The African American Image in FilmEd Guerrero
From D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation to Spike Lee's Malcolm X, Ed Guerrero argues, the commercial film industry reflects white domination of American society. Written with the energy and conviction generated by the new black film wave, Framing Blackness traces an ongoing epic—African Americans protesting screen images of blacks as criminals, servants, comics, athletes, and sidekicks.
These images persist despite blacks' irrepressible demands for emancipated images and a role in the industry. Although starkly racist portrayals of blacks in early films have gradually been replaced by more appealing characterizations, the legacy of the plantation genre lives on in Blaxpoitation films, the fantastic racialized imagery in science fiction and horror films, and the resubordination of blacks in Reagan-era films. Probing the contradictions of such images, Guerrero recalls the controversies surrounding role choices by stars like Sidney Poitier, Eddie Murphy, Whoopie Goldberg, and Richard Pryor.
Throughout his study, Guerrero is attentive to the ways African Americans resist Hollywood's one-dimensional images and superficial selling of black culture as the latest fad. Organizing political demonstrations and boycotts, writing, and creating their own film images are among the forms of active resistance documented.
The final chapter awakens readers to the artistic and commercial breakthrough of black independent filmmakers who are using movies to channel their rage at social injustice. Guerrero points out their diverse approaches to depicting African American life and hails innovative tactics for financing their work. Framing Blackness is the most up-to-date critical study of how African Americans are acquiring power once the province of Hollywood alone: the power of framing blackness.
"Ed Guerrero writes broadly and insightfully about the creation and domination of the black image in commercial cinema. This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to develop an understanding of black films and filmmaking in the U.S." —Julie Dash
"This well-written and well-argued book offers both an historical survey of representations of blacks in American films and an argument about the relationship between social life and popular culture.... (It) fills an important need within the fields of cinema studies, Afro-American studies, and cultural studies, and will appeal to a broad range of readers." —George Lipsitz, University of California, San Diego