Animation and Power

In Bamboozled, animation is a tool that investigates who has ownership over media and art that people consume and where power rests. Animation allows the director to construct a reality that he or she has full influence over. Whether it is the color composition, mise en scène, and movement everything is strategically placed, relegating the control to the creator. The scene at 1:56:20, the Mau Maus create the graphic image on their site with every element on the screen being of salience.

The Mau Maus choose the colors green, gold, red, and black on this screen invoke Pan-African colors that symbolize solidarity among Africans around the world, and they also reference two times (Eastern and Central) for their target audience in the Midwest, South, and East Coast, rather than further west. There is also a strong symbol of Black Power at the center of the screen that emerges out of a text that describes the audience as witnesses to the punishment of Manray for the crime he has committed.

On the top of the website screen, the quote “FEETS DO YOUR STUFF” is a reference to a musical called Hallelujah, Baby! This musical concerns an African American woman navigating and overcoming obstacles in the entertainment industry during the first half of the 21st century. “Feet Do Yo Stuff” highlights lyrics concerning the cyclical nature of dancing to survive because it becomes a source of food and money, which echoes Manray’s situation in the film. Both Manray and Georgina, the main character in this musical, ascend to success, but only under specific conditions that they soon break out and condemn. However, Manray, even though he attempts to reclaim his art, is seen as a spectacle, and he never breaks out of this gaze. His feet are what allow him to dance, but it is also what causes people to perceive him as dissociated from his body. He is not Manray or Mantan. He is entertainment.

Despite the fact that the Mau Maus intend to create media that they have full authorship over, the website broadcasting becomes available by mass-consumption. What image, the website, and the stream that they created no longer belongs to them. Large corporate broadcasting channels took the live stream off of the Internet and transformed it into another performance that is distributed under their terms. The companies also create an animation sequence that showcases a white hunter shooting a black tap-dancing man depicts the actual power dynamic of the situation—although the Mau Maus are holding the physical gun that condemns Manray to death, the white institution is what holds the metaphorical trigger that leads to his death. They are stripped of the power that they once held.

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One thought on “Animation and Power”

  1. Great post! I had forgotten that the television networks were able to take control and publicly broadcast Manray’s murder. Live TV and life in general come with an uncertainty that animation and, to a lesser extent (because actual humans are involved), commercials do not. This is the case regardless of the race or class of the person who claims to be in control. Manray momentarily exploits the uncertainty of live TV when he goes on stage and revolts. Of course, he is soon pulled off the stage (and later murdered), so he does not retain control or power. Pierre creates his minstrel show to seize power over the television industry and the white people that lead it, but the show he creates ends up taking control of him, and he too gets murdered. On the other hand, in the Tommy Hilnigger commercials, one white man successfully subordinates all of the people of color around him. Similarly, in the Da Bomb commercial, people of color are able to market their product without fear of interruption.

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