Essay about Burden of Representation in Film

1142 Words Oct 25th, 2012 5 Pages
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Representation is defined as a likeness or image of something, a definition that implies a visual component to this act. In terms of minority groups, such as women, people of color, all non-normative sexualities, the issue of representation is one that many film theorists and filmmaker’s struggle to contend with. Both the scarcity and the importance of minority representations yield what many have called " the burden of representation". Since there are so few who have the means and access to the "apparatus of representation", they are often burdened with the responsibility of "speaking" for their whole group. Furthermore, as Kobena Mercer
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As a spectator, the black male could “enter an imaginative space of phallocentric power”. As hooks demonstrates, the distinction between black male and black female spectatorship was determined early on in cinematic history. For black women, cinema negates their existence, by presenting them in a negative light or not at all. In response, many black women choose to resist by avoiding cinema, and derive a sort of pleasure from saying no. Exclusion from discussion of spectatorship, as well as feminist theory, has forced black women to be critical in order to establish an identity, to adopt an oppositional gaze, which they employ in the deconstruction and interrogation of the status quo. The oppositional gaze is a spectatorial strategy adopted by black women, who have chosen not to identify with Hollywood films, which has contributed to the ongoing effort to combat the negation of black female representation in television and the film industry. Furthermore, this strategy helps to shape new spaces for the assertion of critical black female spectatorship.
One of the problems with the burden of representation is finding a voice. In his essay, Mercer notes that there is no one black, gay, male identity, but rather a "multiplicity of experiences expressed lived by black lesbians and gay men". Similarly, hooks asserts

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