Julie Dash Analysis

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Black activism comes in many forms, and has been prominent in black art, including films. Julie Dash, an African-American film maker who is still active to this day, created an important piece of art that stands as a form of black activism, or more specifically, black feminism. Through the presence of black female unity, rejections of black female subjectivity, and the adamancy of black victory, Illusions by Julie Dash proves to be a film centered on black feminism. The film is set in Hollywood in 1942, with Mignon Dupree, a white passing black woman works in the Studios. She seems to be in a high position as she is always overlooking anything that comes the CEO’s way. She seems to identify heavily with her blackness, despite her genetic whiteness,…show more content…
It is shown that she recognizes this duality in her identity and perception, when she says “There is no joy in the seduction of images. Now I’ve become an illusion, just like the stories made here. They may think of me one way, but I’m another way. They see me but, they can’t recognize me” (Illusions). While she does not find joy in it, she is aware that how she is perceived is not who she is, as if she is wearing a mask. Similar to Howardena Pindell’s mimicking of a white woman in her production of Free, White, and 21, Mignon’s performance as a white woman highlighted “the distance between identification and imitation” as Mignon seems to not have as much pride in her genetic whiteness, but uses her light skin to imitate whiteness in order to benefit herself and other black people (McMillan). As stated in Uri McMillan’s chapter regarding Howardena Pindell, Stuart Hall stated that black people have “worked on ourselves as the canvases of representation. […] Black cultural actors skillfully manipulated their bodies as if it was, and often it was, the only cultural capital we had.” (McMillan) Mignon mentions how she thought there was nothing her for me, implying that as her true self, and thus showing her reasoning behind masquerading as a white woman. Her “manipulation” was the only form of cultural capital she had in order to fight against the oppressions that would have…show more content…
According to the reading, “Be our Negro means to act in ways that some whites deem appropriate for black people to behave: obedient, submissive, and silent unless joking. […] This ghost calls for black females to act solely at the command and for the pleasure of whites” (Kupenda). This explains why the Lieutenant looked at Mignon is such a sexual way while dismissing her arguments when he discovered that she is black. Mignon actively fought against the “Just Be Our Negro ghost” when she addressed the lieutenant, and secretively fought against the ghost while performing whiteness in order to advance herself and other black women. Interestingly, Julie Dash juxtaposed Mignon with Esther Jeeter, who exemplified the idea of the “Just Be Our Negro” ghost. Jeeter, not having white passing privilege, was happy with whatever was given to her, and saw her being used as a great opportunity. She did not ask for anything, nor did she take anything unless offered, she never complained, and always smiled and agreed. During one scene when she was speaking to Mignon, she mentioned how she found it silly how they had her match her singing to the video of the white woman, as opposed to videotaping the white woman as she lip synced Esther’s voice. However, she only said this in confidence to Mignon, because she knew Mignon
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