Stereotypes In The Film 'Imitation Of Life'

Improved Essays
John Williams
Dr. Fontenot
AFR 198/ WRT 120
5 March, 2015
Revising Stereotypes In the early 1900’s we saw the birth of what would plague a race for generations. We saw the beginning of black stereotypes in movies all across America, making a mockery of the entire black population. As the movies gained popularity so did the social unrest of the blacks in America. They hoped for the revision and ultimately the complete destruction of such demeaning stereotypes. Some brave companies heard their calls for proper representation and decided to make movies they hoped would revise such stereotypes. However in this paper I will only focus on two influential movies of the time, Imitation of Life and Emperor Jones. I will discuss if they helped clear
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Following the life of two women, each with their own child, we find a mixed household of half black and half white. At the time this was a big step to have two families of different colors living together and treating each other as equals. However we do see concepts that we prevalent during the time come to light. Around this era America saw many advertisements and movies value blacks as less than whites, and the darker you were the less valuable you were. As explained by Gooden, many girls during this era would bleach their skin to become lighter colored just in order to be treated better than their dark-skinned family (Visual Representations of Feminine Beauty in the Black Press, Gooden). Like many of the girls of this era the daughter of the black woman, Sarah Jane, wanted to be white. Fortunately for her she was light enough to pass as white to most people. However, her mother did not want her to deny her heritage or her family. She was rebellious to her heritage but in the end she saw the error in her ways and that what she did was wrong to her mother. The daughter could be described as the mulatto but I believe that she was, like most teenagers at the time, worrying about herself and too worried about opinions rather than what was important. I see her as an equal to the white teenager she grew up with, both making childish mistakes and both learning a …show more content…
“Of all the stereotypes in American popular culture, the smiling, full-figured, apron-clad African-American servant woman is among the best known.” (Mammy the Huckster, Morgan, Jo-Ann). This being the most common was also the hardest to overcome. While I do not believe Annie Johnson broke completely free of the stereotype, I do believe that she was the closest thing at the time to an equal to her white counterpart. She was not exactly beautiful but she was not a full-figured and ugly woman. She had characteristics in common with Lana Turner, and was the best friend Lana had throughout the movie. She did not work for Lana for monetary reasons or because she was forced but did it to repay her for giving her and her child a home when they were down on their luck. The two raised both children and despite Annie’s child hating her for the majority of the movie, Annie was the better mother to the children. She was a model mother, always being there for the children and always taking care of them even when they did not want it. She did not perform in black face, nor did she follow the guidelines for being a mammy in America. Besides her servitude to a white counterpart, she was everything needed to break free of the stereotypes of the mammy in black

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