March 2011 Archives

Although there were some that felt Body and Soul was a terrible representation of the African American population, why was its' message still generally accepted by the African American community even though they were depicted poorly?
The two main reasons I feel Body and Soul received a good reception from critics and fellow African Americans were; the majority of the plot takes place in a "dream world," and the story takes place in a rural town.
Throughout Body and Soul, Oscar Micheaux decided to bring attention to the harsh truths he felt defined his fellow African Americans. He wished to show them their faults, and teach them that perhaps they were their own worst enemy. He even negatively portrays perhaps the most respected individual in the African American community, the minister. By making the story only a part of a "dream world" in the conclusion, he was able to pass his "moral fabric" lesson on without angering his fellow African Americans. This was due to the fact that they were led to believe the story had never really happened. In other words, the audience was able to disconnect themselves from the characters in the story because it had happened in only a "dream world."
The second main reason why he received positive reviews was that the story takes place in a small rural town. This allowed critics and other African Americans from large cities to differentiate from the characters in the story. They were able to believe that the wrongs committed by these characters could never occur in a larger city, and essentially by themselves. This is very similar to the way white racism on other races is spoken about today. Many white people believe racism only occurs in southern, lower-class, less educated people. However, it is still seen today in all parts of our nation. Constantly people make the headlines for racist remarks. By being able to project the malicious acts in Body and Soul onto rural town folk, critics and other African Americans were able to escape from having to identify with the wrongs committed in the story.
My question is on Oscar Micheaux and last week's D.W. Griffith, Why were these filmmakers at the time so consumed with giving "moral fabric" lessons? What drove them to this obsession?

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