I found Renee’s presentation on internet activism under the Chinese firewall to be extremely interesting. The concept of this type of activism is extremely dynamic. Using censored social media interaction to undermine and rebel against the government is interesting as is, but the way in which the activists use the confines of government censorship to their advantage is extremely interesting. I love that these protestors often use humor in the form of visual mediums to oppose their oppressors and then claim to just be goofing around, or “having fun on the internet”.
I also loved the presenter’s use of images and graphics in the presentation. I always try to avoid putting too many words in my powerpoint, but I never really consider the use of trigger diagrams or symbols, which Renee used extremely effectively (examples include locks, trains, real and modified logos). Overall, It was a well delivered presentation with an extremely engaging visual aid.
Research question: As a pro-black empowerment activist movement, did Blaxploitation succeed?
In the early 1970s, factors such as the growing popularity of the television and suburbanization were hurting the film industry. In order to save itself, the white-dominated industry began to focus on making profits off of a majority urban population that they had previously ignored: black Americans. This resulted in a genre and era of films known as Blaxploitation. Blaxploitation films typically revolved around edgy, supposedly authentic black men kicking ass against their white oppressors in gritty urban landscapes. Though initially these films re-defined what was acceptable for black characters on the screen, they quickly began to mold new stereotypes, and as the majority of the profits went to white studio workers, were inherently exploitative. Still, these films created a new window of opportunity for black artists and showed the film industry that black americans were a people worth paying attention to. Furthermore, blaxploitation films took back the ever-opressed manhood of black American men, reflected a culture that black Americans finally felt was their own, and initiated a tradition of pushing the idea of blackness into the mainstream. Though controversial, and often contradictory, ultimately the genre of blaxploitation was successful as an activist movement.
On the first go around with the research proposal, I really wasn’t sure what i was doing. This came partly from my own misunderstanding of exactly what a research proposal was supposed to accomplish, but also because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to research. I narrowed down activist film to black film, and found three specific and important eras of black film, but each of these would have served as an RBA topic alone. Most of the feedback that i got on my research proposal was that it read like an abbreviated history of black film (which it very much was).
I had to remember why I was interested in the subject of non-documentary activist films in the first place: the inherent contradictions of activist commercial film and the subjectivity of the art. If these films serve the purpose of turning a profit, how can they be purely activist? When every aspect of a film is not a reflection of reality, but the embodiment of an artist’s vision about the world he/she seeks to portray, what is at stake in each choice made?
That’s what drew me to blaxploitation. Although it was a marketing strategy, it also produced black narratives never before seen on the screen, and provided more avenue for black artists to work in the film industry. So my research revolves around reconciling these contradictory aspects of the blaxploitation movement. My thesis is roughly that blaxploitation helped more than it hurt, but as a white guy, I worry this is an easy argument to make – I certainly to further my research before fully understanding my argument.