You Think Popular Culture is Trying to Bridge Different Culture and Races Together? HELL NO!!

“Serving as representatives of binary cultures, Sara represents all that is good and white while Malakite stands for all that is negative and dark. By choosing to attend Sara’s audition rather than joining his close friend Malakite for the drive-by, it is to be assumed that Derek is saved both physically and spiritually.” Jade Boyd. p. 77

It is indisputable that the art forms created by people of colour are historically and continuously eliminated from the categories of traditional western high art, and even art in general. In her article, Boyd argues that art forms, especially African American dance have been hierarchically labeled as exotic, primitive, and lack of artistic value.

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Bringing the issues of gender, race, and class into foreground through a popular media formate. The passage implies that in Save the Last Dance, the depictions of hip-hop dance draws the distinctions between hip-hop and ballet. In addition, the interactions between black and white dancers not only confirm the assumption that African American should be excluded from performing high art, but also racialize African American’s body. According to the passage that, in order to “save” himself and elevate his success, Derek has to abandon black dance form and his community, and embrace the white dominated western high art. Thus, by racializing and devaluing hip-hop and black community, the movie attempts to demonstrate the binary differences between race. Meanwhile reinforcing the white hegemony through representing the boundary between civilized high culture and barbaric low culture.

Seemingly the movie attempts to convey the idea that two different cultures could be bridged, and one is able to embrace the other. However, to put hiphop dance on mainstream media, the art form would have to be first converted and legitimized in ways that consolidate the ruling white supremacy. This concept resonates with the passage. As the quote suggests that “serving as representatives of binary opposition”, hiphop dance is only used in cultural reproductions as a polarity that differentiates western theatre art and low/popular art, rather than celebrating hiphop as an acknowledged art form.

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The media example that would illustrate Boyd’s argument is Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained. movie attempts to represent the issue of slavery in the southern United States through Django and Dr. King Schultz’s adventure for liberation. Seemingly, by constructing an unconventional black slave Django, the movie tries to break a number of pre-existed stereotypes that are made toward African Americans. For example, in the film, unlike other typical black characters, Django is depicted as intelligent, righteous and astute who eventually conquers his oppressors and wins the freedom. However, Django is saved and trained by his white companion. Dr. Schultz plays the role of classical “white savior” in the movie is very paternalistic and full of sympathy, which makes Django quite infantilized and submissive. Here, instead of portraying him as an independent and capable man, Django appears to be this blaxploitation vigilante who has to wait until his white partner gives him orders before taking any actions. Aside from this, after he has acquired the skills from Dr.Schultz, Django refuses to associate with other black people, and attempts to achieve the equal status and respect to white men. According to this, Django Unchained demonstrates Boyd concept of “binary oppositions” that being black indicates to lower class and suffering, which people would reject, but being white will lead to freedom, repute and respect that everyone embraces.

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Moreover, the movie further emphasizes this notion of “binary opposition” that it only depicts characters who are either black or white, masculine or feminine, bad or good. Consequentially, by perpetuating the notion of “binary oppositions” to the audience, the racial and gender stereotypes are unconsciously being enhanced through this media reproduction.