America is a diverse country with different colored people scatter all over different states. It has a long history of colonialism and cultural evolution. When thinking of terms like “colored” or “race”, our first mind may often come with African Americans. Perhaps the civil war or the civil right movement has marked a huge monument in the American history, it has ended the injustice and cruel treatment of people living in the same country who supposed to be united. The slavery and the segregation were abolished; the hanging trees and violence were all over. However, racism still exists through stereotype causing by the remaining images from the past.
Along with the long history of the United States, the American cinema stands to entertain audiences and to reflect the ongoing soci-political issues. To target various audiences, directors usually understand well the taste of audiences before they make the movie. Further, audiences are easily to influence by the movie, they digest and understand the movie, and decide whether the movie giving out right or wrong message. Black movies were mostly made by white filmmakers in the United States. However, we might question that neither the white filmmaker knows about the black history, nor he has any experience that black people had encountered. Spike Lee’s authentic Four Little Girls and Bamboozled recall us the history of blackness, and bring out how stereotyping image is still been made in American cinema. With that said, this paper will discuss how Four Little Girls and Bamboozled recall us the history of blackness, and bring out how stereotyping image is still been made in American cinema.
Four Little Girls
This movie is very eye opening. I vaguely recall reading about this event in high school. I feel like the film did a great job at humanizing the little girls and their families. Instead of just thinking about the tragedy in a kind of abstract way, it allows you to relate to what happened in a much more visceral way (Elena). The film by Spike Lee showed the memoires of unfair treatment and violence in Four Little Girls that took place in Alabama. However it was a far cry from Bamboozled where content was satirical, showing its characters all in blackface, performing in a watermelon patch. Four Little Girls on the other was more serious where as Bamboozled appeared to be a mockery of African-Americans. In getting a good detail image of how these memories in Four Little Girls which were still very much alive in the parents and families of the victims today, Spike Lee captured intense one on one interviews with those that remembered the Civil Rights Movement. The film went even a step further because it developed a back story before the bombing even took place (Elena). The Civil Rights Movement becomes more real to everyone when all of the protagonists in the documentary are suddenly made real for everyone to see. It is interesting and touching how the victims’ parents are able to sit still why they tell the audience their accounts through their stories, words, and pictures of who the girls were and how they lived. They also show very key things such as the girls’ badges, awards, and really sentimental things such as certificates (Manthia). There was also one very touching scene where the Bible that one had in her pocketbook the day one of the little girls were in the church basement while attending the Sunday school. However, in Bamboozled there were no touching scenes because it appeared to be a movie full of ridicule and sarcasm very much unlike Four Little Girls.
It was obvious that during this period a lot of the racism was positioned in the South, in residences like Birmingham Alabama. The whole city was still mainly segregated and this caused it to be the center of attention for the mounting civil rights movement. When it came unfair treatment during the time before the church explosions, there were a lot of things going on during the south. For one, segregation was at its most high and there were some increasing hostility among white southerners towards blacks. The white administrators, who were more or less looked at as the antagonists in the documentary, talked about that same era from their standpoint. By means of interposing photographs of lynched black men that had a white sign around their neck with the words “This Nigger Voted”, written all over it. During this era the white men always found some kind of way to come up with common yet hypocritical comments of how Birmingham was an enjoyable place to bring up a family. It was their way of painting a peachy perfect picture of what “White Southern America” had looked like which was totally opposite from the Black world. The documentary depicted the black side of the story as anything but being able to raise a family in what they considered to be a “decent world”. Truth be told, Spike Lee made sure that that image of perfectness was disclosed by showing the unfair treatment of black folks during this time. The footage of the declaration of segregation by George Wallace was done very well. Lee even manages to speak to George Wallace, who was the former governor of Alabama during the time of the disaster, and one of the most opinionated advocates of segregation. Obviously when Wallace did the interview he was greatly endeavoring to re-shape his political legacy, even though judging from the results from the documentary, not very positively. When almost a person like Wallace entire life has been an exercise in bigotry and intolerance, gesticulating for an obviously embarrassed African-American worker to step into camera shot in order to get some kind of positive interview, clearly is not going to help at all. The idea that Wallace does this over and over so many times makes an individual possibly suspect that he does not possibly believe it himself. It’s oddly sad and pathetic at the same time. The documentary shows how the Birmingham establishment and police responded to peaceful protests with violence, often using attack dogs and fire-hoses. The even more extreme members of the community, namely the lunatics in the Ku Klux Klan, had been pursuing a bombing campaign against African-American homes ever since it was the 1940s (Black).
Meanwhile the documentary is able to capture an Alabama circuit judge defending the heavy-handed police reply to civil rights activists on the foundation that, “fire-hoses were not the worst thing that could have taken place”. He furthermore argues that despite whatever the media was saying, Birmingham in the 1950s was the place to grow up (Manthia). However, Spike Lee skillfully manages to undercut this with archive film of hundreds of completely robed Klansman parading through the streets, and photos of southern lynchings (Manthia).
The documentary called Four Little Girls – documentary film- resonated audience emotion in a lot of ways. For one it was very graphic but in a very good way. The fact that Spike Lee was able to show scenes that were probably never seen before added a very good element to the film. The film was able to resonate to the audiences because in 1963 those that were members of the Klan set off an explosive stratagem in a local church that managed to kill four African-American girls that were attending the Sunday school (Black). This was able to grab the audience attention and this act of barbarity mobilized the national media and really forced them to pay close attention to what was happening in the south, lastly obliging the government to take action. This is much like the impact that this film has had on the audience. Depicting the struggle in the film of blacks was another thing that will resonate with the audience. What made it so resonating was the struggle that moved on to the younger generation (Elena). Emotion had to be moved when watching the police men arresting helpless people and then placing them in the jail cells. The quick presence of students into the movement permitted for an enormous quantity of young individuals to come together and object to full strength. It started off first with the high school students, then it moved on to the junior high, and then end the end finally grade school students. The audience would probably be in tears when they watch as a younger child had been inquired by her mother where they had been that day, the child arrogantly supposed, “I was in jail.” “In jail? How and what were you doing in jail?” requested her surprised mother. The child replied, “in order to get freedom.” (Elena)
One thing that was very emotional and probably brought the audience to their knees is the interviews. Spike Lee managed to get a whole bunch of testimonies from the black citizens of Birmingham which were intertwined logically. When the audience is able to look at these faces, sadness will first come to their countenance because it is obvious that these families of the victims are still dealing with something that was so violent and so unnecessary (Manthia). It was clear that Spike Lee wanted to catch all of the sentiments of those being interviewed because it was important for the audience to get a full idea of what had happened over 40 something years ago. Hope in addition to fear spoke from their words as they invested courage into the population’s young individuals who arrogantly paraded to jail. Understated reassurance of the young was the way the black community maintained their role in the Civil Rights movement. One teacher had made the point that when she mentioned to her class in regards to the protests and protests that were appealing students to the streets, the teacher then went on to state, “I am really anticipating that when I go to the chalkboard and turn my back to write on it that when I turn back around I will not find and anyone that will leave out of my classroom.” Of course, when she decided to turn back around, the entire classroom had left out without even saying a word. However, there appears to be some a scent of pride in her voice when she comments about how the classroom became empty within seconds.
The music and images in the film were superb. There were different scenes that had different beats of music. Some of the music was intense to show the intense scenes. For instance, the scenes that showed that Birmingham had a history of bombs being utilized in order to make points that were political. Other intense scenes that had strong music, were when it showed the existence of industry, the steel mills, and foundries, which were made in order for the bombs to be created. The music here had more of a fast pace tone to it. Possibly, for the reason that the scenes that were displayed, were scenes in the film that depicted the evil of the bomb that was being made. Spike Lee probably had the music to speed up like this to show the malice but at the same time to rush the film through these scenes (Elena). Starting with Joan Baez's version of Richard Farina's plaintiff " Birmingham Sunday" as background music, Lee's camera was able to arrange the audience with moving shots of the individual graves of the four girls, contrasted with their blameless wide-eyed photos, archived film, and current day honoring to the momentous happening. However, later on in the film come the appalling morgue photos that are possibly way too intense for some of the audience to watch (it is hazardous to even imagine the damage that a pack of dynamite can do when it is done at close range), nonetheless Spike was able to discerningly leaves them only on screen for a very short moment. It is apparent that what Lee is able to accomplish the most is to try and make sure that the girls are personalized -- Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carol Robinson--through close memories from neighbors, family, and friends and by means of pictures and home movies.
The images in the film were really powerful probably more than the music because without the images, there is not much of a story. The images in Four Little Girls are what have built the story. Spike lee made sure that he not only showed images that will be able to build a story but also to grab the sentiments of people as mentioned earlier in the essay. Filled with grief when the bombing took place, no one in the black community of Birmingham took the kind of personal touch that the therapeutic passage of time now gives. However, when Cynthia Wesley's sister starts reading a journal entry that came from her mother remembering Cynthia's slip displaying underneath the yellow dress that she was wearing to church on the day of the disaster, her prudently deliberate formal reading suddenly just breaks down into a whole bunch of tears. There are numerous of other scenes that show the individual side to each of the girls, putting a real face on what most people have recognized as a news occurrence or historical occurrence. All of the surviving relatives and friends were able to describe how subtle Denise when she was a little girl held a "bird funeral," how extremely shy Cynthia was adopted by a school principal and his wife, and how not to mention the outgoing Carol was a girl that was active in the girl scouts and then played the clarinet. The main disaster remains how three girls all at the age of fourteen year old and one eleven-year-old had their lives taken away from them in a blink of an eye done by complete strangers, simply because of the color of their skin--a really hideous hate crime.
Other images that stand out are Denise's parents, Chris and Maxine McNair, who are the ones that Spike Lee had contacted a lot of years before about the option of doing the film in the first place, recognizing that the husband was the important person in the community. With his blessing and trust, others similarly collaborate, and to make this type of sensitive film really does require great teamwork and whole trust in the filmmaker. Chiefly touching is Chris' story that talked about the time that he had to explain to his daughter that he was not able to but her a hamburger at the local drugstore because she was a black little girl. Showing these types of images had a profound effect on those that watched it simply because it was able to show them how hard times were. However, what would really move the audience was that there was a small child that was involved. Using children in this documentary, not to mention the murder of kids was something that would touch any audience.
The fact that the film touches a period in history that many want to ignore says a lot about the different images. The audience would be moved because it would be like opening a can of worms or maybe even Pandora box. It would be interesting to see how the images may have affected both races once watching the documentary. It appeared that with the images being shown that it would have really moved the audience more than the musical score even though it did have some effect while watching. Both images and music can influence the human sentiment. The Four Little Girls was the perfect piece to do that with because of the Civil Rights subject matter.
This film was able to show the various black stereotypes that haunt black people through films. Spike Lee was able to show this through this movie. Many people have often looked at all African Americans as either being lazy or dim-witted or a bunch of dark people that were willing and ready to please a white man. It was always “Yes sir or no sir master” almost like it was in the times of slavery the short answer is, no. However, during the course of the 1800s and early 1900s, numerous individuals believed this (Black). However, the ultimate question is, why? As it had been talked about in the film Ethnic Notions, this untrue insight was something that appeared to grow and grow, even way past the time when of slavery, had ended all because of certain images that were shown (Black)Pejorative descriptions of African Americans as "savages," or "happy servants" were all over the place; they were even published in a lot of the famous children's books at the time and then they were placed on cans of food to be used as a marketing tool. Most individuals actually bought into this awareness of African Americans, as they became adapted to it.
In Bambozzled the stereotypes were outrageous to some particularly when the discussed how the black people talked by using poor language and even slang. It appeared that all black individuals were actually that way and they were not. The Black Cinema managed to make it look as if light skinned blacks were considered to be more beautiful because they were close to white and that their skin made them much better than darker skinned blacks. Bambozzled tried to show that if a black person had darker skin than they were looked at as being much more masculine than lighter skinned black people. Bambozzled had the stereo type that when white men married black women; it was because of the old myth of what went on back in slavery when white men would rape black women.
Bamboozled was shot completely using cheap digital technology unlike Four Little Girls which was shot using 24p motion picture. The whole idea that Bamboozled
was shot digitally also signifies a big change in hip-hop from the audio sampling era, which was ultimately "analog" in it's feel and look to the inexpensive synthesizer age which was rather digital low rent much different from Four Little Girls where the budget was far from cheap. The change in the sound of hip-hop also represented a change in the direction that hip-hop was moving in. Bamboozled came out in the year 2000, and showed a big shift in the African-American hip-hop community. The eighties were suppose to have been the golden age of hip-hop and were all about doing things such as partying, the nineties appeared to be more about thoroughness but the whole thing was dumbed down throughout the last decade, which is the decade that Bamboozled
speaks to unlike Four Little Girls which speaks to a more serious era which was the Civil Rights Era. During the time, people had to accept that Spike Lee's characterizations had something to do with the nineties in Bamboozled, but more of what Spike Lee spoke to essentially came forth in the last part of the decade. There are a few important matters to look at when considering Bamboozled. Bamboozled appear to show the refusal of positive Black culture in place of the approval of ill-informed Black culture unlike Four Little Girls which showed a more serious side of black culture. The characters in Bamboozled that desired to be optimistic, but was essentially from the 'hood, was told by the bourgeois Black man from Harvard that his thoughts were too philosophical of The Cosby Show. It was an spookily guess of what BET would transform into. The utilization of alienated African-Americans, who in this case presented outside of the system on the street, to succeed the bidding and make the show a truth.
When comparing the difference between the two documentaries, it is clear that one had a more serious approach and the other was not. The Four Little Girls showed a picture of a more serious time in history when there was a lot of hate and disgust toward those that were African-American. The Cinematography in the Four Little Girls was much brighter and captured much more footage than Bambozzled did. Four Little Girls was a film that had a much more sad effect on the audience whereas Bambozzled had a much more angry effect on those that viewed it because it appeared that it was something that was making fun of the racist history. Four Little Girls was a period when violence and murder was present and the scenes were really depending on the interview to convey the story. Both moved audience emotion in different ways. One with more fear and the other with much more resentment within the African-American race because it appeared to be a mockery.
Black, Ray. "Satire's Cruelest Cut: Exorcising Blackness In Spike Lee's Bamboozled."." Black Scholar 33.1 (2013).
Elena, Alberto, and López M. Díaz. The Cinema of Latin America. London: Wallflower, 2003.
Manthia, Diawara. Black American Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2003.