MA Student Experience Blog
Blog. Zelie Asava Lecture
On November 26th, Dr. Zelie Asava lectured in the Film and Screen Media department about the representation of people of color and interracial relationships in cinema...
Asava is a classifier at the Irish Film Classification Office, and has written both The Black Irish Onscreen and Mixed Race Cinema: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France. Her lecture, entitled “Interrogating Interracial Dynamics in ‘Post-Race’ Cinema,” especially questioned the notion that contemporary society is consistently colorblind in its filmmaking. She notes that with the exception of films such as Loving (2016), interracial relationships are often depicted as doomed and unbalanced. In addition she pointed out that mixed-race people have been depicted as sexually aggressive, deviant, and threatening to a social order dependent upon a racial hierarchy. This trend, prevalent at least since DW Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), is coupled by the fact that white actors often played “mulatto” characters, and those actors often donned black- or brown-face.
Asava then discussed contemporary films, noting that people of color, mixed-race people, and interracial relationships are still misrepresented or underrepresented in contemporary cinema. Although programs such as Dear White People and Away We Go supposedly mark a post-race world, Dr. Asava noted that Hollywood continues to be shaped by racial politics.
Films such as Black Panther (2018) have foregrounded black female power, while Get Out (2017) addressed racial issues with a mix of comedy and horror, and black directors such as Ava Duvernay and Dee Rees have grown more prominent in Hollywood, However, Asava said, we have seen this before: In the 1970s, the Blaxploitation genre began as a cinematic movement marked by African American self-representation. However, white directors eventually claimed, exploited, and misrepresented the genre.
I am especially passionate about racial politics and was thrilled to attend this lecture. Dr. Asava was articulate and perceptive, and I felt privileged to be part of a department with such attention to diversity and contemporary social issues.