Black-face and Black-harm

screenshot bamboozledThis scene is at time 2:02:19. I chose this scene because this, for me, represents one of the main points of the movie; black people are harmed by the advancement of negative stereotypes through black characters in media. In this scene, Sloan’s face is disfigured with pain and rage as she aims the gun at Pierre in order to force him to watch a catalog of racist TV and film of which he has now contributed to. His face is one of apparent shame, with his head pointing towards the ground and his face painted in black-face, almost representing the full corruption of his own self through his contribution towards the show.


Sloan embodies both rationality and caution throughout t he film as she continuously attempts to make Pierre reevaluate whether he should continue writing for this racist TV show. The TV show initially seemed like a chance to force America to confront its own racism through an overt display of the worst form of American media, while presumably getting Pierre fired in the process. The American republic responded to this challenge by showing that the nation is willing and able to accept black men making a mockery of black intelligence and self-worth through the black-face portrayal of idiotic African-American characters.


Through the public’s support of the TV show, Pierre’s blackness and his desire for fame become irreconcilable. Fame corrupts him and he loses sight of the initial goal he had in mind, even with Sloan constantly reminding him, he puts his blackness aside and chooses his artistic aspirations. His black-face make-up in this scene is the illustration of the shame which Pierre must now confront.


However the pain he caused the black community is not abstract. The pain is witnessed in Sloan’s face. She tried to prevent this show as much as her role would allow, but ended up losing everything as a direct result of it. Her use of the gun shows that in her marginalization by Pierre, Manray’s death, and her brother’s death, Sloan has lost everything including the rationality which she once represented.


Therefore, this scene shows that the individual black person who participates in the production of harmful stereotypes ends up corrupting and embarrassing himself. But if Pierre in this scene represents the individual effect of “coon” behavior, Sloan’s pain represents how a black individual can cause intense harm onto the black community, even if that is not their intention. I do not think this scene is saying that black actors, writers, and producers should not participate in America media because of stereotypes. But this scene does show the effect of the extreme, and in that extreme there is a justification for becoming more cognizant of the way black people get portrayed, and the very real effect that portrayal has on our community.


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