Racism in Film Essay

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Pages: 11

Racism in Film Throughout the history of film in the United States, the depiction of race has only changed slightly. Although, the display of various races in film is pertinent to the specific time period in which the film was made, films have, for the most part, always portrayed white superiority over other races. People of color have traditionally been presented in a negative way (if presented at all) that helps to maintain the status quo where whites are at the top of the social hierarchy. A few common methods are used to elicit the issues and depiction of race, in the films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Glory, and Bamboozled. According to Stephanie Larson, the three common methods that are used in film to depict racial …show more content…
This “degraded Indian stereotype shows Indians as weak, unsuccessful, mentally deficient, or chemically dependent” (50). Chief Bromden embodies almost all of these characteristics, and while he is not physically weak, he appears mentally weak. McMurphy attempts to teach him how to play basketball but struggles mightily because the Chief seems incapable of learning. This stereotypical portrayal is degrading towards Native Americans and makes them seem intellectually inferior as a whole. However, the audience sees a major transformation in Chief Bromden as the film goes on. While the Chief and McMurphy are sitting on a bench awaiting shock therapy, the Chief utters a few words revealing to us that he is not deaf or dumb. In fact, he is very wise because he had been playing dumb in order to protect himself from the evil practices of the mental asylum, such as shock therapy and lobotomy. The Chief’s character shifts from one stereotype of Native Americans to another. In this part of the film, he is stereotyped as the good Indian, “a peace-loving man portrayed as isolated from other Indians and helpful to whites that seek spiritual redemption and truth” (49). At the end of the movie, McMurphy is lobotomized. This once colorful individual who brought so much life to the asylum is reduced to a vegetable. Chief Bromden, being the honorable Indian that he is, puts McMurphy out of his misery by smothering him with a pillow. He then fulfills McMurphy’s dream of escaping to