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”
, 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
Because to call ourselves “fondue” would be overly glorifying the French.