Friday, November 26, 2010
The Black Actress and Her Fight Against Invisibility
Since the institution of slavery and colonization, Black women, their bodies and body images have been used, chastised, criticized and abused. Yet at the same time, they have been coveted and used as a global prototype for women to model after. From the images and desecration of Sarah Bartman, to breeding houses on plantations, to house slaves and domestics, Black women have always been described on two ends of the spectrum, either being over-sexualized described as "Jezebels", "floosies", or "loose", or completely desexualized. At the start of the 20th century, many assumed that Blacks' had made substansial strides towards equal opportunity, particularly because they were now being portrayed in film, many of these images only helped to further the perpetual condescending images of the black man being the happy, care-free sambo and the black woman portraying the mammy. One such example is of the actress Hattie McDaniel. Best known for her role of the maid, in the 1939 film "Gone With The Wind", she played the typical "mammy". Making sure to that she did not upstage her white counterparts, it was essential that she was desexualized, and shown as an unattractive, dark, overweight and opinionated woman.
Although Blacks were happy to finally see someone like them on the silver-screen, this still did not remove them from playing the same role they did in society.Women like Hattie McDaniel, Madame Sul-Te-Wan and Louise Beavers would continue to be used as shadow and satirical characters for years to come