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“Film & T.V. Presentations of Interracial Relationships”

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Listed below are a few comments that I made at a online group in regards to the topic of how Interracial Relationships are often presented on Film &
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 14, 2005

      Listed below are a few comments that I made at a online group in regards to the
      topic of how Interracial Relationships are often presented on Film & Television.

      All are invited to add any additional comments --  if they would like.


      You're right John -- 'Guess Who's Coming
      to Dinner'
      really is a pretty good movie.

      After all … Poitier, Tracy and Hepburn ... no one
      could ask for a better cast of actors than that.

      The only thing I didn't like about the film (besides the portrayal of
      the maid who clearly favors all whites over her own people) is that
      --- just as is so often done in today's movies and T.V. shows with
      interracial plots --- the "white" half of the couple generally just
      has some ordinary occupation or does something regular with
      their life - while the "non-white" person has to be something
      that, for that day and age, would only be seen as being
      super-spectacular (in this movie the person is a doctor).

      On the one hand -- it's very refreshing to see that they are
      placing the "non-white" person in a 'professional' occupation
      -- BUT -- on the other hand -- the 'occupation' that they give to
      the person is often so rare or extreme, for that day and age, that
      it almost seems to imply that this occupation is being written into
      the plot in order to "make up for" the person being a "non-white".

      And, in addition, the "white" person – seemingly is never "required"
      to have an occupation that is at the level of the "non-white" person.

      It's as if the script writers are trying to give the audience
      the false impression that--  "just being white" would most
      certainly 'more than make up for' this person not having
      the Ivy-League-PhD-in-Nuclear-Physics (for example)
      ---- that their "non-white" partner or spouse is obviously
      "required" to have in order to be in this relationship.

      In the Poitier film, "A Patch of Blue" (which also dealt with an
      Interracial Romance plot) -- not only did the writer's give Poiter's
      character some sort of super, almost fantasy type of occupation
      (for that day and age) --- but the young white girl who becomes
      infatuated with him comes from such a horrible family situation
      (she's been blinded by her violently-abusive, drunken-prostitute,
      party-girl, white mother who, keeping her in practical isolation,
      now uses her as a slave and has plans to do even worse with her)
      -- that, if they were in the same "racial" categories – the idea of the
      two ever being together (even as friends) would have been absurd.

      Poitier's character -- on the other hand -- is portrayed as a very
      professionally-educated man who is from the West Indies
      Islands and who (although he is being portrayed by a very
      dark-complexioned, clearly `Black'-race actor
      ) is supposed
      to have actually also have hailed from a multi-generational/
      multi-racially-mixed (MGM-Mixed)  "West Indian / Mulatto
      Family" as a result of his grandmother having once been
      the mistress of some rich white guy who never married her.

      It's almost unbelievable -- how extreme
      the "contrast" is for these two characters.

      It's as if Poitier has to be the super-duper, extra-educated,
      uber-professional (as if such an occupation is "required"
      in order to "make up for" his being "non-white", in
      general, and for being "colored" to be more specific.

      Whereas the character of the young, tragic white girl
      (Which was played by a British actress 
      who had a British accent that was just so
      strong you almost have to keep yourself from
      laughing each time this "Yank" utters a line.
      Seriously ... she sounds like an understudy
      for the role of Eliza Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady')
      is a character that is so poor, pathetic, and tragic
      that it's almost as if they are trying to give the idea
      that ---- either her life is a 'punishment' for being
      attracted to a "non-white" --or as if -- because
      her family is so very "trashy", she has no
      other choice except to be with a "non-white".
      (Seriously -- you'd rather see her live
      with wolves than with this unbearably
      disgusting, immoral family of hers.)

      The same goes for the young white girl who falls
      in love with Poitier in the classic film "To Sir,
      with Love"
      (another excellent movie, by the way).

      Another example on this type of set-up was seen on the
      rather mediocre television show Ally McBeal -- wherein
      they created an interracial romance for the main character
      (and seeing that this plot was written well into the new
      millennium, the media "hype" that surrounded it -- as if
      we were living circa 1920 or something -- bothered me).

      On Ally McBeal, they took this idea that "this person
      must be a super-duper professional in order to 'make
      up for'
      their being a non-white" to a whole new extreme.

      The program constantly focused on two things about
      Ally's newest boyfriend (played by MGM-Mixed actor,
      Jesse L. Martin) -- which generally were as follows:

      #1) Omigosh ... it's a "black" guy ...
      she's with a "black" guy ... omigosh
      (Here ...  we are all to  just ignore the fact
      that the actor is actually Mixed-Race)

      #2) Wow ... isn't it just amazing that her
      "black"-guy-boyfriend is also BOTH an
      Ivy-League educated Doctor AND
      also an Ivy-League educated Lawyer.
      (Hey ...  maybe his being BOTH a Doctor
      AND a Lawyer will help 'make up for' his
      being a "black", or other "non-white", guy.)

      Talk about condescending and far-reaching ....

      In addition, although there were two women-of-color on
      the show ----- it was only the Asian woman (matched with
      a white man who openly saw her as nothing more than
      a sex-fantasy) and a White woman (the main character
      -- matched with a "black" man) who the writers ever
      even once "allowed" to be an interracial romance.

      The MGM-Mixed "black" woman on the show was never 
      presented in an interracial romance (not to mention
      that she was always having some sort of "romance woe
      -- including discovering that one of her boyfriends was
      a married man -- which, then reflects badly on both
      the "black" men and women who are in relationships,
      especially if  they are in relationships with each other).

      There is currently a show on television that does have a
      sub-plot with an MGM-Mixed "black" woman involved in
      a (respectable) interracial romance -- and I'm frankly 
      a bit curious to see what they will do the sub-plot.

      The show is called 'Veronica Mars' (it's some sort of 'Nancy
      Drew', high-school, girl-detective, I-can-handle-anything-in-life,
      type of program) and the MGM-Mixed "black" woman is portrayed
      by 'Latino' actress
      `Erica Gimpel ' (who also portrayed the character
      of 'Coco' on the television program version of the movie "Fame").

      From what I understand, however, her character's occupation
      is that of some sort of corporate-lawyer or corporate-executive
      or something like that --and-- his character's occupation is that of
      some sort of 'detective-for-hire' who use to be a sheriff/police officer.

      Hopefully -- they are not trying to imply that "maybe her being
      a six-figure /corporate executive will 'make up for' her being a
      "black" or other "non-white
      " person in this relationship".

      Let's hope ... I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


      P.S.  John, did you just crack up at the scene
      where he leaves change for using their phone?

      Also -- did you notice how the writers just expect the
      audience to "buy into'' the fantasy concept that this 
      family of "great white liberals" has no real problem 
      whatsoever (after all is said and done) with their
      daughter being in an interracial marriage with
      a "perfect" man (and he has to be "perfect" --
      naturally -- to 'make up' for being "non-white")
      -- who she has only known for two (2) weeks.

      While, on the other hand, it's the "people of color" that
      are presented as the "only" ones on the planet who are
      ready / willing to give this couple 'a hard time or who
      don't seem to like or trust or respect the "black" guy'.

       john <reddgold_32@...> wrote:

      Has anyone seen this classic movie Guess who's coming to dinner?
      I always known about it but never watched it because
      I knew that it might have too much racial tones in it.
      I finally watched it on cable the other
      day and to my surprise it was good.
      I even got emotional watching the movie.
      The main star was actor sidney p oitier who had
      an interacial romance with a white woman.
      Katherin hepburn was very great in it too.
      The part I didn't too like in the movie was when the maide
      played by cicil kelleing and how she treated  sidney p oitier....
      in the movie she talked down to  sidney and treated him bad for
      wanting to marry into the white family she worked for for years.
      She called in boy which is a derogitory word for low class.
      She had more respect for the white
      family she worked for than  sidney p oitier.
      This movie was taken place in 1967,the height of
      the civil rights movement but was head of its time.
      At the end of the movie love out weighed all prejudices.
      This is a sample review below................

      How we arrived at our grades...
      Plans for an afternoon golf game are abruptly canceled
      when Matthew Drayton's (Spencer Tracey) daughter,
      Joanna (Katharine Houghton) unexpectedly
      returns from Hawaii to announce her engagement.
      Well-mannered and handsome, Dr. John Prentice (Sidney
      Poitier) is a highly educated and respected doctor in the
      field of tropical medicine, a perfect Prince Charming.
      The only problem with the intended
      wedding is the doctor's color.

      Adding to her father's anxiety is Joanna's insistence
      that he approve of the marriage before John
      leaves that evening for his new job.

      Turmoil ensues as the much-touted, liberal
      newspaperman, Drayton, and his successful wife,
      Christina (Katharine Hepburn) come face to face with
      their principles and realize that their daughter has grown
      up to be just what they taught her to be---non-prejudicial.
      John's parents are equally upset with their son's
      choice of a marriage partner and Tilly, the Drayton's
      African-American maid is outright piqued.

      But as this charming love story unfolds, even Christina is
      drawn into her daughter's blissful world of young love and
      soon is swept up in the excitement of the engagement.
      However, her doe-eyed approval only infuriates the
      pragmatic Drayton who cusses his way through this film.
      John's father and Tilly vent their feelings in a similar manner.
      Other concerns for parents may be the portrayal of
      social drinking, the use of a derogatory racial term
      and Christina's pointed question about her
      daughter's sexual relationship with the doctor.

      From sweaty palms to nervous jitters, watching
      the encounters of this bi-racial couple and their
      parents in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
      may bring back memories to anyone who's
      experienced the ordeal of that first meeting.

      For me personally, I was much happier to watch this
      enchanting couple than to have to relive it myself.

      Talk about the movie with your family...
      How does Matthew Drayton's experience
      with the distasteful ice-cream he orders at the
      drive-in, parallel the message of the movie?

      Although John was a seemingly ideal man for their daughter,
      the Draytons had reservations because of his color.
      John's parents are also upset.
      Are there any cultural, social, religious or racial issues that
      would be difficult for you to accept in your child's fiancé?
      How well do you think your family lives
      the values and morals you espouse.

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