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Minorities 6SHARE - J662 6th Paper Race The Final Frontier...

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J662: 6 th Paper November 29, 2007 Race… The Final Frontier Nobody would argue that the histories of African, Asian, Native, and Hispanic American in this country have been resoundingly similar, other than that they’ve all been held down by whitey. How odd then that their depictions in film have followed such a uniform pattern, albeit at different times for different minorities. This pattern of progression is one of demystification; a move from a group being seen entirely as outsiders, to one of two seemingly inevitable outcomes, either they assimilate into mainstream culture, or mainstream culture assimilates theirs. It’s no real surprise, American culture is built on the concept of assimilation. It’s why we affectionately refer to our society as a “melting pot” 1 , because we live in a society dominated by an immigrant culture, where even the indigenous peoples are an oppressed minority. There exists what we like to call “the immigrant experience”, despite the fact that immigration can come from a dizzying array of sources, from forced enslavement, to voluntary, legal, immigration, to illegal immigration, to maybe you didn’t really immigrate, you were here all along but we stopped noticing after we took your land. The “immigrant experience” seems to vary greatly depending on what kind of immigrant you might be. Film, however, has historically had a consistently white perspective. Invented by the American pinnacle of “white guys with too much time on their hands” himself, Thomas Edison, film as a medium was predominately a “by whites, for whites” medium for its first quarter century. Furthermore, film’s take on diversity closely mirrored the 1 Because to call ourselves “fondue” would be overly glorifying the French.
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chromatic capacity of a newspaper; black and white… and red all over. Both Birth of a Nation and Stagecoach , our two earliest pieces, portray African and Native Americans in a sense of “tamed” and “untamed” mystique, respectively. These demographics are depicted more like forces of nature than groups of individuals. Like bees, they swarm the nearest seat of government or caravan of wagons, and swoop in to cause trouble for the white man. They may not be the bad guys, but they’re definitely not the good guys. At this point, enter the Asians. Hailing from a more “civilized” heritage than the previous minorities, Asians in film do not command a savage mystique, but instead, a character weakness that seems to stem from a culture too steeped in archaic tradition to be effective; their English broken from having an overly-complex-sounding-to-the- Caucasian-ear tongue as a primary language. Additionally, this minority was the first
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