Bamboozled’s Film Color & Decor

 

Bamboozled Screenshot

A major aspect of Bamboozled that really stood out to me was the film’s use of color and decor, especially that which is in Dunwitty’s office. Dunwitty believes he is “blacker” than Delacroix because he has an African-American wife and is”bout it bout it.” Despite this belief, he is floored when Delacroix comes to him for the idea of an overtly racist minstrel show. I felt a scene that visually hammered home Dunwitty’s – as well as other character’s – true feelings towards the show can be found when Manray/Mantan tap dances on Dunwitty’s table (to his delight). By analyzing the characters’ wardrobe and placement in the scene, along with the photos of prominent African-American athletes and African artifacts fill Dunwitty’s office, we can gain a deep understanding of the range of emotions that Delacroix’s show is meant to evoke and how education in the history of black culture and can only mean so much.

In the foreground of the attached screenshot, one can see Dunwitty directly in front of the performance. His hands are in the air and he is clearly entertained by the tap-dancing and the prospect of the Minstrel show. In the left of the shot, one can see Sloan, who is sitting calmly and smiling. As she is wearing purple in this scene – a color that seems to represent “selling out” in the film – it can be argued that despite her objections, she is also enjoying the performance. In the back right of the frame, and closest to the artifact filled wall, sits Womack who is dressed in black – a color that is meant to represent African-American solidarity – and can be seen with raised eyebrows while rubbing his clenched hands. Womack is clearly upset by the performance. It is very much fitting that the characters that are furthest away from the decor are the ones who seem to be enjoying the performance the most, as they are the ones most out of touch with what it means to be African-American.

Hanging over Mantan’s performance are photos of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Willie Mays along with a number of African sculptures that align Dunwitty’s desk. I felt that the juxtaposition of this decor and Dunwitty’s enjoyment of Mantan’s performance shines light on a major point in Lee’s film. That many white Americans feel they understand what it means to be black because they have studied it in school (think of the white media consultant who was a PhD in African American Studies from Yale), have black family/friends, or can name prominent African-Americans who they idolize. Lee makes it clear, however, that despite someone’s education and background, a non-person of color will never truly understand what it means to be an African-American in America’s culture.

Advertisements

1 thought on “Bamboozled’s Film Color & Decor”

  1. Hey, Thomas! I decided to comment on your post because it feels like an opportunity to follow up on our conversation that we had to cut short in class (although the content is different). I want to title this comment “The Shroud of Blackness.” Your analysis of the decor and attire of the characters in this scene is beautiful. There are two factors which complicate it in interesting ways–the immediate reactions of characters in voice and dialogue, as well as Lee’s layering of clothing.

    When Dunwitty asks Manray how he feels about performing “just a little blackface” at 31:22, Womack is disturbed. He says “woah, woah, woah, woah-woah-woah, woa-WHAT?” I may have missed a “woah” in there–apologies. He is also visibly disturbed. One look at a freeze frame at 31:27 shows the difference between his reaction and Manray’s. The latter doesn’t even seem to understand the gravity of what Dunwitty has proposed. He goes on to say that he’s alright with it. And, moreover, that it’s fine because he’s black. Womack’s response is “mutha-fucka, you light-skinnded.” The implication here is that, it’s not only white people who can’t fully understand, but “light-skinnded” blacks as well. (I’m inclined to doubt that Lee meant this, but I’m honestly not sure. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.)

    The colors in the purple family worn by Sloane, De La Croix, and Manray do seem to point to their selling out. But I’m not sure the color black is only doing what you suggest in this scene. Womack’s shirt-to me-seems far more gray than black (it might even have a lavender or brown hue to it). We can see this contrasted with the black zipper area along his neck on his left. I read Sloane’s outfit as a blue top and sweater with dark navy pants. I don’t want to speak for you, but it seems that your analysis presents Womack as not having been garbed in purple because he is the voice of reason and respect for black lives in this scene. I very much agree with this point even though we perceive the colors worn by everyone differently.

    Where I /do/ see black is in the outfits worn by Dunwitty, De La Croix, and Manray. They are all wearing black over some other colors. Dunwitty is wearing a white shirt; De La Croix and Manray are wearing purple shirts. In this way, blackness becomes a sort of shroud that they are all able to don in order to advance their own goals. These are the three men who stand to profit most from this flattening and misrepresentation of blackness. Dunwitty suggests that the show take place on a plantation. “Every week, these two Alabama porch-monkeys–they’re gonna make us laugh, they’re gonna make us cry, they’re gonna make us feel good to be American” (30:40). Dunwitty’s shirt may be white–as opposed to Manray and De La Croix’–because he seems to truly understand what’s going on.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s