Reel Cultures vs. Real Cultures: Continuing the Conversation on Underrepresentation in Film

While we’re celebrating Women in Horror Month, The Whorer would also like to address the subject of underrepresentation in the film industry more generally.

With the racial controversy around Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (you can find a tasting of it here and here) and February also being Black History Month, I want to highlight a book written by my favorite author, bell hooks, titled Reel to Real: Race Class and Sex at the Movies. One of the issues hooks explores is the social impact of white filmmakers creating content about black culture, discussing films like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction as well as others like Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning. She also writes about black filmmakers like Spike Lee (who has also contributed to the Django conversation), Charles Burnett, and Julie Dash while looking forward to the future of black cinema. The book is a mix of essays and transcribed conversations. It’s not horror focused, but an important topic nonetheless.

Relating back to the western theme of Django and thinking about Disney’s upcoming release of The Lone Ranger, I also want to recommend Neil Diamond’s documentary Reel Injun. It explores the representation of Native Americans throughout the history of film and challenges myths and stereotypes like the noble savage and the general Hollywood homogenization of indigenous cultures. It also discusses well-known Native American actors, including Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance who after being outed as part black was shunned from social circles and committed suicide in 1931. Diamond also focuses on the importance of Native voices in cinema and highlights works like Chris Eyre and Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals and Zacharias Kunuk’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Again, not horror focused, but important to keep in mind for our own explorations here at The Whorer.

Have any favorite books, films, or articles to add to the conversation? Tell us in the comments!

One response to “Reel Cultures vs. Real Cultures: Continuing the Conversation on Underrepresentation in Film

  1. One of the more telling segments of Reel Injun concerned Chief Dan George in his role as Lone Watie in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Reel Injun points out this one of the first on screen portrayals of a Native person that wasn’t a stereotype. Of course, the title character of the film is ex-Confederate murderer, typical of the glorification of racism found in Eastwood’s oeuvre. Josey Wales is considered one of the “better” Eastwood films. This perpetuates mainstream film criticism’s willful blindness of racism in favor of purely formal, “aesthetic” considerations. Signposts include John Ford’s The Searchers and D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. That one of the first realistically complex Native characters exists inside a typical example of ideological racism is pertinent to my motivations to do this podcast. Horror films are typically misogynistic, and we could just leave it at that, but if take the to look a little deeper at individual films we may find, if not positive, at least interesting, complex, or contradictory portrayals of women within the genre. All films have the potential to be ideologically confused. I’m fascinated by ideological slippages like those embodied in a character such as Lone Watie. When Fem and I find them, we hope to point them out.

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