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Blackface Film Analysis

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Blackface and Yellowface

Blackface is part of a history of dehumanization, of denied citizenship, and of efforts to excuse and justify state violence. From lynchings to mass incarceration, whites have utilized blackface (and the resulting dehumanization) as part of its moral and legal justification for violence. It is time to stop with the dismissive arguments those that describe these offensive acts as pranks, ignorance and youthful indiscretions. Blackface is never a neutral form of entertainment, but an incredibly loaded site for the production of damaging stereotypes...the same stereotypes that undergird individual and state violence, American racism, and a centuries worth of injustice. - David J. Leonard, professor of critical culture
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Historical films were mostly the beneficiaries of blackface and yellowface practices. For instance, the famous American actor John Wayne was casted in the role of the Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956) despite the racial difference between the actor and the real historical figure. In the movie, Genghis Khan was portrayed as a middle-aged cowboy with blue eyes. These practice conveyed inaccurate historical information to the public. The purpose of historical films is to reenact a part of history and to educate and entertain the public about the story. Thus, these movies tried to remodeled each scene with similar, if not identical, background. Same applies to the choice of actors. However, the technique of blackface and yellowface do not entirely transform a white actor into an ethnic character. The makeup can only reach as far as changing the color of the face, and the actors are still white on screen. The colored face acts only as a outfit that signals to the audience the presence of ethnic characters and ultimately reinforce the discrimination value in the mind of audience. Producers might argue that films without a well-known actor would fail at gaining public attention, but the lack of opportunity for minority actors to cast in films further doom their future in the entertainment
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