Monday, November 9, 2009

Mandingo: The Pride of His Masters

Aside from being absolutely hysterical Richard Fleischer's 1975 film Mandingo presents an interesting case to hold to Dyer's theory. Mandigo (taken from the Mandinka people) follows the lives of father and son plantation owners (played by James Mason and the almost famous Perry King) his estranged wife and their slaves most notably Ellen and the Mandingo Mede (played by the statuesque heavy-weight champion Ken Norton.) After the young plantation owner becomes estranged from his wife after discovering she is not a virgin, he "ravishes" his slave Ellen while Mede the Mandingo (who the plantation owner bought out from an old widow looking to use him for sex)has an affair with his wife. At the same time he begins fighting other slaves in matches organized by the plantation owners and becomes a champion.

The film while not widely considered, blaxploitation (both because of its large studio budget and white director) is definitely exploitative, and so it occupies a n odd critical stance that is (according the Dyer's argument) both positive and negative. Billed as a "racial drama"it simultaneously criticizes and furthers ethnic dominance and white normative roles -- though perhaps on more historical than ethical grounds.

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