There are certain tropes that have become associated with romantic movies in Hollywood. From the way the plot unfolds to characterization, there is an undeniable formula used in the movie industry to create images of romance. Films like Just Wright and Phat Girlz, while focusing on the idea of everyone being able to find love, have aided in the creation and promotion of ideas of what love is for a black plus sized woman.
Black Romance in Hollywood Films
This project aims to describe the different representations of black women in these films. The representation of plus sized black women in these films depicts an inequality seen through stereotypical representations and fantastical ideologies. The question this then poses is what effect these representations have on viewers and how this shapes or influences their sense of self. The images and ideas presented in these movies have created a negative and belittling image of love for the black plus sized woman but it also shows the issues surrounding the role a black plus sized woman plays in a film.
Preach Black Woman
The project effectively explores the representation of plus sized black women in film in that it is an expression of the thoughts and ideologies associated with these women and exhumes the stereotypes and offenses through poetry and photography. The poem is an artistic expression that is not just to be read on paper but experienced through the passion and emotions presented as one voice for the voice of many. By choosing to combine poetry, photography and interviews the viewer is given a sensory appeal that invites them to see the authenticity behind the information being presented. The video entitled ‘Preach Black Woman’ , was originally created with the intent of having different black females present their story and then document these expressions and present them. I came to realize that the universality of the experience allowed for one voice to express just as passionately the story of black plus sized female who have been affected by these stereotypical representations. The viewer is therefore enabled to experience and in turn become enlightened on the truths of representation in these films and how the ideas of anyone can find love even in the strangest of places only stand to show the inequality and marginalization black plus sized women experience.
The video , consists of a series of photographs taken in my ‘Blackies Collection’. The images captured are meant to stand in contrast to the stilled images from the movies as these black plus sized women exhume beauty, confidence and comfort without the need for hypersexualization. These images step back from the fantastical elements presented in these films and instead highlights the true nature of these women in an average space, away from the exotic and unattainable for the average person.
Representation in Texts
After doing extensive research on the way black women are seen in film I realized there was need for justification as it relates to being seen as a “star” for black actresses. After coming across different blogs and my own experiences in creative writing I have come to realize that there is not a lot of print surrounding this issue and that the seriousness of this issues seems to be overlooked. Creative writings that have spoken on issues surrounding plus sized black women and their representation in Hollywood all mention the influence of media in one’s life and how it is that their sense of self and identity is affected by this. Once someone has become conditioned to seeing a certain image of themselves it is hard to not be affected by it.
The spoken word poem was a collaboration of personal experiences as well as the stories shared by the interviewers. After watching the movies Just Wright and Phat Girlz and looking at them from the point of view of limited black female characters I was able to express the way romance is expected to unfold for black plus sized woman. The poem is meant to be a statement and not just an expression of things experienced.The preach imagery repeated throughout the video highlights the voice of advocacy the poem stands to be. It is an artistic expression that the viewer experiences through the passion and emotions presenting one voice as the voice of many. By choosing to combine poetry, photography and interviews the viewer is given a sensory appeal that invites them to see the authenticity behind the information being presented.
Identity and Representation
In his essay ‘Cultural Identity and Cinematic Expression’ Stuart Hall speaks about the way cinema and cinematic representations influence the sense of identity of those being represented. In this hall states that instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished historical fact that cinematic discourses represent, we should think of identity as a production which is never complete and is always constituted within representation (68). This scholarship is significant to the understanding of the way Just Wright and Phat Girlz constitute the way a black plus sized woman experiences love once their sense of self has been established. The struggle these characters face is reflected into the lives of viewers and their identity thus become based on these representations. However, after reading Regesters novel “African American actresses: the struggle for visibility” , the images are not only problematic for the viewers but these black actresses. Black cinema actresses before the 1960s assumed minimal roles and in many instances were even partially erased. Once the role of the mammy was succeeded by the role of the prostitutes and the angry black woman another formula was developed that allowed for these stereotypical representations to be continued throughout the Hollywood film industry. Caricature roles were not erased they were merely replaced (330).
Identity, Representation , Love
The representation of black plus sized women in Hollywood romance films plays a significant role in the identity developed by viewers. These representations idealize the way love functions for a plus sized black woman and forces viewers to internalize these notions and the challenges that come with being loved by a black male figure. These fantastical representations of love poses the question of what love means for the average black plus sized female. This project highlights the effect these images have on viewers shared experience with romantic love, familial love and more importantly self love.
Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation.” Framework, vol. 0, no. 36, 1989, pp. 68-82, Periodicals Archive Online.
Regester, Charlene B. “African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960”. Indiana University Press. 2010.