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Enlightened Witness

Bell Hooks approaches the topic of popular culture with a voice that is not commonly heard within pop culture, the voice of an African American woman. Hooks presents the audience with the proposition of “thinking critically� when viewing the images and ideas that we as a society are spoon fed through cinema, television, and other media sources. Foremost she examines symbolisms of our white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, asking viewers to become “Enlightened witnesses, and to be critically vigilant.� Hooks urges the audience to not just accept pop culture ideas and images, but to deconstruct and analyze them.

How are women and people of color most often displayed? Simply put, women equal subjugated sex objects, and minorities are generally generalized as stereotypes. As a viewer it is complicated to accept these ideas as projections of fiction, rather than examples of live truths. These exploitations of oppressed people further society’s negative attitudes and actions; imprinting visions of age old sexism and white supremacy. Hooks explores the condition to which the male P.O.V can objectify a female’s body instantly. Furthermore she examines the OJ Simpson trail, pulling forward the evidence of how white vs. black was used to cover up the real issue of domestic male violence. She continues to also explore the chronology of Madonna’s career; from a groundbreaking feminist artist, to an old woman who sold her body to capitalism.

As a beginning feminist filmmaker, I believe I have in many ways been doing my best to view films critically, and to write screenplays with strong female lead characters. However, Bell Hooks was able to present new ideas of “cover-ups.� Such as the OJ trial, what is behind the circus that’s not getting the attention it deserves? I am now thinking about discovering deeper points that are often obstructed by lavish distractions, or even masked by other societal issues. Also I have been reminded of the capitalist control over the images and ideas that are introduced to audiences daily.

Comments

I really love the way your thinking about this film. It is clear that Bell Hooks had a large impact on you, as she did for me. I am proud to be in a class with such a strong woman who is willing to keep learning in the name of justice! Film on friend!

Your observation that "it is complicated to accept these ideas as projections of fiction, rather than examples of truth" raises an interesting point. Because say for example in a film like "Leaving Los Vegas" it seems easy to just say, "well she is a prostitute and that's probably what life is like for many of them," is to completely dismiss the filter that has been applied to the representation put forth. That representation symbolizes how the power behind the film wants us to believe that image. It's fiction that relies on our conditioning by the ruling power structure to accept it as non-fiction. Of course I don't mean to say that we should think prostitutes' lives are the complete opposite of that image, however, that specific image is fiction. And it really is a complicated process to try not buy into the fiction, and "decolonize" (hooks' term) our minds- because the fiction often seems entirely believable. This is probably even truer when we watch films that are supposed to be based on "real lives." Yet again as hooks' critique of "Hoop Dreams" points out, it's the power structure's version of those lives sold to the audience for as high a profit as possible.
hooks' idea about "decolonizing" our minds is profound, and your comment about being reminded "of the capitalist control over the images" made me think of this idea... that not only are images controlled by the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, but so are all of our minds. This is such a scary thought, yet totally true. However, I think it's really great that despite this, your commitment and your desire to become an "enlightened filmmaker" are an incredible testament to the fact that those willing to do the "complicated" work of both critically viewing and presenting film are hope for us all. Thanks!