutionary, oppositional portrayal of blacks. In fact, she credits some white filmmakers with proceeding further into avant-garde experimentation and thus having better success in this area.

Hooks is an Arnheimian: "Movies make magic. They change things. They take the real and make it into something else right before our very eyes. ... They give the reimagined, reinvented version of the real." 1

She also mentions Stuart Hall (noted above). She complicates Laura Mulvey's discussion of the male gaze, noting that black viewers would have a much more complex reaction to the scopophilic gaze of a white female sex object. She also approvingly mentions Manthia Diawara's theories on the power of the spectator, and the rupture that occurs when the spectator resists "complete identification with the film's discourse." (Diawara's words)

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