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bell hooks

In her lecture “Cultural Criticism and Transformation� bell hooks offered a host of strategies for viewing films critically. She wants the viewer to consider: Who made the film? Who is the money behind the film? Who is the intended consumer of the film? Who is the film about and how are the characters portrayed in the film? More often than not in today’s mainstream movie machine, the answers to these questions can be found within what she refers to as the “white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy� (ws, c, p). As she pointed out, these are “interlocking systems of domination� that are all working in tandem to keep themselves in place. And she cautioned that simply looking at one aspect (race, gender, etc) on its own doesn’t give us any real insight because the representations offered via the mass media are always more complex. I think that falling into this trap is rather easy because often there is one issue that seems more prominent than others might seem.

Her critique of rap music illustrates this very well. At first glance the overt sexism might seem most prominent. However, she reminds us that the target consumers are usually white, suburban, teenage boys and that the men running the corporations which distribute the music are executives worshiping in the house of capitalism and that the usually black rappers are simply doing the same. Presto- together they all work to reinforce the system of “ws, c, p� and they do it quite well. She said “images mean something,� and truly what we see is no accident. hooks wants us to always be mindful that all we see on TV and in the movies has a filter that is controlled by people (the “ws, c, p�) in power who most often stand to gain financially from what is being shown.

It’s really interesting to me how easy it is to lose sight of all this when at the cinema. After listening to the lecture I was feeling a bit bad about how I quite often passively consume while I watch films. Then I realized while watching the movie “Cars� with my 2 ½ year old nephew that we are conditioned into the “ws, c, p� from very early in our lives. The main car in this movie is a boy (narrated by a white man) and the girl car does nothing to forward the plot, which is one of the topics treated in Laura Mulvey’s piece. Then I thought about other animated “kid� movies I’d seen ("Antz," "Shrek") and the same basically held true. I haven’t seen "Finding Nemo," "Bee Movie" or "Wall-E," but I’m pretty sure the main characters are boys. I guess it makes sense, that in order to perpetuate itself the “ws, c, p� would start on us young in order to successfully lull us into complacency. With all this in mind, I feel like it would be impossible not to see the agenda behind film images, but I know it’s not always obvious. So for future I plan to keep vigilant and mindful while viewing.
Thanks for listening.


You're absolutely right. I can't stand watching little kid movies becaue of how they portray women. I haven't given much thought to how they portray other races, which is something I'll have to keep a closer eye on in the future, but the woman thing I definitely noticed.

Disney movies in general, specifically the princess movies, should never be shown to little girls. The plots of all of them are simply terrible. Cinderalla only has all of her dreams come true because she's pretty...and she's great at cleaning. The Little Mermaid gives up everything for a guy she's never met, who falls in love with her without her ever having to say a word. Beauty and the Beast teaches girls that they should stick with the violent, controlling boyfriend because he's really a nice guy on the inside.

I could rant about Disney movies forever, but I think that sums up my main problems quite nicely. =)

I have never really thought critically about the films that I watch. I too "passively consume as I watch films." I was a bit sad and disappointed when I read your post, although I completely agree with it. I have always loved Disney films, especially the "princess ones" but I had never really thought about the messages that they were portraying. I guess I was very naive to all of this (this is my first feminist and film class). I can't believe how much all of this has got me analyzing everything I watch now. Anyway, nice job connecting it to something that I'm sure we can all remember and connect to.