A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
ROLE OF CINEMA IN GATES' "COLORED PEOPLE: A MEMOIR"
Gates doesn't make much mention of cinema in "Colored People" (1995) although he does talk in detail about the ritual importance of television shows like Amos and Andy and Leave it to Beaver and Dragnet and The Lone Ranger. He does, though, talk in detail about the movies Imitation of Life (1934)and The Greener Pastures. Imitation of Life is a movie in which a poor white woman (Bea) and her child (Jessie) take in a poor black woman (Delilah) and her light complexioned child (Peola). The four live in realtive peace until Delilah hits on an idea to make them money: pancackes. They open a pancacke restaurant and strike it rich. The movie then jumps fiften years into the future and we get a glimpse of Peola as she attempts to pass for white. Delilah falls sicks and there is a chance that Peola will not come to her side because of race, but in the end she does. A further synopsis of Imitation of Life can be found on IMDB here
The Greener Pastures (1936) is a movie in which all of the Old Testament's stories are embodied by black actors; the movie was made by white people for a black audience because its characters and scenarios transpire in a black world. I am not really sure what this means because I have yet to see this movie, but I can surmise that this practice was evident and is evident even to this day. I mean the list of blacks who can green light a film isn't exactly a list, it's more like a pair: Spike Lee and/or Tyler Perry. But the specific role that the television and cinema played in Gates' life is actually hard to tell. He does say though that, "The simple truh is that the civil rights era came late to Piedmont, even though it came early to our television sets" (1995, pg. 19) Later on, Gates writes that "It was the television set that brought us together at night, and the television set that brought us together at night, and the television set that brought in the world outside the Valley" (1995, pg. 20).
The role of cinema was to bring the outside world, regardless of how white-washed and inauthentic it was, into the hearth of the Gates family. This served to educated the Gates family, but also to bring them together under to contemplate the perception that was given to them.