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Whether it be in tv shows movies or literature

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 11 (2537 words)
Categories: Literature, Movie, Race, Race and Ethnicity, Society, Tv
Downloads: 39
Views: 12

Whether it be in tv shows, movies, or literature, everyone has a favorite fictional character. Despite the fact that these characters are fictional, that is not real, a lot of the time they become favorites because they are relatable and reminiscent of people in the real world. It could also be because the things they are going through are similar to the things going on in real life. They become favorites because they represent actual people.

Representation is important because it makes people feel seen and like they are worth having stories and movies made about them; it offers validation and, in turn, self esteem. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to be represented, and, if they are, it is not in a way that is representative of the truth. In A Red Death, Walter Mosley uses themes of identity and redemption as a means to create real and diverse Black characters that reflect human experiences and offer representation and shed light on those that have been marginalized.

Mosley depicts African American and Black struggles and experiences while also showing their strength and resolve to make it in a world set against them. He depicts them not as victims of an unfair society but as survivors and fighters in a world where the odds are stacked against them.

Representation, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the account or portrayal of someone or something in a certain way. Lack of representation can contribute to a lack of self esteem, and self worth, as these things pertain to whether or not someone matters- if they feel validated. Self esteem is important because it has to do with ‘what people believe they need to be or do to have value and worth as a person’ (Crocker and Knight 200). A lack of self esteem can lead to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Neglecting to represent African Americans can make them feel like they have no significance or importance. Representation offers reassurance and comfort, and introduces people to others like them for a sense of community and acceptance. Without representation there is erasure of a whole group of people, leading for them to feel inherently flawed and like they are outsiders. However, the issue not only lies within the lack of representation but also with the lack of true representation, those that are not riddled with bigotry and bias. In the book, Black Looks, Bell Hooks links African American internalized self hatred with the continuous assimilation of harmful representations. Hooks writes that because of the lack of representation of Black life in media, many Black people become convinced that their lives are simple, that is not compound or complex, and are, in turn, undeserving of reflection (Black Looks). People deserve to feel like they matter and like they are accepted in society, because mattering gives meaning and purpose to existing.

Throughout history, African Americans and Blacks have been disenfranchised and subordinated; they have been viewed as property, less than human, and second-class citizens. There has been a lack of positive representation for them in media and literature that is not coated in harmful stereotypes that only work to perpetuate more damaging stereotypes. Stereotypes are not harmful when they are used to link people together in an accurate way; they become harmful when they oversimplify groups in a derogatory and false way. They also become harmful when they become the only way individuals of a group are viewed. In the article, ‘Hard-Boiled Black Easy: Genre Conventions in ‘A Red Death,” Mosley states that, ‘he uses ‘a wide range of black characters … to reflect … black life as if it were human life in America, [to take] the point of view that black people are insiders rather than standing on the outside looking in” (Gray 489). Mosley creates diverse characters as a way to breathe individuality into the perception of African Americans and Blacks. His characters show that more than one version of someone from this group exists, and that each is distinct and even completely different than what one might assume. From the beginning of society to even now, African Americans and Blacks have been seen as other, but Mosley shows that they are not by giving insight into their lives through his characters. Mosley creates his characters while thinking of the thousands of people that he knows in the Black community (‘Interview With Walter Mosley’), ensuring that his characters are representative of real people. Mosley takes private eye fiction and molds it into something familiar yet different that shares all the characteristics of classical noir, but also represents African American culture and their plight of racial discrimination. In A Red Death, Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins, is a Black man ‘who, finding himself with dark skin, has decided that he’s going to live his life and do what’s right, in that order” (Los Angeles Times, May 1992). The reality for African Americans and Blacks is that the law is not on their side; the system does not cater to them and, as a result, they must find ways to survive that is best for them, regardless of moral agendas. Society does not allow them to do what is right and also get what they want. However, Mosley’s goal is not to create a perfect hero that is infallible and completely good because that is not reality. He says, ‘I hate setting up heroes that we can’t really live by. You know, real people make mistakes, have flaws, do the wrong thing·’ (Goeller 12). Mosley creates Easy as a flawed hero with questionable actions because, in real life, no one is perfect. Instead of villainizing Easy because his moral ambiguity and sometimes questionable actions, readers feel sympathetic to a man trying to establish himself in world that suppresses him and those like him.

Using the theme of identity, Mosley showcases the internal struggles Easy faces trying to come to terms with who he is in a world that sees him, first and foremost, as Black. Identity is who you are and what you care about. It is the choices you make and your individual values. However, in real life, identity is not by any means a simple set standard; people are never just one thing, they are many. Each identity has its own societal expectations that the individual ‘internalizes as identity’ (Heshmat). Easy Rawlins is a morally ambiguous character because he has multiple identities that are contrary to each other, which, in turn, leads to internal struggles and dilemmas. For instance, he investigates crimes but is friends with Mouse, a merciless killer for sport. He has values set in place, yet his actions are not always in accordance to them. In ‘Walter Mosley, Detective Fiction and Black Culture,’ Young says ‘in making moral decisions, Easy only listens to an inner voice that ‘is hard. It never cares if I’m scared or in danger. It just looks at all the facts and tells me what I need to do” (147). His moral ambiguity stems from his many different identities, and the largest part of that is because he is Black. He can try to be as good and morally correct as he would like, but he will not get the things he wants that way. He does not have the luxury or privilege of getting the things he wants without having to take part in things that sometimes put his morals at risk. As a Black man, Easy has to live in a different way than white people. The system in which he lives in is not tailored to him or his peers, so their only choice is to do what is best for them, whether it be at the expense of moral goodness or not. For that reason, the basis of morality is different for African Americans and whites. The obstacles that Easy faces as a result of his identity as a Black man, play a role in how he makes decisions and decides what his values are.

The theme of redemption in A Red Deathworks in conjunction to the theme of identity as it becomes a double-edged sword for Easy as he tries to save himself sometimes at the expense of others. Easy is in the predicament with Lawrence and Craxton for no other reason than the fact that he is Black. For starters, Easy only ended up on Lawrence’s radar because Mofass offered him up to fill Lawrence’s need for ‘one rich Negro’ (Mosley 36). Easy would not have been brought in for tax fraud otherwise, and in turn, would not have needed to work for Craxton and the FBI so he would be able to pay the IRS. When people begin to die, Easy is also then forced to search for the killer to clear his name for no other reason than he is black. His problems begin and end with the color of his skin, it makes him an easy target for white authority. When Easy is approached by Agent Craxton and told what the FBI wants him to do, he is wary but admits, ‘You got me by the nuts on this one, so I’ma do what you want’ (Mosley 8). Easy has his reservation about his mission but he does needs this job to get the help he needs to clear his name. He is essentially backed into a corner with the only way out being to go against his views. In order to redeem himself Easy had to go through his community and church and be undercover, turning them in if need be. ‘He also finds himself investigating suspects at the behest of white policemen’ (Lock 82), which goes against the loyalty he has to his friends and peers. With his search for redemption and to prove that he is not a criminal, comes his guilt with having to sleuth through his own community to reach it. Easy says that, ‘I trusted a Negro, I don’t know why· I trusted a black man before I’d even think about a white one. That’s just the way things were for me’ (Mosley 23). Easy trusts black men more than white men because they are like him, they’re going through the discrimination that he is; their way of life is the same. Easy knows his place among his community, he trusts them, and they trust him, however he ends up having to use that trust to clear his name. Redemption can also mean ‘any attempt by a person to change his way of living (from something bad or ignoble to something better and more worthwhile)’ (Conard 102). Easy is a Black man in a world that caters to whites. He wants to make a life for himself, have a home, a job, and a family. He wants his own version of the ‘American Dream,’ one where a black man make it. He takes college courses and works as a private eye for the people in his community that had issues they ‘couldn’t go to the police’ (Mosley 1) for. However, given his identity as a Black man, Easy is not able to catch a break and be the man he wants to be. In a world that is set against him, he has to do things that keep him from reaching the things he wants to achieve.

Despite all of the discrimination and neglect that Black and African Americans face at the hands of society, they do not allow that to dampen their lives or hinder them from reaching success. They continuously fight for their chance to make it in the world. Mosley shows this resilience and determination by creating characters that are strong and courageous in the face of prejudice and hardship. Characters like Easy and his best friend, Mouse, are used to show that regardless of obstacles they are not weak and will not break at the racial pressures of society. In A Red Death, Easy comes face to face with the police four times and despite their less than warm interrogations, he refuses to yield to their authority and, sometimes, even violence. In chapter 12, during an interrogation with Officer Naylor and Reed, they threaten to send in Officer Fine. This threat comes with an undertone of promised violence. Easy says ‘I didn’t say a word but stared bullets at the cops instead. I knew how to take a beating.’ Easy refuses to allow their intimidation to bully him into submission, he does not flinch in the face of their brutality. He has developed a thick skin because of it, one that leaves him unruffled in a tough situation. Regardless of everything Easy is going through, in spite of the tangled web he is embedded in, he never loses sight of the things he wants or thinks of giving up. In Easy, Mosley creates a clever hero that is committed to reaching his ‘American Dream’ even in the face of adversity. Another character that is fearless is Mouse, Easy’s friend that kills at the drop of a hat. Of Mouse, Mosley says, ‘he loves himself’ (Davis and Mosley 55), he is not trying to be anything that he is not; he is unapologetic. Mouse does not feel inferior to whites- or Blacks, for that matter, ‘He’d go against a man bigger than I was with no fear because he knew that nobody was better than him’ (Mosley 4). He does not allow society or anyone to decide his worth or value, and while he may be crazy, he is confident and perpetually unbothered. Mouse’s lack of acknowledgement of the discrimination he faces as black man only goes to further show the thick skin that him and Easy, and the Black community as a whole, have evolved as a means to defend themselves from the hardships they face.

Representation takes place in television, literature, and media; and should portray the real world and, in turn, real people. Representation is important because it shows people that they matter and that they are valid and seen. Regrettably, African Americans have been neglected and left behind for many years in terms of not only representation, but also in society as a whole. Tired of the lack of Black heroes, Walter Mosley uses themes of identity and redemption to write A Red Death and show the real lives and struggles of African Americans as a means to show that Black life is human life and should be recognized as such. Amid all of the struggles that African Americans face, they are unyielding and dauntless. Mosley does not portray his characters as discouraged even in the lowest of situations which only goes to show the persistence and obstinance that African Americans and Blacks possess. Mosley uses A Red Death to show the lives of African Americans and Blacks in order to include them into society, not as other and second-class citizens, but as people with human experiences. Without honest representation that is not riddled with stereotypes and detrimental bias, society fails to acknowledge and accept a severely marginalized group as valid. African Americans deserve the opportunity to grow up with characters that look like them and go through the things that they go through; their favorite characters should represent them.


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Whether it be in tv shows movies or literature. (2019, Dec 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/whether-it-be-in-tv-shows-movies-or-literature-everyone-has-a-example-essay

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