Monday, November 9, 2009

So it's okay to adopt whiteness but not blackness?

In Dyer's article, his main argument states that whiteness is a culturally constructed category. He believes that the only reason why this race has remained the dominant and natural way of being human is because people are afraid to reproduce the sense of "oddness, differentness, and exceptionality of other minority groups" (Dyer 141). So, white people are dominating the industry because head CEO's and casting directors are afraid to branch out and cast an Asian as a lead role or portray a middle-aged Hispanic lady as something other than a maid because it is stepping outside the socially accepted norm.

As much as this proves to be true in the representation of white domination in the movies and television shows today, I do not agree with the racial descrimination on television.
In the article he goes on to explain how "whiteness is a source of representational power" and that there is a sense that is applauded when black people adopt white values, but that it is looked down upon if white people exhibit "blackness" (Dyer 145).

So, for this blog post I wanted to examine the movie Hancock because I think it both positively and negatively exemplifies Dyer's argument.
Hancock, played by Will Smith, an extremely successful black actor, portrays an estranged superhero who doesn't know how to harness his attitude and make the most of his powers. For example, in the beginning of the movie we see Hancock dressed horribly, constantly drunk, having no direction in his life, saving people's lives but making a complete mess of the city while he's doing it, and having an all-around bad attitude. It is arguable that these are some of the typical black stereotypes, to being lazy, dressed in grungy homeless looking clothes, and having a malicious attitude with oftentimes aggressive behavior. Likewise, Hancock is not able to harness his powers and portray a positive self image of himself without the help of PR specialist, Ray Embrey, a white actor who encourages Hancock to adopt to his white ideals. So, Hancock allows Ray to "coach" him so that Hancock will be more accepted by the public, and Ray will get further in his career. Although it seems like the point of the movie is for Hancock to be more like Ray, which illustrates Dyer's argument because it means that black people are adopting more white ideals in order to become more socially accepted and noticed. However, in the end, this movie also rejects Dyer's argument because Ray and his family look up to Hancock for his bravery because he risked his life to save the people he loves- a quality he had all in his own and something that he did not learn from Ray. So, I really like this example because it shows that whites and blacks should constantly be learning new things from one another, and that one race should not be dominant and always right because there is something positive to learn from everyone.


  1. Good point! I saw Hancock in theaters but I never saw it as a black vs white story; now, I think this creates an excellent argument after reading Dyer's article and your first paragraph. It's another example of a white man's burden to educate (even though Will Smith is the one with superhero powers.. and so is Charlize Theron, but she wasn't a bum) etc.

  2. I should preface this by saying that I walked out on the film before it was over -- so this might be a mute point. But from what I saw and what you've said I would be hard-pressed to say that black and white characters learn from one another here. While Smith's character is not subservient to that of Jason Bateman, he does exhibit characteristics and play on strengths typically ascribed to black men (i.e. psychical strength, prowess) while Bateman's character demonstrates typically white capabilities (i.e. intellect, social grace, business savvy.)

    While that may be a subtle point, the exploitative and imperial plotline is not - a white man exploits the strength of a black man for his own advancement while improving his life by assimilating him into white culture (if we were to replace "assimilate" with "civilize" we'd have a copy of Huckleberry Fin.)

  3. yeah... I agree with Caroline on this
    I didn't think of the movie as a white vs. black, but it definitely makes oh so much sense now :)

  4. I have yet to see this movie, but from what I read in the synopsis and from the comments I've seen, I think that it's a good example for Dyer's article. I'm interested to go and watch it to see if I pick up on some of the white v. black.

  5. It was interesting to think about this movie from a black v. white viewpoint. The next time I watch this I am definitely going to take that into account