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Dignifying African American Characters through Hollywood Blockbusters from a Chinese Perspective

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The American media has succeeded in perpetuating a very hostile and menacing image of the Black through the medium of films. The perception of the rest of the world including the Chinese is exclusively based on their image portrayal of Blacks in American movies. Thus their image has come to be associated with ghetto, drugs, heavy accents, rappers, mammies and slang.

Sterling Brown (1933) was a black poet and critic. He was of the view that the American media and literature have confined the wide array of Black characters in limited subsets. He defined the full range of black characters in American literature and media into seven categories namely. the contented slave. the wretched freemen: the comic Negro. the tragic mulatto. the local color Negro. and the exotic primitive (Smith 1988). The few negative actions of the Black minority are highlighted to portray the collective value of the whole community in the American commercial cinema. The Chinese audience, when subjected to the movies with these role portrayals, base their views of the Black on those portrayals alone. The image of the blacks has been exploited so much that mugger has become synonymous with an African American. Ash Corea in her book ‘Questioning the Media’ says that the African-Americans have been portrayed as a problem in an otherwise harmonious society.

The black is reflected to lead a very violent gangster lifestyle in most of the movies. In the family context, the black mothers in the American movies are portrayed as surviving on welfare and the fathers are unemployed or absent altogether. The stereotypical image is highlighted through the ‘in the hood’ movie genre. The hood movie genre originated in the US in the 1980’s which featured movies with black in very conventional roles of street gangs and poverty. The movies under this category include ‘Boys in the hood’, ‘menacing II society’ and ‘above the rim’.