Examining the Cycle

Screenshot 2016-02-16 11.03.01

At 1:33:00, Manray and Womack confront each other on the mental consequences of the New Millennium show. Womack says he refuses to drink the kool-aid filled with hatred and darkness that has come from being on the minstrel show. Instead of destroying the stereotypes, Womack claims he and Manray have become Mantan and Sleep n’ Eat in their walk, talk, and actions towards one another. In a face-off, Womack asks Manray if he remembers him as Womack, or does he now see him only as Sleep n ‘ Eat, his partner on a television show. Denying his part in the issue, Manray says he will continue for the money and fame.

Womack then goes on to say this show perpetuates a hateful cycle against blacks. As Womack begins to perform, he reverts to his character, Sleep n’ Eat, saying he will do anything the master, in this case Dunwitty and Delacroix, requests. It illustrates how much he has sold his soul for the love of his craft. The destruction shows in his wide eyes and exaggerated speech. He no longer needs blackface to be a caricature. Womack no longer believes in his or Manray’s authenticity as performers or people. Once he completes his monologue, Womack walks slowly off screen, dragging his lifeless body covered in black clothes. He wants to leave the darkness that has consumed himself and Manray, but Womack’s performance resonates as the piano continues to play until it fades into the next scene.

The scene questions how much does fame and money changes a person and ability to remember life before. The blackface is off, but it remains ingrained in Womack and Manray because of their transformation to Mantan and Sleep n’ Eat. The scene challenges the rest of the movie, forcing the audience to question whether a character remains authentic or are they a new caricature in the cycle.

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Author: jayjay

photographer, dancer, aspiring lawyer

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