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bell hooks and Creating Images

Thinking critically about films is a relatively recent idea. Not until the 1960s did people truly sit down and start thinking about what exactly it was that the films they were watching were telling them. As bell hooks points out in her “Cultural Criticism and Transformation,� “popular culture is…where the learning is,� and pop culture is made up primarily of movies, music, and the celebrities of the decade.

In her 1975 article, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,� Laura Mulvey discusses scopophilia, the love of looking. She discusses how women are put on display in movies for men’s pleasure through the use of close-ups, slow motion shots, fragmentation of women’s bodies, and the a literal framing of women. She discusses how the male and female characters are viewed in the film

Hooks takes this idea and expands it, talking about how all of those movies that depict women as nothing more than male fantasies add on to each other to create a massive pop culture that teaches us that women are meant to be objectified. She teaches us that in order to view films critically we must be aware of the fact that every image we see has been created by someone. We must take the filmmakers into account whenever we watch a film. We must take the producers into consideration whenever we hear a piece of music. These images do not simply appear; they must be created. And if they are being created, we must think of why that is.

One of the best points hooks makes is when she points out how mass media were used after World War II to bring women out of the factories and into the home. Now those same media are being used to bring women out of feminism, as well as to reinforce racist stereotypes that decent members of society have been trying to fight.

Actually, that phrase in and of itself would irritate hooks because I use the word “racist.� Hooks dislikes that word because it “keeps white people at the center of the discussion.� She prefers the phrase “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy� because it brings together all of the main things wrong with media today. Rich, old, white men are the ones making most of the decisions when it comes to which films should be made, how to shoot a music video, who should be cast in them, etc. These mean assume, states hooks, that “we all share the common morality of the dollar,� which is to make as much money as you can regardless of what you have to do to earn it.

Hooks disagrees, and so do I. Having vast amounts of money doesn’t mean much when to get it you must help create a society where the person doesn’t matter, only the stereotype. I can’t speak for hooks, but I know I wouldn’t care if women were occasionally objectified in films or if black men were occasionally depicted as the bad guy. Money does matter to a lot of people, and in order to get money you must sell something, and sex and violence sells. In small amounts, mixed with other, healthier forms of entertainment, this would be fine. The problem is that the other side is never shown. Rarely will you see a movie where the man is the one being objectified or where the white man is the one robbing a black man. It’s when these images and ideas come to be expected, when people just assume that the black man is the bad guy and the woman is a slut, that we have the real problem.