Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

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.

Message To Sponsor

I'm really excited about my SURF project because I have been interested in the media's representation of the construction of minority identity since I saw the episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Carlton lives in Compton because Will tells him that he isn't black enough. I want to use the opportunity that SURF has provided me to explore a topic personal to me that I can't study as in-depth in a classroom setting. I also hope to go to graduate school in Media Studies, and SURF has provided me with the opportunity to work towards that goal by letting me devote eight weeks to intense research.
Major: English
Mentor: Linda Williams, Film Studies and Rhetoric
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