film, "Slap that Bass"

In the film ""Slap That Bass,"" Fred Astaire tells the story of Peter, who tries to combine jazz dance and traditional ballet technique. The opening scene introduces the audience to a black-American crew performing manual labor aboard an ocean liner while dancing. As the story progresses, they begin singing a jazz song, which Peter enjoys and joins in on. He is seated, smartly dressed in a suit, and definitely lives a good life. This can be argued by his formal western attire of a decent black suit and a gray tie. Peter takes a central role in the singing and incorporates classical ballet style with jazz singing. They all sing that the world is a mess due to taxes and politics, and there is no happiness. Onwards, peter takes all the attention with his classical dance moves and ends the story with clapping and admiration from the African-Americans. The integration of the two diverse cultures, achieved through the representation of meaning, reveals that race is an outdated social construct used by people in power to maintain control over their subordinates.

Representation, culture diversity and hegemony

It is evident that the concepts of hegemony, diversity, and representation are the main subjects in the video clip. Throughout "Slap that Bass", signs have been used to convey key ideas. These signs include images and audio arranged in a sequence to produce sense. However, the images only depict a portion of the real things being represented. There are visual images in motion that act as iconic signs, with a seemingly natural relationship between the signifier (images seen in the video), and the signified (actual characters such as Peter). There are two parties being represented in the film, African American seen through jazz music, and whites seen through peter's classical ballet style. The key theme in the video is to unite the two styles of music. The relationship between these two musical styles represents two different cultures, which are socially constructed.

Classical ballet represents a different conceptual map from jazz music. While both peter and African Americans have similar issues of politics affecting them, they have different ways of representing these concerns. An audience of ballet style will interpret the video using different codes, while a jazz audience will also have a different way of interpreting meaning. Likewise, African Americans have something in common, a similar conceptual map that makes it possible to interpret the world in similar ways. They are able to build up the shared culture of meaning and thus construct a social world together (Hall, pg. 4). However, a shared conceptual map is not sufficient to fully share meaning. Language is needed in the construction of understanding so that people can correlate concepts and ideas with written and spoken sound. This has been achieved in the film where both Peter and Jazz dancers use language to address social-political ideas affecting their lives. Interestingly, the two styles use a common language to pass meaning to their audience. They all rely on the English language to talk about happiness, future, music and misery. These themes are portrayed using signs, which range from sounds, drum beats, images, motion pictures and words.

The second ideology that comes to mind when viewing the efforts scene from the film is that of hegemony. Racial profiling was a vibrant problem in the USA in the 1990s. People of African origin were subjected to different political and social treatments from the whites. It was widely believed that Africans were only good at physical work, one that did not involve a lot of thinking. While it's not rational to suggest that the crew doing manual work, as depicted in the film, has anything to do with race, it is only fair to see it that way in a film made at a time when white supremacy was at its peak. According to Lull (40), hegemony is a social construct where a group of people with political and economic powers make sense of their subordinate in a way to maintain their dormancy over them. The whites, who controlled the political systems, used social institutions such as religion to justify European race as superior to the African race. This ideology was placed through incorporation, where African-Americans criticized and resisted white supremacy, but nothing changed in those days.


Fred has widely employed the idea of representation; where meaning is reproduced through language in the Slap that Bass to bring out key ideologies that have shaped American social-political life. The pictures in the film are signs used to bring the concept of culture diversity and integration using two distinct music styles. Peter, a classical ballet performer is attracted to jazz which is associated with African American culture. His efforts to integrate classical ballet into jazz seem to be successful given that African American dancers applaud his style towards the end of the video. This success can be attributed to the careful organization of signs into the language. The existence of a common language in a diverse culture enabled the integration to take place and allowed viewers to translate concepts.

Works cited

Astaire, Fred. Slap that Bass. Shall we Dance? 1937. U.S.A

Hall, Stuart. "Representation, Meaning and Language". The work of representation (1997)

Hanna, Erin. "Week 1: Introduction." ideology, hegemony, and social construction" J320

Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, race, and class in media: A text-reader (2003): 61-66.

Works Cited

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