In “Bamboozled,” Spike Lee uses multiple angles to display the swiftness with which Pierre’s collection of Black Americana collectibles proliferates. As a result, Lee’s audience comprehends the power of the past and understands that racial equality does not yet exist. In this post I will focus on one scene in particular: the scene in which Pierre speaks to his mother on the phone (1:42:30).
The scene begins with a shot of Pierre’s mother, who calls to berate Pierre for creating “Mantan.” The camera then shows Pierre, who sits on the couch in his office, defending himself to his mother. The audience immediately realizes that Pierre does not sit alone: in every shot of him in the scene, Pierre is accompanied by at least one large, life-like collectible. For instance, within the first 20 seconds of the scene, the audience views Pierre through three different angles. In each, Pierre is framed by a subset of the group of collectibles that engulf him.
Pierre’s mother reprimands him for reinvigorating racist stereotypes and admits, “You disappoint me.” Pierre hangs up and then turns to the sculpture at his side and demands, “What the hell are you smiling at?”
In this scene, the collectibles seem to appear out of nowhere and multiply rapidly. In doing so, the collectibles demand more and more of the audience’s eye and the audience’s attention. The audience thus comprehends the power of these collectibles, and they come to represent the fragility of society’s evolution from a system of slavery to a supposedly “post-racial” society . As a result, the audience comes to appreciate just how much is at stake in the revitalization of any part of America’s shameful past.