“Master narrative” is an all-embracive explanation of some experience from the past. Spike Lee uses the “master narrative” idea for his movie “Bamboozled” to touch upon the most significant questions regarding racial prejudice that still exists in modern American society. The movie presents a strained relationship between the white and black communities of American society.
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The central character of the movie, a black man Pierre Delacroix, works at the television network as a writer. He creates a new show that he considers to be offensive-looking and even stereotypical one with black actors playing the leading roles and telling racist puns and jokes. Other central characters are Manray, Womack, and Sloan, who agree to be the actors in Pierre’s show. The events of “Bamboozled” take place in America in 2000, the junction of two centuries when the racial zeitgeist is left in the twentieth century, though it is not completely obliterated from the minds of white Americans and American television in particular. Pierre Delacroix creates the show hoping that the network he is working for will fire him for extreme racism, which is his purpose. However, the show becomes successful with the actors’ gaining money and glory. The main theme of the movie is the portrayal of African Americans in media, which is sometimes considered as a desire of a network to support anti-racist ideas.
The technical elements of “Bamboozled” do not impress the viewer much. The movie has been shot in Digital Video, which accounts for the images being flat and cheap-looking. The movie is devoid of texture; the lighting is minimal and inconsistent, with background lighting sometimes being not essential. The Director of cinematography used multiple cameras to catch the actors in the least expected moments, which adds the movie realism helping to express the main idea. The angles from which the cameraman makes shots and motion are chosen quite successfully, which makes it easier to get involved in the storyline and the plot of the film.
The director set a task to depict stereotyping in the movie. Spike Lee made an attempt to reveal and criticize the status of African-Americans in the USA. He wanted to show that if you are a black man living in the States, you have to behave in a certain way according to the rules established in the US society in order to be accepted. The movie “insists on looking steadily and directly at the repertoire of African-American stereotypes, and […] stages the stereotypes quite literally as freestanding, living images” (Mitchell 298). After “Bamboozled” was released, it gained the attention of a wide range of critics. All of them were discussing Lee’s idea to present racial issues. “Savage, abrasive, audacious and confrontational, “Bamboozled” is the work of a master provocateur, someone who insists audiences think about issues of race and racism” (Kenneth, Turan, 10). When making an attempt to convey this idea in the film, Lee is becoming more and more attached to the “general concept of an independent Black film” (Manthia Diawara, 145) that was becoming very popular at the end of the 20th century.
Thus, in “Bamboozled,” Spike Lee made an attempt to represent the arrogant attitude of white Americans towards the black ones. Definitely, he managed to achieve this purpose, and the audience can observe it through the plot, central characters, and technical details of the movie. He reminds us of our past mistakes and warns against making new ones regarding stereotypes and racial discrimination against African-Americans.
Diawara, Manthia. Black American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship. Routledge, 1993.
Kenneth Turan. Los Angeles Times. Bamboozled. 2000.
Mitchell, Thomas W.J. What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Stephen Holden. “The Very Black Show”. New York Times. 2000.