Motion pictures due to its nature, creates somehow a subliminal effect on its viewers. Certain dialogue and inherent acting can leave an impression to anyone who may watch it. These impressions have a large probability that what people see on screen could actually be real. Filmmakers on the other hand, know this effect on its viewers and create movies based on their own intention. For some filmmakers the purpose could be is to simply entertain, for others to educate.
But even with this purpose in mind, some films made even though most likely unintentional, can cause a variety of reactions depending on the viewers perspective and comprehension of a specific film. A lot of these kinds of reactions may come from a twisting plot or a thought provoking characterization of its actors. The latter proves to have more reactions generated due to its social relevance, the characterization in films by the minorities of society.
Since the inception of including minorities in film, a lot of criticisms were raised due to what others may deem offensive for the part of how the minorities are at times being falsely stereotyped and while others will consider it socially acceptable when analyzing it in a larger context (Sienkiewicz & Marx, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze three films namely Scarface, Coming to America, and Borat.
The study will discuss the roles portrayed by the lead actors in which they are also considered as part of the social minorities. This paper will break down the stereotypes or negative images in which the film may convey and how does these films contribute to oppression of one group or another. Data Analysis Coming to America In this film, Eddie Murphy plays the role of Prince Akeem a soon to be King of his wealthy country Zamunda.
The plot revolves around Prince Akeem’s motivation to find his bride, since the type of wives being offered to him by the current king his Father, seems to be like Prince Akeem’s soon to be slaves, due to their nature to obey and please whatever the Prince will desire. That part alone shows the characters of women, (in this movie majority of the women are black) especially growing out from poverty will do anything just to get married to a Prince.
Although women here is not considered minority but the negative image conveyed by the film of their characters, except for the main lady Lisa McDowell (in which Prince Akeem soon married due to her distinct quality), are basically like Gold diggers and will do absolutely anything just to get rich. Another incident, in which the film portrays and intentionally to be funny, was when Akeem and his cousin went to America to find the bride of his dreams, they encountered deceit and theft mainly from black people living in the impoverished area of Queens New York.
Criticisms here depends on the type of viewer perception, some may react that not all Black people are like that, and they might even add that they just did those crimes due to poverty, but others will just look at it as unintentional and as a way to create a joke, but based on a study social and political themes the proportion of blacks who resort to violence has risen substantially over the last decade (Powers, Rothman & Rothman, 1996, p. 179).
Also a scene worth noting, was when it showed the future Father in-law of Akeem, Cleo McDowell (played by John Amos) running his business, which have almost the perfect resemblance of McDonalds due to its signature usage of the Golden Arches, in which he calls the McDowell’s. This scene portrays another character of the black people engaged in playful deceit for the purpose of comedy, although ugh the scene naturally funny but again may create a message that in general black people are simply like that.
Even on the way Cleo treats his daughter on finding the right man, he always preferred a wealthy young man to be his future son in law, thus Akeem here for his purpose to be loved by the way he is and not for money he assumed the role of a poor man, in which his Cleo totally disliked and preferred the more well off son of a rich family Daryl.
Deceit lies and the motivation for money seems to be the underlying themes of this movie, although created as a comedy to somehow cover these types of elements, it was really shown clearly when the stereotyping ended on the scene when Akeem’s father the King went to New York to find his son and stop the potential marriage of him and Lisa, offered a significant amount of money to Cleo for his troubles, Cleo then stood up for his hidden principles and reacted as if it was an insult to treat her daughter like that.
This could a positive affirmation and probably the filmmakers created this scene for viewers not to generalize and jump into conclusions on the nature of the black people in this film. Scarface On the movie Scarface, Al Pacino plays the role of a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana. As an immigrant Tony was depicted as a very strong character incapable of fear especially driven by his goal of making it big on a different country like America. This characterization of Al Pacino explains the American immigrant experience suggesting that crime which is the centerpiece of which is drugs cannot be disconnected from the American Dream (Sharret, 2001).
After him and his best friend Manolo (played by Steven Bauer) went out the refugee camp after a tumultuous rebellion, they found themselves on having a job as dishwashers. This shows that in America most of the jobs for immigrants with little education end up as blue collared workers doing hard work and long hours. This kind of work only made Tony feels that it was nothing different from back home in which he tried anything possible to get away of the communism grip. He decided to results into what he feels he can do best.
Violence and drug dealing, this has made the movie somehow more dangerous in respect to all immigrants trying to live an honest hardworking life in America, as viewers may perceive that this is the way immigrants are, due to their background on either poverty or a tough government from their own countries. Thus stereotyping again may exists, however this film offered much more than just the immigrant experience, from that foundation it went to describe the both the horrific image of drugs in the contemporary world and the violence and corruption attached to it (same as Sharret, 2001).
It was not long when Tony Montana thought he had achieved the American Dream, he killed his former boss, took away his business and his wife and even his own bodyguard to work for him. This happened as portrayed, that tension occurs when minorities (like Tony the immigrant from Cuba) and his White boss tried; but failed to resolve issues and misunderstandings (Powers, Rothman & Rothman, 1996, p. 180). Tony knows he cannot do it alone without the help of corrupt bureaucrats who actually assist drug traffic as part of the realpolitik of post-war foreign policy (same as Sharret, 2001).
Those scenes have a tremendous negative effect on not only to the violence by an immigrant but on his ability to utilize the system of the society in America that seems to support the idea of competition and acquisition as hallmarks of success and accomplishment (same as Sharret, 2001). There was what it seems as turning point in the film, in which Tony, His Wife Elvira (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) and Manolo went to a fine dining restaurant.
In this particular scene Tony now considered rich and powerful, went beyond as he insulted his wife for being a drug addict, and made a scene with the whole considered to be the elite class of the society. The film conveys the message that this kind of society only knows where to point fingers when it comes to trouble and it a lot of times it goes to the immigrants whom they perceived are the bad guys and specializes on dealing drugs and partaking in violence.
This explains that those other diners may have no idea what an immigrant experience could be and possibly do not care except if it affects them directly, in this particular scene it did. A lot of people considered Scarface as an epic gangster film, due to its themes of the capitalist lifestyle (in contrast to communism) violence and effects of drugs. Borat Borat is a film, that is supposed to comedic in nature, turned out as a heavy racist context, full of offensive themes for both the Kazakhstan people and the Americans as well according to its critics.
But is it really? again depending on the type of viewers’ point of view. The film portrayed the country of Kazakhstan as a medieval society in which rape and incest are cheerfully accepted, and sometimes combined, some audiences knows that this kind of joke is not on the country itself, but on the western perception that foreign cultures are backward (Ryan, 2006).
The ploy is centered on the character Borat Sagdiyev, (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) Kazakhstan’s second-best reporter, going to America to analyze the attitude and nature of the American people. In his travel accompanied by his producer Azamat Bagatov (played by Ken Davitian), Borat tries to learn the American sense of humor by interviewing an American coach, this scene conveys that the joke in which adding the word and exclamation Not! At the end of every sentence is proudly of American Origin ( same as Ryan, 2006).
The other particular scene in which Borat interviewed the Veteran Feminists of America, can be considered nothing more sophisticated than a prank at the expense of those who don’t know what the joke is, or even that there is a joke (same as Ryan, 2006). But this scene in particular portrayed the seriousness of the Veteran Feminists which either way doesn’t want to be stereotyped as Borat would prefer. This somewhat immigrant experience of Borat has also led him to his infatuation to television personality Pamela Anderson.
Borat then meet with a group of drunken friends ( which this scene is not scripted) and these guy showed Borat a videotape of Pamela Anderson having sex with his then boyfriend Tommy Lee, having seen this Borat feels very depressed, since in his country the belief of virginity is very important, and before he have seen the video he thought that Pamela is still a virgin, this again portrays that Kazakhstan people are primitive as well as naive.
The guys who showed Borat the video claimed (since this was an actual shot) that they are unfairly represented in the film as sexist louts because of their drunken state, but during that scene their celebratory screening of the tape reveals their sexism indisputably (Metz, 2007). There a lot of scenes in the film in which can be easily concluded as racist tags or false stereotyping, but as some of the scenes which are shot are not scripted like, the scene discussed earlier, explains some of the actual nature of the Americans on how they sometimes treat an immigrant especially if they don’t have any background of a specific immigrant.
The immigrant experience here shows that people in whom he interacts can be well perceived as if they are trying to understand the minority, but at the same time holding their ground if they see something is not just normal by their standards. Conclusion The influence of film on audience perception can really be significant. Especially when dealing with the social order of the society. In this study we analyzed three films on which the corresponding focal point is the immigrant experience by the main characters.
They all seemed reacting on what the new society already has in place for them. For us viewers, we see these types of minorities and a lot of times we simply cannot enjoy a film as it is, due to the disturbance of the negative messages of violence, offensive jokes, racism, drugs, sexism and lot of subliminal messages the film itself conveys to us. The problem with this is clear from this study, that it indeed has an effect that can possibly create oppression for a particular group, and in this case the immigrant minorities of our society.
Reference List Charles, L. (2006). Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. United States:Four by Two. De Palma, B. (1983). Scarface. United States:Universal Pictures Landis, J. (1988). Coming to America. United States:Eddie Murphy Productions Metz, W. (2007) Shark Porn: Film Genre, Reception Studies, and Chris Kentis’ Open Water. Film Criticism 31. 1 Powers, S. , Rothman, D. , and Rothman, S. (1996).
Hollywood’s America: Social and Political Themes in Motion Pictures. Boulder. CO: Westview Press. Sharrett, C. (2001). Cinematic Drug Wars. USA Today, Society for the Advancement of Education. Sienkiewicz, M. & Marx, N. (2009). Beyond a Cutout World: Ethnic Humor and Discursive Integration in South Park. Journal of film and video 61. 2 Ryan, G (2006). Thongs of Freedom: The Kazakh Ace Reporter Uncovers Uncomfortable Truths about the US. New Statesman