Film & T.V. Presentations of Interracial Relationships
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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.