Sunday, October 28, 2007
Here are two pictures of a man in blackface. These men are white men who have their face colored a very black color so they can portray a black man in the theater. These men have their face a very dark black color, they have exaggerated lips usually in a white or pink color. I chose these pictures because they showed the typical man in blackface. They have the very dark face color and exaggerated lips and one is portrayed as very happy while the other one is frowning.
In class we watched the movie Ethnic Notions. In the movie it showed men wearing blackface and performing in the theater. The movie discussed how with the use of blackface helped shape many stereotypes of black men and women. In their acts they would have comical skits in which the performers would portray lazy, superstitious black characters who were cowardly, who stole, lied and did not speak very strong English. As a result, the genre played an important role in shaping perceptions of and prejudices about blacks generally and African Americans in particular. Some social commentators have stated that blackface provided an outlet for whites' fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar, and a socially acceptable way of expressing their feelings and fears about race and control.
These skits lead to other nicknames and stereotypes of the black population. As shown in the movie, such nicknames as coon and mammy were used to stereotype African Americans. The coon was portrayed as a poor, lazy, black male and the mammy was an over weight, happy black female slave. These images were shown in the theater and continued to be shown in all types of media at the time.
At the beginning days of the theater, blacks were not able to perform in the theater. Only white males would be actors and that’s why they would wear blackface. Also it is believed to be the reason why black females were always portrayed as being large, and man-like because in the theater the black female characters were played by white males. However, finally when they started to allow blacks to perform in some skits, they would make the blacks apply dark color to their faces to make them the very dark color. The black actors found this to be discriminating but they preferred to apply blackface rather than do other menial labor jobs that were available to them at the time.
Also, they always showed black characters, male and female, with very large, over exaggerated lips. This led to the stereotype that blacks have large lips. They would normally have the lips be a white or pink color and make them very large. So overall, the blackface character in the theaters led to several stereotypes being developed about African Americans. Not only did it portray them as lazy and not very intelligent, they also portrayed physical stereotypes.
I find it rather interesting that this was so accepted by the population at the time. I really found it interesting that they also made the blacks apply the dark color to their faces. This shows that the stereotypes were obviously not true if they had to have the blacks apply it to their faces to match the stereotype. However, media and entertainment plays a large role in developing stereotypes and constructing the way we think and feel about certain groups so its easy to believe that this helped develop lasting stereotypes.