Final Project

 

African-Americans have been victims to what is known as colorism for many years. Colorism is discrimination against others due to their skin color. Darker skinned people are considered less intelligent, less desirable, in women mostly, and are overall seen as a lesser people. Lighter skinned people tend to have higher social standing, more positive networks, and more opportunities to succeed than those of a darker complexion. The issue of colorism has been around since slavery. Slave masters would favor light skinned African Americans and gave them the task of being “house slaves,” while dark skinned slaves were looked at as being inferior and were given the task of being “field slaves.” This division amongst African American people continued to become a serious issue in the culture and has created stereotypes for individuals that are light skinned and dark skinned. Since then, African Americans have been judging each other by their skin tone.

 

Historically, light skinned blacks have been the individuals that many feel are in the position of power because they closely resemble the aesthetics and visible characteristics of European people. For many African Americans, color bias plays a major role in how they interact with other members of their group. Growing up as a light skinned African American girl, my interactions with darker skinned females were not always pleasant. Darker skinned girls would sometimes make comments in regards to my complexion such as “light bright,” or “High yellow.” I never really become offended by these words until I was old enough to understand the seriousness behind he issue of colorism. Being that darker skinned women are often seen as the victims of colorism, it would sometime upset me that many people didn’t understand that light skinned woman also experienced hatred due to their skin complexion. I believe that that there is a color gap in privilege in the black community, and that it has historical roots in the mixed race sexual relationships of slaves and their masters. These unions created color imbalances and a distance in privilege between lighter and darker skinned Africans in America. These imbalances have traveled into the 21st century, and has remained an unfortunate issue in the black community for entirely too long.

 

With this video I hope to shed light on the issue of colorism through interviewing various African American women and asking them their perspective on the issue and how it has played a role in their lives.

 

 

Sources

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MB9Ul6czJEE

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xD2WYJTG8ig

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9f08-OYGTA

 

https://storify.com/lifeclass/oprah-s-lifeclass-with-iyanla-vanzant-colorism

 

 

 Interviewees

Autumn Smith

Melenie Morgan

Vanessa Vaughn

Melissa Brown

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Director Neema Barnette: “Woman art thou loosed on the 7th day”

The film director that I chose to focus on is a well-respected African American film director by the name of Neema Barnette. Barnette is the first African-American woman sitcom director, and was the first African-American woman to get a three-picture deal with Sony. In 1990, she founded Harlem Girl Productions Corporation. I was introduced to Barnette’s film “Civil Brand” in the year 2009, after working on a high school project that focused on female prisons. Ever since that time, I have been intrigued with Barnette’s work after learning that she has directed successful projects that I grew up watching such as “The Cosby Show,” and “7th heaven.”

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On May 8, 2012, Neema gave the opening speech at the American Film Institute’s Hollywood showcase for its Directing Workshop for Women. Neema had been selected for the workshop in the early 1970s, she was living in harlem at the time, experiencing harsh living conditions and was chosen to take part in an intensive training program that she said changed her destiny in life. During an interview with popular urban site “AllHipHop.com,” Neema Barnette describes her journey as a director and she states that her job is not only to be a filmmaker, but it is also to be a storyteller. “I got into film because I feel its one of the strongest social and political tools we have…because it was a ‘mind molding’ art,” is an quote from Barnette during the interview that illustrates her love for film. She thoroughly and continuously showcases examples of auteur through her films and television shows. Making sure that she is always the major creative force in all of her projects is what makes her the successful director that she is today. Although it was not always easy for Barnette to be able have the control and allow her work to be seen as a personal stamp of her directing abilities, she never gave up. After watching the interview, I learned that Barnette struggled to make a name for herself in the film industry. Although her projects were exceptionally constructed, she states that Hollywood was simply not interested in the type of plots that she wanted to focus on.

 

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I decided to explore the film “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day,” (2012) in which Barnette took much pride in directing. The plotline revolves around the kidnapping of a six-year-old daughter an upscale New Orleans couple, and over the course of seven days they begin to uncover secrets about their past that could rip their marriage and lives apart all while trying to find their daughter. One of the major themes in the film is women empowerment. The main character of the film illustrates great strength, and it drives home an important point that women are indeed the backbone of their families. When watching the movie a year ago, I remember a scene in which the main characters husband asks her “Were you a hoe?” During that scene I felt as if the director was trying to illustrate the many issues that women go through in terms of having to uphold a certain image, and also having to prove her sexual innocence to a man in order for him to consider her a worthy woman.

 

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Neema Barnette identifies her role as auteur in this film by deciding to direct the film after initially feeling as if the storyline was not one that she seemed interested in. During an interview when being asked the question “How did you get involved Women Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day? Did it come to you? Did you fight for it?” Barnette answered by stating, “Well, the producers called me up and said they had a script and they weren’t interested in doing it. I read the script and I said, “hell no!” I didn’t want to do the movie.” After rethinking it, Barnette than became the major creative force for the film. She began to re-write the scenes and the roles of the characters. Barnette created a character illustrating a poor black woman whose child is also missing in the film. She wanted to show the difference between poor blacks and blacks with money, and the distinction in social classes. The poor black woman whose daughter was abducted in the film couldn’t even get her little girl’s picture in the news, while the rich couple was able to make a few phone calls in order to get thousands of people to help with the search for their child. One of the ways that Barnette constructed her ideas for the film was by arranging a meeting with the writer of the movie. After talking with him she stated that she began to find out some of the things he was interested in saying in the script, which helped her visual many elements that she wanted to showcase throughout the film. After visualizing many scenes for the movie, Barnette than began to think about certain actors that she felt would be a best fit for each of the roles. She phoned them up, sent them the script and waited for an answer from each of them. During an interview, Barnette discusses how she went about choosing one of the characters for the movie and she gave an in depth description of the process:

I wanted Nicole to play a role in another movie I’m doing. I found her when I looked at American Violet. I said, ‘who is this sister?!’ She was brilliant. When this movie came up, I presented her and they were like, “no, she’s not this, she’s not that.” I fought so long and so hard for Nicole. Finally, they gave in and let me tell you, it was the best move they ever made.

When I went for Nicole, I went for a quality young actress who was brilliant and they maybe wanted a different kind of look. They finally were happy that I did get her. She’s one of the most brilliant people on that movie. She turned that sucker out! You hear me?! She is fabulous and I knew she would be. When I called her, I let her know that I would allow her to do things with the role that she wanted to do. I think she’s going to be one of the best new actresses to tell you the truth. Let me tell you, she’s smokin’ hot in this movie! Just like we knew she would be” – Barnette

 

By giving the actors/actresses the option to have input on the roles that they were chosen to play definitely showcases how open minded she is when directing a project. I feel as if the process that she used in picking actors and actresses for each role allowed her to fully take control of the project. It is very evident that Hollywood’s directors tend to make a film in their way, or in their vision and when this is the case people learn things from films and this is why it is important to recognize who is the person who wrote the screenplay, who is the person who is directing this film. After reading Maggie Humm’s “Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film,” I began to think of one of the ideas stated in the article. In regards to films, the signature of product varies significantly depending on the gender of the interpreter (Humm). In this particular film, this theory was showcased numerous times. Due to the fact that Barnette is indeed a woman, the roles and scenes that she decided to incorporate into the film definitely showcased an unmistakable personal stamp of the director. When speaking about the film, Barnette states, “I wanted the African American female character in the film to be a hero. If she can pick herself up once, she can do it again, and everybody has flaws, everybody falls down.” With this being said, the film definitely portrays a personal reflection of the way that Barnette see’s herself and how she sees many other African American women worldwide.  Literature and film shape society. Maggie Humm expresses concern over the failures of film’s interpretations on novels by saying, “While more than half of all commercial films have literary origins, the coupling of auteur/author or literature/film is continually contested.” (Humm, 90)  If women are in charge of making these films, society would be able to view more of situations from womens perspectives.

After raking in $1.3M at the box office,the movie received mixed reviews when it was released. Many critics believed that it was very melodramatic, while others believed that the drama and suspense is what made the movie great. Many of Barnette’s projects are viewed as being socially- and politically-charged, while also being projects that often defines the narrow stereotypes of African-Americans usually depicted in entertainment. I believe that Neema Barnette is one of the best female film directors in the business, and I feel that her films will continue to tell stories that need to be told to the world.

 

 

Works cited:

 

Humm, Maggie “Author/Autor: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film.”

 

Perry, Clayton “Neema Barnette: Harlemite Speaks On Being the First Black Female With a Major Studio Deal.” 16 April 2012.  26 April 2014.  <http://allhiphop.com>

 

Martinez, Vanessa. “Exclusive! Neema Barnette Talks “On The 7th Day” Re-Writes, Casting Nicole Beharie + New Film on Boy Reincarnated as Dalai Lama.” Shadow and Act. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/exclusive-neema-barnette-talks-on-the-7th-day-paff-premiere-upcoming-projects-more&gt;.

Feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a perfect example of a feminist bringing attention to women and minorities in the media industry. Being a woman and a minority all in one, Adichie uses her words and videos to spread a message of equality amongst all. Not many people are knowledgeable of Adichie’s work due to the fact that she was born and raised in Nigeria. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recently a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Awards on March 14th, 2014. The awards, given annually to books published in the United States in English, are chosen by a group of nearly 600 critics and editors from major publications that cover books. Adichie’s novel, “Americanah” (Knopf), about a young woman who leaves Nigeria to pursue a college education in the United States, has been praised for its incisive discussion of race, immigration and social dynamics. (New York times). When publishing the book, Adichie made a statement in regards to the double standards that come into play when a male and female decide to publish a book based on love. Adichie states, ‘Don’t we all write about love? When men do it, it’s a political comment. When women do it, it’s just a love story.”

Comparing her life in Nigeria to her life in America, Adichie gives a very interesting take on the way life is for women in Nigeria. “Yes. When women do say something, not only is it more likely to be ignored, but the women themselves are accepting of it being ignored. So they’re less likely to push back. That happens less often in Nigeria. Women in corporate settings are more likely to be vocal. Why does she think that is? “Because although there’s a lot of gender bullshit in Nigeria, I think women in the West have a lot more invested in being liked. And being liked if you’re female means a certain thing. So in workplaces, women who are bosses in Nigeria are fierce. The people who work for them, men and women, respect them. But, these are women who very keenly perform gender stereotypes when they go back home. And if they give a public interview, they have to say, “My husband supported me and allowed me to.” Adichie believes that without equal opportunity for its women, Africa will persist as a continent laden with struggles. However, with women as equal partners, with women as painters, writers, architects, presidents, engineers, and scientists, Africa can become a place where equality exist.

Adichie prides herself in being a woman that is able to use different outlets to speak about issues that she feels should gain as much attention as possible in order to create change. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, which recounts the experiences of two sisters during the Biafran war also discusses gender inequality. “You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?’ Aunty Ifeka said. ‘Your life belongs to you and you alone.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun). With these publications, I feel that Adichie is taking a stand for woman in society. With alternative media such as the Internet, women like Adichie are able to provide influential advice and words of wisdom to women across the globe.

Adichie delivered a talk entitled “We Should All Be Feminists” at the TEDxEuston conference in 2013, discussing gender inequality in Africa, a topic often addressed in her novels. Using personal experiences and anecdotes, she uncovers the distinctly patriarchal nature of Nigeria and its individual and collective implications. In her TEDx Talk, Adichie spoke of the constant dismissal directed at women in Nigeria. Adichie recalled young girls being taught primarily how to cook for their brothers, despite them being highly intelligent, and capable of being useful for many other things besides cooking. Singer, Beyoncé Knowles, sampled Adichie’s words on her single entitled “Flawless.” The song is used to empower women, and to tell make women feel as if they are flawless at all times.

 

http://youtu.be/D_GoVj21Dy4?t=1m20s

 

http://mnwomen.org/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-nigerian-feminist-and-author/

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Works cited

Nixon, Rob (October 1, 2006). “A Biafran Story”. New York Times. Retrieved 04 April 2014..

“Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”. Random House. Retrieved 04 April 2014.

“Picture of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”. The Guardian. Retrieved 04 April 2014.

Advertising: Post 3

Advertising is a successful marketing strategy that helps bring attention to a product. Without advertisement, the world we live in would not fully function. Think about it. Ads allow people to find jobs on a daily basis, when reading newspaper individuals often pay attention to the ads printed in the newspapers in order to learn about new employment opportunities. Ads that are seen all over Times Square is what pulls people in to a product and persuades them to buy that particular product, whether it is an pair of jeans, a watch or a piano. In class, when discussing different clothing ads, the Calvin Klein brand was pinpointed due to the sexual images that the ads often posses. Many people are constantly outraged by the images of these ads, and although I agree that they are a little too racy, the fact that sex sells cannot be denied when looking at the statistics of how well these companies are doing. When researching additional information about Calvin Klein ads, I came across an article published by ABC news. The article discussed the controversy surrounding the ads, and the negative message that it sends to young adults. ABC news stated that they reached out to the Calvin Klein corporation and did not receive an answer, but states that the company previously addressed the issue by stating that their ads were solely based on them wanting to “create a very sexy campaign that speaks to our targeted demographic.” When reading this comment, I believe that the targeted demographic that the company speaks of is indeed adolescents and young adults. People that fall into those particular age groups are much more open to sexuality than those that are older than them. I believe that advertisements are somewhat responsible for the acceptance that these people have about sexual images, racism and other societal issues. Here is the link to the article.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=7854000

In the article, Beauty and the Beast of Advertising, Kilbourne accurately explains the relationship between gender roles and advertisements by stating, “Advertising images do not cause these problems, but they contribute to them by creating a climate in which the marketing of women’s bodies – the sexual sell and dismemberment, distorted body image ideal and children as sex objects – is seen as acceptable.” In Kilbourne’s approach, she doesn’t aim to solely blame ads that are published for all to see, but instead she blames them for only adding to issues that have already existed for years. The fact that women are already seen as sexual objects is something that many people already have negative views on, but when ads are constantly reinforcing these images and putting messages into society as if it is okay, than the problem only continues to get worse. I agree with Kilbourne due to the fact that societal issues that have been around for centuries aren’t simply going to disappear, but if society continues to create ads, television shows or movies that support negative perceptions of men and women, how will the issue ever get resolved? Young adults growing up will see images that exploit women and began to believe that this is how they should think and also began to think that this how women should be treated.

Subliminal advertising also comes into play when discussing issues such as racism, sexism and power hierarchies found in so many of these advertisements. Subliminal advertising is the act of placing fleeting or hidden images in commercial content in the hopes that viewers will process them unconsciously. By doing so, people view ads and are unaware of the sexual, racial (etc) message that they are being exposed to. Many people argue that subliminal advertisements have no effect on an individual thought process, but others believe that ads that display blatant sexual or racial content definitely play a major role in shaping the minds of many people.

Examples of subliminal advertising with sexual intent:

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Whether people like it or not, advertisements have the ability to shape, persuade, and control the minds of many. Think about it, would advertisers make an ad that they felt wouldn’t have an effect on society? Would they create an ad with the intent to not get people to agree with, or like the product that they are advertising? I think not. These advertisers create ads that they know will have an impact on society, whether it is a negative or positive one. On the contrary, there are indeed many examples of positive advertisements. There are advertisements that challenge the popular beliefs of society, and in the article “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising,” Anthony Cortese discusses the power that advertisements have in regards to challenging and informing society of alternatives to images or messages being presented to society by the media. Society hardly ever thinks to challenge what is being presented to us. We seemed to be conditioned to listen and not question. When seeing images that we may not agree with, we do not automatically challenge whatever it is that the ad states…instead we accept it for what it is.

An alternative path for the industry can consist of positive advertisements being made. Ads that focus on the bringing society together and promoting positive change can help make an impact on the world and change the minds of people who are only use to seeing ads that promote sex, racism, drug use etc. Not only should the creation of positive ads take place, but also finding a way to increase integrity within the industry can serve as a big help the problem. People that create these ads are regular human beings, meaning that they have the same emotions and feelings that we all have. What is missing in some of these people is integrity. Knowing that you have to go home and sleep peacefully at night after working on an ad that promotes the very thing that society is struggling to diminish is something that the creators of these ads should think about. If they are being paid as much money to create positive ads, rather than negative ones, than the choice should be simple.

Here’s a link to a writing piece that discusses issues such as racism being illustrated through advertisements

http://web.wm.edu/americanstudies/370/2005F/sp6/effects_effects_on_society.htm

Here is the link to a wordpress blog that entitled “Sex Shouldn’t Sell” that discusses sex and ads.

http://sexshouldntsell.wordpress.com

WHO I AM.

Who am I? I feel as If this is a question that no one will ever be able to answer 100% accurately due to the fact that as the days pass, we as human beings continue to learn something new about ourselves everyday. As of now, I believe that I am young adult trying to find my niche. I am somewhat interested in zodiac signs and often relate my actions to my sign, and being that I am a Virgo I am undoubtedly very observant, opinionated, helpful, loving, and hardworking. I constantly browse the web all day, searching for new information on a variety of topics. A typical day for me consists of school, work music, and browsing the web. Last year during Lent I decided to take a break from all of my social networking pages, and surprisingly after the first two days it didn’t feel as if the task was as difficult as I thought it would be. This showed me that media can brainwash a person (me in particular) into thinking that without it their life would seem much more dull than it really is. As a young adult growing up in a time where media is taking over everything, I feel as if I play a huge role in media consumption.

Media is definitely an influential part of my life, as it is to many other individuals due to the fact that information is so easily transferred from person to person with the click of a button. In many ways, I believe that media can also be seen as the downfall for many personal relationships, due to the fact that everyone now depends on media to get their message across instead of the old fashion way of picking up the telephone, writing a letter, or simply speaking in person. These days, if a person wants to get a message to someone else, they log onto their social media account and send the message so that the whole world is able to view it, in addition the person that the message was meant for. I feel as if that particular action has bridged an even wider gap between society and social classes.

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https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/734763914/social-media-ruined-my-life-a-short-film-from-adam

“Male Gaze” and “The Oppositional Gaze”

Male gaze is a term that is used when describing visuals such as film, movies, television etc. The perspective that these visuals are seen is in solely from a male’s point of view, and any woman displayed in the visuals are usually objectified. The male’s gaze in the visuals illustrates the fact that the men have strong feelings of entitlement and higher ranking than the woman. In “Ways of Seeing” John Berger states that “men act and women appear” (47). This illustrates the fact that women are not playing an important role in communication that takes place between a male and female, they are more so just existing as human beings while the male controls everything. Berger also states that women “have to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life” (Berger 46). This quote made me think of the many times growing up where I have witnessed older women tell their daughters to look a certain way and wear certain things in order to attract a man and to also make sure that she does it accurately enough in order for the man to consider marrying her. This illustrates that fact that people believe that a man proposing to a woman means that the woman has accomplished something in life, not due to the fact that the woman has accomplished something that is self reflective, but due to the fact that she has a man to showcase.  

 Laura Mulvey also addresses the relationship between men and women in the media in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” she discusses the male gaze by stating “pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female” (837). An example of this Is an old Gucci ad where a woman is shown, without her face, wearing a tight black dress and a male is sitting on the bed gazing at the woman while buttoning his pants. The ad clearly is illustrating that the male and female just finished engaging in a sexual act, and the gaze that the male is giving the female as she stands with her back towards him is very intense. The looks reminds me of when I’m walking home at night and I have to walk past a crowd of guys and they began to whistle and howl at me, I immediately speed up and try to walk as fast as I can in order to get away from the men. At the same time, I am very careful of the attitude that I give off due to the fact that I can easily by taken advantage of by the guys if they sense that I am rudely rejecting them. I have to come to understand this structure as a way of life, although it is something that I wish was very different. I often think of ways that can help to change the way society operates, but at this point in time I feel as if there is little that can be done due to the fact that everyone seems to subconsciously accept such behavior. Personally, I try to acknowledge when I fall accustomed to society and when recognize that I am engaging in certain behavior that society feels woman should engage in, it helps me to realize that I should be more aware of my own actions in order to help others

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 A few more examples of ads:

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The Oppositional Gaze is another structure in which Bell Hooks examines, which focuses on black representation in media and the way that black women are seen as powerless to society. For example, in many television shows and movies black women play the role of the submissive and less intelligent human being, while white women play the role of the strong and bossy leader. Hook states states that “even when representations of black women were present in film, our bodies and being were there to serve – to enhance and maintain white womanhood as object of the phallocentric gaze” (119).  Black women were portrayed in films and television shows, but the way they were portrayed weren’t 100% accurate nor was it practical. I remember watching shows such as “Good Times,” and “Maude” and the white women in the show always had the upper hand and held the most power in their relationships with the black women. This made me reflect back to the times in high school when I was the only black girl amongst a group of white friends, none of them ever made me feel as if I was less than them and we all connected on many different levels. Although they never seemed to believe that they were in higher positions of power than me, they often told me stories about how their grandparents wouldn’t accept them having black friends due to the fact that they were raised during the time where segregation still existed. That goes to show you that times do change and as the world progresses, issue that were prevalent back in time, may not be prevalent during this day in age. 

 

 Here’s an link to the famous speech “We should all be feminists,” by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which addresses several issues in society in regards to women.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc

 “Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”