Birth of A Nation Essay example

Submitted By chelseymxo
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Pages: 5

Black males are portrayed in the most stereotypical way in the film, at least the stereotypes that people feel that they blacks displayed during the time period. Gus, a former slave portrayed by a white actor in black face, is shown exhibiting very “stereotypical” behavior. After having his head filled with ideas by corrupt carpetbaggers, he attempts to court Ben’s younger sister, Flora. A scene ensues showing Gus chasing her through the woods as dramatic, natural contrasts of light and shadow are shown; Flora jumps off of a cliff to her death rather than allowing herself to be touched by a black man and to avoid being raped and suffering dishonor. This could also be interpreted in a sexist manner. When Gus chases Mae Marsh, she could even be leaping from the cliff to preserve her purity. A fearful Gus is made an innocent victim and is held accountable, and of course, Gus is lynched sometime following the ordeal.
In reality, before the war, a common occurrence in everyday southern life was the rape of black slave women by white planters, their sons, and overseers. If a black man had sex with a white woman, she was seen as defiled, and he could expect to be lynched, but if the roles were reversed, the white man would be quietly endured. Interracial sex tainted a white woman, while a black woman was just getting what she deserved and wanted. The hypocritical white mind was filled with this idea that black women were promiscuous.
Several times throughout the film we also see blacks and their carpetbagger allies holding signs promoting “equal marriage” as if it was the primary goal of blacks during the time. These scenes adhered to the white man’s deepest fears and prejudices, and confirmed their commitment to defending the honor of white women.
After Gus’ insane behavior and the Klan makes its appearance with plans of lynching him, we meet a mulatto Lieutenant Governor named Silas Lynch. While his troops run rampant and black mobs roam the streets, Lynch comes to the decision that he wants to marry Congressman Stoneman’s daughter, Elsie. A frightened, impartial, and white Elsie ends up in the arms of Lynch. He tells her that he wants her to become queen of his “Black Empire”. While the black people create a ruckus outside of the house, some are seen with torn and tattered clothing which was shown to symbolize just how animalistic and savage blacks were. The film’s director seems to try to make the mulatto that much more dangerous because they possess the cunning of a white with the animalism of a black. The film represents the idea that mulattos are necessarily evil, while those with all-black ancestry have the choice to be either “good” (faithful to whites) or “bad” (interested in self-preservation and equality).
In reality, reconstruction governments did not push for integrated schools, much less marriages. The black community was also much more focused on reuniting and rebuilding marriages that were separated by slavery. The idea of “miscegenation” was something that only existed in white people’s imaginations. The whole idea of black males wanting to have relations with white women was actually the total opposite of what was common during the Construction era. Following the Antebellum period, black and mulatto women found it more difficult to limit their sexual availability to just one white man. Reconstruction legislators actually had to try to protect black and mulatto women from sexual exploitation. Sadly, most attempts to outlaw concubinage failed. Some states even attempted to file paternity suits that forced white men to support their illegitimate mulatto children. White men expressed their sexual dominance by policing access to white women while still enjoying the favors of black women without obligations of marriage or support.
The Ku Klux Klan was also portrayed pretty differently in the film than what we are accustomed to in present day. Upon hearing of