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.