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“Bamboozled” by Spike Lee Essay

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Updated: Oct 16th, 2021

Introduction

In context of satire merging laughs with pain could be an effective way to alert to some existent problems that disturb the society. Satire – a demonstration of comic moments in art, representing deteriorative exposure of various phenomenon using different comic means such as sarcasm, irony, parody and etc. The issues that the author considers as the most depraved are ridiculed, where a satire could be addressing an episode, an image or social phenomena. In the basis of this definition, “Bamboozled” a film by Spike Lee uses satire as a tool to express his anger against what is considered as media stereotypes of black people.

This paper analyzes the aforementioned work as a modern cultural representation of identity and established stereotypes in modern society stating that stereotypes of specific social or ethnic group can be formed willingly in addition to being forced, where as time passes by, they only change the shape and take another direction.

Analysis

The ideology of the world created by Spike Lee to some extent represents the existence of racial stereotypes in modern America, specifically in media, as a slogan that nothing has changed. However, unlike the previous times everything is veiled in a way it seems ordinary.

The difference is as stated in “Cultural Studies: Theory and Practices” by Christ Barker, “the racism continues to be treated as an issue of illiberality rather than of structured inequality.” (Chris Barker 268)

At first it seems as though the stereotypes has changed, where there is Pierre Delacroix – an educated black man, working in a respectable job, speaking fluently and with good manners.

After that it can be seen that in that in Lee’s created world the color remains as an issue, as in providing the text for a decent sitcom without exploiting black stereotypes, he is accused of being white. Thus, it is seen that Lee has shown that roles are already given and each person should play within his/her role.

The power that assigns those roles is held within the society itself, where the formed situation is mostly controlled by the public opinion.

This system maintains this power through the demand factor. Where in the world of media, the rating is the public opinion, and if the product has a high rating, accordingly it is demanded and the participants are paid.

When Delacroix is discussing his proposal to Dunwitty, the answer of the latter is rephrased as “the people want the black people to act within the boundaries of their stereotypes, and they do not want the black to act like white people”.

If this scene was stripped of the feel of a comic situation, which is mostly demonstrated by Dunwitty’s attempts to confirm his blackness, it has a similar pattern witnessed in more recent film “Crash” (2004) by Paul Haggis, where the character Cameron Thayer is in similar situation.

Being a black television director, he is forced by the producer to accept propagating black stereotypes by forcing the actors to speak like “black”. Thus, the producer in”Crash” and Dunwitty in “Bamboozled” do not resemble the power, although it might seem that way. They are the people who are dependent on it.

If distinguishing the characters of the film and divide those between types and stereotypes, Spike Lee used moderate to explicit images, dependant on to which degree he dedicated his anger, to represent them.

Delacroix represents the average middle class, who achieved some success. Sloan Hopkins is also representing the same type, where they both are not given any explicit characteristics, in a sense that they are not the object of the satire.

However, Hopkins in some way also represents the common sense and the clear conscience, which remain characteristic of her until the end of the film, whereas Delacroix fall for the power, after the success of his show and becomes the dependent on the “demand” request for the racist stereotype nightmare he created.

Dunwitty, represent the stereotype of the white American who admits being half black because he is married to a black woman.

This stereotype is the type which tries to convince others that he belongs to another group in such a way as making a favor, and in a tactless way also resembles the people dependent on the ongoing race stereotypes.

The actors Manray and Womack, in reality they are poor class who because of their desire of fame accepted the image that resemble “stupidity and ignorance” in the show that is central in Lee’s work as it is the “symbol for the degradation of black people through the use of “humour” based on stereotypes”. (Chris Barker 268)

This could be considered as the main subject of satire, where the American media does not represent this type of comedy as explicitly as stated by the author, he alerts the society that the current versions are not better.

Although not so direct as “Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show” they still make indirect references to colonial times.

Maus Maus and “Big Blak Africa” represent what is called in “Cultural Studies: Theory and Practices” as “The new ghetto aesthetic”.

These stereotypes resemble the hip-hop culture, in the manner that they are full of hatred to the stereotypes made by “white” such as “The New Millennium Minstrel Show”, at the same time their image has resulted in the occurrence of a stereotype which is as harmful as the first one.

The stance taken by the director is quite evident in the idea he tries to deliver and the character types he critiques, where his idea of discrimination and stereotypes are satirically delivered. However, the shift in the tone of the film from satirical to serious does not serve the idea of the film.

In that sense choosing minstrel shows to satirically demonstrate the racial discrimination was a new and innovative idea, however, the shift to seriousness strips the film its sense of humor, which at the same time give the minster show inappropriate association for these time.

It can be seen that in reality, although television shows still resemble racial stereotypes, they are no more explicitly stated.

Another idea that should be mentioned as one of the themes in the film is that stereotypes’ representation in media is no more a “white” creation. The black people and especially those who are representing the “gangsta” culture create these stereotypes themselves that is definitely is more dangerous than the shows that were shown in the last century.

In that sense, the fragments of various shows demonstrated at the end of the movie such as showing historical depictions of blackface in films, would have been more adequate to the movie’s theme if they were replaced with the fragments from contemporary shows to confirm his suggestion that the resembled stereotypes in media changed “outfit”, rather than disappearing.

The division in the types and stereotypes represented in “Bamboozled” is shown to be accepted widely in the society, and only few individuals such as Hopkins and later Manray, refused the participation in this racism.

The ideology and the world created in the context of satire have underlined the blackface obscenities of the past and their contemporary counterparts. However, in the context of the threat these stereotypes create and a problem the society faces nowadays, the finale where Delacroix watches the tape make a point that in the creation of a particular identity he was a part of the problem.

Conclusion

In contrary to the old fashioned racism, the new racism presented in Spike Lee’s film is more dangerous. In the first one there was an apparent group that could be blamed for these stereotypes, whereas in the new one the opposition to stereotypes could form an image that is harmful itself. Although, a change has occurred, such work as “Bamboozled” is still relevant to address this issue, although in a comical way.

Works Cited

Bamboozled. Dir. Spike Lee. Perf. Damon Wayans. DVD. New Line Cinema, Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications Ltd, 2008.

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