Fred Moten, black philosopher and poet, speaks to the narrative of the black body in terms of objects and subjects. His book In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition highlights that “blackness” is an extension of a movement, a “testament” of “the fact that objects can and do resist.” In his intro “Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester’s Scream, blackness falls in a sort of limbo between spectacle and spectatorship and the economy of hypervisibility. Moten’s thoughts on the resistance of the object in terms of blackness and black bodies is present in the physicality and placement of characters in the film Bamboozled.
The scene where Manray, now Mantan, performs in front of Pierre’s white boss speaks volumes to Moten’s work. In one lens, audiences see a trope in older film: the black body performing for the white body. However, black entertainment has also birthed a movement of protest, an example being hip hop in the nineties. With entertainment fueling black protest, and this scene being designed in a way where Mantan in surrounded by black entertainers and a variety of African art, what else can we make of this scene? In this also, in another lens, an example of black protest art and the “object”–the black body–resisting the subject of its time?
Mantan is above the white boss, which has both superiority and inferiority complexes. Yes, Mantan is performing for the white man, but he is also above him. This alludes the complication of the narrative in terms of who has power, and who you must be to have that power. When he is on a stage, whether that be in front of a live studio audience or a conference table, Manray is Mantan, the entertainer that performs for. But does Mantan have power? And does he have power to resist?
And does, maybe, Manray have more power than Mantan? Who is the object that resists actively in terms of their physical self?