Bamboozled, the Spike Lee film, is a fascinating piece of art that raises a lot of points. With respect to how film and the media view the African-American on screen, the film brings up very critical questions. Spark Lee reflects, or rather brings to light, the misconception that one has to play a certain kind of character or role to be a black American and on television. Bamboozled’s film seems to send the message that African Americans are supposed to have a certain type of character and that their lives should represent that position. In other words, Spike Lee makes a statement that to live in the United States as an African American, one has to act in a particular way and if the person wants to be successful, he or she has to act or entertain in a certain manner. All these aspects are deep rooted in racism. According to Davidson (2016), the white racial nationalism is on the rise with recent events where the victory of politicians such as Donald Trump of the United States and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel victory being largely contributed by racism (n.p). In the film, Bamboozled, Spike Lee (2000) addresses the issue of how African American are portrayed in films and movies. Instead of showing an intelligent and Independent African American, most African Americans were portrayed as a dull-witted Slaves, thieves, or an inferior human being.
As soon as “Mantan” premieres, Man Ray and Womack, the main actors of this show have become famous overnight. In the show, black actors were featured in blackface, extremely racist jokes and puns, and offensively stereotyped in animated cartoons that caricatured the leading stars of the new show. Some found it insulting, but some found it to be the most, hilarious show. An estimation of 95% of supporters are White, and the other 5% are people of color (Lee n.p). Holden (2000), points out that Mr. Lee, the filmmaker of Bamboozled discerns better than anybody else how laughter can be the assured way to scary and painful truths (n.p). In other words, Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled is most provocative in warning the black Americans letting themselves to be led astray when it is fall-down funny. Through the main protagonist Pierre Delacroix, the film points out frankly that racist humor could be extremely funny to the white addressees just as to the white if the humorist is an African American and the hilarity comes at the whites’ expense. While working as a network executive in a company that specialized in the black matters, Pierre Delacroix is entangled in a racial discrimination context against his black fellows. Ironically though, the only black person who is present during the meeting in which he was reminded of the CP time and reproached for his lateness was none other than Pierre Delacroix himself (Lee n.p). Dunwitty, who is his boss, clearly illustrates that he does not want to see any Negroes on the television except if they are buffoons. We see him even canceling one of the brilliant shows directed by Pierre Delacroix for the reasons that the show headlined the African Americans as dignified people (Lee n.p). Dunwitty even goes ahead to raise some complaints that Pierre Delacroix’s written materials are too antiseptic, too white, and too clean which according to him portrays, merely, the white people with black faces (Lee n.p). In fact, Dunwitty reminds Pierre Delacroix of the humiliating positions that the African Americans hold in cinema; in other words, they are nothing beyond just entertainers (Lee n.p).
In addition, Manray was kidnapped and murdered because of the minstrel show. Mau Mau, the militant group, felt ashamed and angered toward the portrayal of Black American. This incident represents the downfall in Pierre’s career and also made him realize the horrifying message, his creation had broadcasted to his audience. This portrays Delacroix as a character who by his own thoughts sees himself as having control over his life while in the real sense he is simply a puppet. Delacroix had even changed his name to a more dignified Pierre Delacroix from Pierce Dothan. According to Holden (2000), Delacroix comes out as a disturbing if labored caricature whereby by he is at times stuffy and suave speaking in a pseudo-academic and phony voice that is determinedly and to some extent formal above it all (n.p). His acts of scooping off Manray, who is a tap-dancing clown, at the New York sidewalks is seen as misleading the life of the African American into white culture. It is for this reason that Mos Def, the brother to Sloan who also is the leader of Mau Mau instructs Manray in black history besides encouraging him to rebel against his role.
As the show progress, the characters, Man Ray who act as Mantan and Womack who act as Sleep n’ Eat start to realize that they can’t do this anymore; demeaning themselves and the whole African American population. They realize that they are not comedians and certainly not only for entertainments. It can also be seen in the film that Pierre Delacroix is left with no option other than portraying the African Americans as just entertainers as he is committed to respecting his contract. Despite Pierre Delacroix struggling to promote the black American’s community by fighting misrepresentation, he is faced with racial discrimination whereby he is forced stand for the same misrepresentation that he is fighting. This also makes him be seen as a puppet of the whites. In the long-run, Pierre Delacroix appears as a well-educated individual who willingly dissociates himself from his very own African Americans. African Americans can be better and have the same opportunities if people did not categorize them according to the stereotypes of Black people.
In conclusion, Spike Lee in his film Bamboozled (2000) through the main protagonist Pierre Delacroix, makes it blatantly clear the American discourse and ideology against the African American within the contemporary public sphere. Spike Lee throws to the audience the depiction of the struggle endemic to representation experience of the African American in a very obvious yet complex way. In the film, the African American actors are featured in blackface, extremely racist jokes and puns, besides being abusively stereotyped in animated cartoons. Furthermore, the minstrel show led to the kidnapping and murder of Manray as a result of the show portraying the Black Americans in a bad light. Nevertheless, the characters rebel against this misrepresentation of the African Americans as the film comes to an end.
Davidson, Lawrence. “The Rise of White Racial Nationalism – Consortiumnews.” Consortiumnews, 14 Dec. 2016, consortiumnews.com/2016/12/14/the-rise-of-white-racial-nationalism/.
Holden, Stephen. “FILM REVIEW; Trying On Blackface in a Flirtation with Fire – The New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia, 6 Oct. 2000, www.nytimes.com/2000/10/06/movies/film-review-trying-on-blackface-in-a-flirtation-with-fire.html.
Lee, Spike. “Bamboozled (2000).” YouTube, Tammy, 23 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK1BbciUTxo.