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Black Actors and Cinema

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cross-posted from The Blog and the Bullet.

Macon D. blogs on a small movie called “Fireproof”:

And what are these black folks talking so straight about with the two white protagonists? Love, baby, nothin’ but love, and especially, how to fix it. Which is, again, what makes them “Magical Negroes.” Black folks, you see, are supposedly closer to their emotions, and even to the spirit world. So when white folks in movies need help in those areas, they often reach out to conveniently located black folks for help.

This white American fantasy about convenient dark friends has actually been going on for a long, long time. The history of stock, stereotypical non-white characters that conjure up and appeal to white American emotions is long and varied, including Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom and his many Stepin Fetchit descendants; the blackface minstrelsy tradition; comforting imagery on food products; ridiculous and offensive sports mascots; and assorted loyal sidekicks, like James Fenimore Cooper’s Chingachgook, Herman Melville’s Queequeg, and the Lone Ranger’s Tonto (who, by the way, is about to be exhumed by . . . Johnny Depp?!).

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