Susan Soojin Yi Humanities and Social Science
Are You Black Enough?: Constructing Black Identity through Film from Melvin Van Peebles to Albert and Allen Hughes
The representation of any minority group in film or television often results in a heated debate regarding either the film or television show’s reinforcement of negative stereotypes or its “white washing” of the group’s identity. With my research project, I intend to explore this polarizing argument within the construction of black identity by black filmmakers starting with Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), a film intended to dispute the “Uncle Tom-ing” of Sidney Poitier’s noble black characters, and ending with the films of contemporary black filmmakers such as Albert and Allen Hughes. Through an analysis of these films I want to explore the complications of what it means to be black in a post-Civil Rights Movement America. I also hope to examine the cultural phenomena of whites who claim an identification with black culture, such as Quentin Tarantino and Craig Brewer.