“Black Wimmin Who Pass, Pass into Damnation”: Race, Gender, and the Passing Tradition in Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life and Douglas Sirk’s Film Adaptation

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-06-21 20:07Z by Steven

“Black Wimmin Who Pass, Pass into Damnation”: Race, Gender, and the Passing Tradition in Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life and Douglas Sirk’s Film Adaptation

Journal of Narrative Theory
Volume 49, Number 1, Winter 2019
pages 27-54
DOI: 10.1353/jnt.2019.0001

Lauren Kuryloski, Assistant Professor of Teaching
State University of New York, Buffalo

Fannie Hurst’s 1933 novel Imitation of Life is ostensibly the story of Bea Pullman, an entrepreneurial, white, single mother who establishes a successful waffle-house restaurant chain with the help of her black maid and friend, Delilah. It is also a story of ‘passing,’ and Hurst’s only novel explicitly dealing with issues of race. The novel was later adapted into two films, with Douglas Sirk’s 1959 version the adaptation discussed here. While both Hurst’s and Sirk’s versions of Imitation of Life were met with widespread commercial success, each treatment illustrates the narratological challenges of working with the passing trope, particularly when attempting to represent the relationship between black and white characters and acts of gender and race passing. Hurst’s and Sirk’s depictions of passing, and more specifically their employment of the ‘white passing’ narrative, reveals the irresolvable paradox of all such acts. To pass is to both subvert notions of fixed identity categories and cement them, a reality elucidated by the complicated representation of gender and race passing in novel and film.

Both literary and cinematic versions of Imitation of Life interrogate passing and its potential to destabilize existing social hierarchies. Although Sirk exercises significant artistic license in his adaptation, both versions of the story adhere to the same essential narrative arc. In each text the central white female protagonist, known as Bea in the novel and Lora in the film, accomplishes a gender pass, moving into the masculinized public sphere to secure financial stability for her family. Similarly, each version of the narrative features the light-skinned black daughter of the protagonist’s maid, known as Peola in the novel and Sarah Jane in the film, who performs the traditional racial pass in an attempt to enjoy the financial and social privileges associated with whiteness. Through the depiction of these double acts of passing, the narratives construct a commentary on the very real limitations that white and black female characters face in an unequal society. Moreover, the characters’ abilities to pass into different identities suggests the inherently performative nature of all identity categories, deconstructing essentialist notions of race and gender and revealing the subversive promise such performances hold. The passing trope’s allure resides in this ability to upend static conceptions of selfhood.

Yet despite the progressive potential to disrupt normative identity codes that passing appears to offer, Hurst’s and Sirk’s texts demonstrate the inherent internal conflict of all such narratives, as passing is often suggestive of subversion while in fact reifying the very same systems it purports to undermine. Although the passer may transgress established social boundaries and upset notions of fixed-identity categories, the move across identity lines simultaneously grants authority to binary constructions of identity. This paradox is at the heart of any act of passing and serves as the primary conflict in both novel and film. The characters in Imitation of Life may achieve varying degrees of financial or material success by passing, but their success is fleeting and mitigated by the system of narrative punishment that is doled out for their actions. While the texts toy with depicting race and gender identity as social constructions to be both challenged and performed at will, both the novel and film conclude that such performances are but imitations of real life, even when ‘real life’ is simply an adherence to essentialist race and gender roles. My work offers an analysis of this punishment and (occasional) reward system through a study of the way in which acts of racial passing are used in the service of moving the white female protagonist toward either her ultimate narrative chastisement (in the novel) or her redemption (in the film), demonstrating that passing relies on the maintenance of normative social hierarchies.

Both Hurst’s and Sirk’s versions of Imitation of Life have received significant critical attention, and the genre of passing has itself been the subject of sustained scholarly debate. However, while both the novel and film…

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Hollywood at the Intersection of Race and Identity

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Forthcoming Media, Passing, Social Science, United States, Women on 2019-06-10 19:27Z by Steven

Hollywood at the Intersection of Race and Identity

Rutgers University Press
2019-11-15
314 pages
31 b-w photographs
6 x 9
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8135-9931-1
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-9932-8
PDF ISBN: 978-0-8135-9935-9
EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8135-9935-9

Edited by:

Delia Malia Caparoso Konzett, Professor of English, Cinema/American/Women’s Studies
University of New Hampshire, Durham

Contributions by: Ruth Mayer, Alice Maurice, Ellen C. Scott, Delia Malia Caparoso Konzett, Jonna Eagle, Ryan Jay Friedman, Charlene Regester, Matthias Konzett, Chris Cagle, Dean Itsuji Saranillio, Graham Cassano, Priscilla Peña Ovalle, Ernesto R Acevedo-Muñoz, Mary Beltrán, Jun Okada, and Louise Wallenberg.

Hollywood at the Intersection of Race and Identity explores the ways Hollywood represents race, gender, class, and nationality at the intersection of aesthetics and ideology and its productive tensions. This collection of essays asks to what degree can a close critical analysis of films, that is, reading them against their own ideological grain, reveal contradictions and tensions in Hollywood’s task of erecting normative cultural standards? How do some films perhaps knowingly undermine their inherent ideology by opening a field of conflicting and competing intersecting identities? The challenge set out in this volume is to revisit well-known films in search for a narrative not exclusively constituted by the Hollywood formula and to answer the questions: What lies beyond the frame? What elements contradict a film’s sustained illusion of a normative world? Where do films betray their own ideology and most importantly what intersectional spaces of identity do they reveal or conceal?

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Hollywood Formulas: Codes, Masks, Genre, and Minstrelsy
    • Daydreams of Society: Class and Gender Performances in the Cinema of the Late 1910s / Ruth Mayer
    • The Death of Lon Chaney: Masculinity, Race, and the Authenticity of Disguise / Alice Maurice
    • MGM’s Sleeping Lion: Hollywood Regulation of the Washingtonian Slave in The Gorgeous Hussy (1936) / Ellen C. Scott
    • Yellowface, Minstrelsy, and Hollywood Happy Endings: The Black Camel (1931), Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935), and Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937) / Delia Malia Konzett
  • Genre and Race in Classical Hollywood
    • “A Queer, Strangled Look”: Race, Gender, and Morality in The Ox-Bow Incident / Jonna Eagle
    • By Herself: Intersectionality, African American Specialty Performers, and Eleanor Powell / Ryan Jay Friedman
    • Disruptive Mother-Daughter Relationships: Peola’s Racial Masquerade in Imitation of Life (1934) and Stella’s Class Masquerade in Stella Dallas (1937) / Charlene Regester
    • The Egotistical Sublime: Film Noir and Whiteness / Matthias Konzett
  • Race and Ethnicity in Post-World War II Hollywood
    • Women and Class Mobility in Classical Hollywood’s Immigrant Dramas / Chris Cagle
    • Orientalism, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Go for Broke! (1951) / Dean Itsuji Saranillio
    • Savage Whiteness: The dialectic of racial desire in The Young Savages (1961) / Graham Cassano
    • Rita Moreno’s Hair / Priscilla Peña Ovalle
  • Intersectionality, Hollywood, and Contemporary Popular Culture
    • “Everything Glee in ‘America’”: Context, Race, and Identity Politics in the Glee Appropriation of West Side Story / Ernesto R. Acevedo-Muñoz
    • Hip Hop “Hearts” Ballet: Utopic Multiculturalism and the Step Up Dance Films / Mary Beltrán
    • Fakin da Funk (1997) and Gook (2017): Exploring Black/Asian Relations in the Asian American Hood Film / Jun Okada
    • “Let Us Roam the Night Together”: On Articulation and Representation in Moonlight (2016) and Tongues Untied (1989) / Louise Wallenberg
  • Acknowledgments
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index
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How Public Policy Impacts Racial Inequality

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Economics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2019-06-01 22:29Z by Steven

How Public Policy Impacts Racial Inequality

Louisiana State University Press
May 2019
208 pages
5.50 x 8.50 inches
12 graphs
Paperback ISBN: 9780807170700

Edited by:

Josh Grimm, Associate Professor; Associate Dean of Research and Strategic Initiatives
Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University

Jaime Loke, Assistant Professor
Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Texas Christian University

How Public Policy Impacts Racial Inequality, edited by Josh Grimm and Jaime Loke, brings together scholars of political science, sociology, and mass communication to provide an in-depth analysis of race in the United States through the lens of public policy. This vital collection outlines how racial issues such as profiling, wealth inequality, and housing segregation relate to policy decisions at both the local and national levels. Each chapter explores the inherent conflict between policy enactment, perception, and enforcement.

Contributors present original research focused on specific areas where public policy displays racial bias. Josh Grimm places Donald Trump’s immigration policies—planned and implemented—in historical perspective, identifying trends and patterns in common between earlier legislation and contemporary debates. Shaun L. Gabbidon considers the role of the American justice system in creating and magnifying racial and ethnic disparities, with particular attention to profiling, police killings, and reform efforts. Jackelyn Hwang, Elizabeth Roberto, and Jacob S. Rugh illustrate the continued presence of residential segregation as a major fixture defining the American racial landscape. As a route to considering digital citizenship and racial justice, Srividya Ramasubramanian examines how race shapes media-related policy in ways that perpetuate inequalities in media access, ownership, and representation. Focusing on lead poisoning, tobacco, and access to healthy foods, Holley A. Wilkin discusses solutions for improving overall health equity. In a study of legal precedents, Mary E. Campbell and Sylvia M. Emmanuel detail the extent to which measures aimed at addressing inequality often neglect multiracial individuals and groups. By examining specific policies that created wealth inequality along racial lines, Lori Latrice Martin shows how current efforts perpetuate asset poverty for many African Americans. Shifting focus to media reception, Ismail K. White, Chryl N. Laird, Ernest B. McGowen III, and Jared K. Clemons analyze political opinion formation stemming from mainstream information sources versus those specifically targeting African American audiences.

Presenting nuanced case studies of key topics, How Public Policy Impacts Racial Inequality offers a timely and wide- ranging collection on major social and political issues unfolding in twenty-first century America.

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The Sigh of Triple Consciousness: Blacks Who Blurred the Color Line in Films from the 1930s through the 1950s

Posted in Communications/Media Studies, Dissertations, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-05-22 22:55Z by Steven

The Sigh of Triple Consciousness: Blacks Who Blurred the Color Line in Films from the 1930s through the 1950s

City University of New York (CUNY)
May 2019
50 pages

Audrey Phillips

A master’s thesis submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Liberal Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

This thesis will identify an over looked subset of racial identity as seen through film narratives from the 1930’s through the 1950’s pre-Civil Rights era. The subcategory of racial identity is the necessity of passing for Black people then identified as Negro. The primary film narratives include Veiled Aristocrats (1932), Lost Boundaries (1949), Pinky (1949) and Imitation of Life (1934). These images will deploy the troupe of passing as a racialized historical image. These films depict the pain and anguish Passers endured while escaping their racial identity. Through these stories we identify, sympathize and understand the needs of Black people known as Passers, who elected a chosen exile in order to live in a world which offered opportunity to the White race. These films will also portray the social betrayal forced upon Black people for the need of survival. These films show the desperation for equality as seen through a new genre of film trail blazers, all of whom understood the need to expose this hidden truth. These films also demonstrate the imperativeness to adjust in all aspects of their lives including physical, mental, emotional and psychological. This constant demand for interchange puts tremendous pressure on the psyche of Passers.

Through the cover of passing one life was denied while another was born, allowing Blacks to inconspicuously wear a mask of survival. This strategy was based on the prejudice of America, which judged people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. The study of passing, which is an identified classification of being Black, is useful in courses about race and identity. Educators dealing with themes of race and identity in their classes would greatly benefit by incorporating these films on racial passing as part of their lessons. They will help students to better understand the connection between race and identity in American society, especially for those living under the yoke of government supported racism.

Read the entire thesis here.

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A Century of Times Dance Photos, Through the Lens of Misty Copeland

Posted in Articles, Arts, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-22 22:43Z by Steven

A Century of Times Dance Photos, Through the Lens of Misty Copeland

The New York Times
2019-04-13

Remy Tumin


The ballerina Misty Copeland reviewing photographs for the Past Tense: Dance section in The New York Times’s building. Karen Hanley/The New York Times

Ms. Copeland, the American Ballet Theater’s first black principal ballerina, served as guest editor for a special section on dance photography.

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

There’s one photograph from The New York Times archives that stands out to Misty Copeland. It’s a black-and-white image of a group of young ballerinas, boys and girls, their dark skin accented by bright tights and tutus.

“They look so uncomfortable,” Ms. Copeland said in a recent interview. “In ballet, we’ve never been told there was a place for us to fit in. You can see that within this image.”

The “tension and awkwardness” that Ms. Copeland said she saw in the photo is familiar to her. She was the American Ballet Theater’s first black female principal dancer. Last month, when she visited The Times to serve as a guest editor of a special print section featuring dance images from our archives, she saw those threads throughout dance history.

The section is the latest from Past Tense, which highlights stories and photographs from The Times’s archives. Veronica Chambers, who leads the team, said that of the six million photos in the archives, at least 5,000 are dance-related. A dedicated section was a natural fit, as was the choice of Ms. Copeland as its guest editor, Ms. Chambers said…

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What The Reaction To The Royal Baby Says About Racial Identity And Racism

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-05-11 15:10Z by Steven

What The Reaction To The Royal Baby Says About Racial Identity And Racism

Gothamist
WYNC
New York, New York
2019-05-10

Rebecca Carroll, Editor of Special Projects

2019_05_babysussex.jpg
Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex with their baby son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor during a photocall in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle in Berkshire (Shutterstock)

In the five days since Meghan Markle, the black and biracial American who married into the British monarchy, gave birth to her son Archie Harrison Mountbattan-Windsor, at least two media outlets have posted blatantly racist commentary targeting the royal baby’s racial identity. On Tuesday, CNN published an article by John Blake with the headline, “How Black Will the Baby Be?

The story unleashed a torrent of backlash on social media…

…Don’t get me wrong. The myth of mixed-race and racially ambiguous children as representative of hope and harmony is real. Mixed-race people are notoriously fetishized, and colorism is rampant in mainstream media and Hollywood and, well, across many industries. Dark-skinned black folks are without question discriminated against in far greater numbers than lighter-skinned and mixed-race black folks…

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Mixed-Race Politics and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in South Korean Media

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs on 2019-04-08 18:13Z by Steven

Mixed-Race Politics and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in South Korean Media

Palgrave Macmillan
2018
231 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-65773-8
Softcover ISBN: 978-3-319-88102-7
eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-65774-5

Ji-Hyun Ahn, Assistant Professor of Communication
University of Washington, Tacoma

  • The first monograph to examine mixed-race politics in contemporary South Korean media
  • Utilizes a critical media/cultural studies approach that engages with and connects materials from archives, the popular press, policy documents, television commercials, and television programs as an inter-textual network
  • Analyzes cases ranging from media representation of globally recognized mixed-race figures to figures on reality television

This book studies how the increase of visual representation of mixed-race Koreans formulates a particular racial project in contemporary South Korean media. It explores the moments of ruptures and disjuncture that biracial bodies bring to the formation of neoliberal multiculturalism, a South Korean national racial project that re-aligns racial lines under the nation’s neoliberal transformation. Specifically, Ji-Hyun Ahn examines four televised racial moments that demonstrate particular aspects of neoliberal multiculturalism by demanding distinct ways of re-imagining what it means to be Korean in the contemporary era of globalization. Taking a critical media/cultural studies approach, Ahn engages with materials from archives, the popular press, policy documents, television commercials, and television programs as an inter-textual network that actively negotiates and formulates a new racialized national identity. In doing so, the book provides a rich analysis of the ongoing struggle over racial reconfiguration in South Korean popular media, advancing an emerging scholarly discussion on race as a leading factor of social change in South Korea.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • The New Face of Korea
  • From National Threat to National Hero
  • Consuming Cosmopolitan White(ness)
  • Televising the Making of the Neoliberal Multicultural Family
  • This Is (not) Our Multicultural Future
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Emoji gods approve skin-tone options for couples of color

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2019-04-02 15:44Z by Steven

Emoji gods approve skin-tone options for couples of color

The Associated Press
2019-03-08

Leanne Itale


This undated illustration provided by Tinder/Emojination shows new variations of interracial emoji couples. In the world of emojis, interracial couples had virtually no options in terms of skin tone. But the emoji gods, otherwise known as the Unicode Consortium, recently rectified that, approving 71 new variations. Using six skin tones already available for one-person emojis, vendors such as Apple, Google and Microsoft will now be able to offer couples of color. Additions are expected later this year. (Tinder/Emojination via AP)

NEW YORK — In 1664, Maryland passed the first British colonial law banning marriage between whites and slaves. An 1883 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that state prohibitions on interracial marriage don’t violate the Fourteenth Amendment held for more than 80 years.

While such impediments to marriage were dismantled over time, there are still hurdles, however small, to overcome. Here, in 2019, interracial couples have a small victory to celebrate: The approval of 71 new variations of emoji for couples of color.

Capping a yearlong project thought up by, of all people, the folks at the swipe-right dating app Tinder, the emoji gods (known as the Unicode Consortium) recently approved the additions in characters technically referred to as people “holding hands.” A new “gender-inclusive” couple emoji was also approved among 230 new characters.

Until now, emoji of two or more people on various platforms and devices have been available only in the default yellow. While the Unicode Consortium, where Google, Microsoft and Apple have voting seats, signed off on the skin-tone additions, companies will decide for themselves starting later this year whether to add them and how they will look.

Jenny Campbell, the chief marketing officer for Tinder, isn’t worried about distribution after the company mounted a campaign and petition drive in support of the technical proposal it submitted to Unicode…

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Experiencing Racial Identities: Passing in ‘Assassin’s Creed: Liberation’

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-03-25 12:55Z by Steven

Experiencing Racial Identities: Passing in ‘Assassin’s Creed: Liberation’

Pop Matters
2012-10-30

G. Christopher Williams, Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point

In a recent issue of Game Informer, Matt Miller describes the addition of a new mechanic to the Assassin’s Creed series that involves taking on what Ubisoft Sofia is calling “personas” in Assassin’s Creed: Liberation. Miller explains that the first female protagonist in an Assassin’s Creed game, Aveline, is “a woman of mixed race who also has access to significant financial resources,” and as a result that the character will have “access to three personas as she wanders New Orleans [. . .] each represented by a change in abilities and clothing (“10 Cool Features You Don’t Know about Assasssin’s Creed III . . . and 5 More from Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, Game Informer. November 2012. p. 97). Barring the persona of the assassin, the two other personas available to Aveline are “the lady persona,” which consists of “the constraining dress of an affluent New Orleans woman” that will limit “her mobility [. . .], but she [will] gain the ability to charm her way past soldiers and other obstacles that would stand in her way.” The final persona puts her in the guise of “a local slave,” which allows her to “slip unnoticed past opponents or incite a riot with the local populace.”

Fans of the series will probably immediately recognize that what has previously been a mechanic enacted in the Assassin’s Creed series by hiring groups of prostitutes, gypsies, mercenaries, and thieves in order to create distractions and throw off guards in this stealth series has now become a mechanic directly associated with the protagonist herself. Now Aveline’s disguises will allow her to do what otherwise had previously only been accomplished by hiring some outside help…

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Sorry Music Journalists, Drake is Black.

Posted in Articles, Arts, Canada, Communications/Media Studies, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion on 2019-03-15 17:58Z by Steven

Sorry Music Journalists, Drake is Black.

Canadaland
2015-04-30

Kyrell Grant

Drake, born Aubrey Graham in a city where almost one in ten people are black, is black. Toronto’s greatest civic triumphalist since Jane Jacobs is black. And yet Drake’s own identity – his nationality, his mixed race background that includes Jewish heritage and upbringing, the neighbourhood he once lived in, the schools he went to – is often taken to mean that his black experience is somehow inauthentic.

It feels ridiculous to have to say this: Drake is black.

Drake, born Aubrey Graham in a city where almost one in ten people are black, is black. Toronto’s greatest civic triumphalist since Jane Jacobs is black.

He is a black man as much as any other black man. And yet Drake’s own identity – his nationality, his mixed race background that includes Jewish heritage and upbringing, the neighbourhood he once lived in, the schools he went to – is often taken to mean that his black experience is somehow inauthentic. While certainly not the first artist to have this kind of analysis imposed on him, Drake’s profile means that his art in particular has been prominently used to deny his black experience when it doesn’t conform to someone else’s narrow vision of race…

Read the entire article here.

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