Throughout his essay Ross uses Tim Burton’s Batman and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in order to display the issues prevalent within American society in 1989. Ross uses Batman to draw the parallel between the film and the mainstream “white culture” of the time. He argues that the joker’s behavior displays the common stereotypes of African Americans at the time by highlighting the scene where the Joker breaks into the Gotham Museum. Ross argues that the music and dancing of the joker are a reference African Americans at the time and the Joker breaking into the upper class and essentially white museum represents African Americans attempting to “invade” the typical white protestant culture of America at the time. Ross also compares Bruce Wayne dressing up in order to fight the Joker to the early Ku Klux Klan because both are donning costumes in order to try to preserve the society that they are accustomed to.
Ross also recognizes that whereas Batman did not make any intentional social criticisms, Do The Right Thing was a direct criticism of society at the time. Within Do The Right Thing, Ross argues that it directly shows the state of African American society as well as immigrants and other minorities. It is interesting how this film displays how Italians had become a part of the “White” society when earlier in American history Italian immigrants had been viewed as a minority and were subject to much of the conditions that African Americans were experiencing now. By establishing these examples of two different cultures within American society, Ross is displaying the difficulty of establishing a true American Identity based on these different cultures within the nation.
Ross also displays how ostracizing African Americans is only making it more difficult to establish a true American identity. Ross uses the examples of the war on drugs, which essentially just imprisoned African Americans rather than truly fighting drugs. These policies to ostracize minorities are still prevalent in American society and even within New York City. In New York City there is a “stop and frisk” program, which gives permission to police officers to stop and search anyone whom they decide to. This policy has essentially forgotten the white population and has allowed police to racially profile in order to “combat” drug use. Ross also uses the coining of the term “African-American” in order to display the difficulty of establishing one American identity because due to the ostracism of the black society. The term African-American highlights this ostracism because it states how due to their ostracism African-Americans view themselves as African first and American second.
Sorry for the Late Post
Jaap Recitation (Wednesday 11:00-12:15)