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Black Magic Woman and Narrative Film examines the transformation of the stereotypical 'tragic mulatto' from tragic to empowered, as represented in independent and mainstream cinema. The author suggests that this transformation is through the character's journey towards African-based religions.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction — From ‘Tragic Mulatto’ to Black Magic Woman: Race, Sex and Religion in Film

Abstract
This research is on representations of black women, sexuality and religion, specifically that of the ‘tragic mulatto’ character and African-based religions in black films of the 1990s. The objective of this work is to consider how race, sex and religion intersect in constructing a cultural identity for African Diasporas in the United States. Although this cinematic identity is intended for African Diasporas in the US, its implication is that of a wider New World identity.
Montré Aza Missouri

1. Womanism and Womanist Gaze

Abstract
The introduction outlines arguments within cultural studies that are central to this research including questions of racial and cultural hybridity, Afro-religiosity and expressive culture, as well as the ‘tragic mulatto’ character and cinematic representations of ‘passing’. As previously discussed, the Black Magic Woman, a reversal of Hollywood’s ‘tragic mulatto’ as victim/whore, is a pivotal departure from the ‘othering’ position of black women in mainstream film. By attempting to resolve the ‘tragic mulatto’ issue of social alienation with an acceptance of ‘blackness’ in the form of African-based religions, Daughters of the Dust, Sankofa, Eve’s Bayou and I Like It Like That seek to transform the dominant images of race, sex and religion. In so doing, these films aim to present black women protagonists who possess socio-political and cultural agency. These productions further seek to challenge notions of American identity by constructing the Black Magic Woman, a female of mixed racial and cultural heritage, as a New World identity.
Montré Aza Missouri

2. Beauty as Power: In/visible Woman and Womanist Film in Daughters of the Dust

Abstract
One of the most celebrated African American films Daughters of the Dust marks the first feature film directed by an African American woman, Julie Dash, to receive major theatrical release. Set in 1903 at the dawn of the twentieth century, this story chronicles the experiences of the Peazants, three generations of Gullah women and their family’s migration from the remote southern Sea Islands to the urban, industrial north of the United States. Framed amid the seemingly majestic seacoast of the islands, Daughters of the Dust takes on a magical other-worldliness as it explores the hardship of black southern life just a few generations out of slavery. The film focuses particularly on black women and their subjugation by the ‘invisible’ hands of white male patriarchy.
Montré Aza Missouri

3. Passing Strange: Voodoo Queens and Hollywood Fantasy in Eve’s Bayou

Abstract
The quotation “passing strange” taken from Shakespeare’s Othello is used by the character Desdemona to describe how she, a “fair” maid of Venice, became enthralled by the “moor”, Othello (2008:225). According to Desdemona, Othello’s exotic tales of extraordinary adventures captivated her and she was attracted not only to the stories themselves but the way in which this colourful storyteller embellished them. As Toni Morrison highlights in her recent play Desdemona,1 it was Othello’s magical ability to transport Desdemona to the ‘Africa’ first introduced to her by the African nurse who raised her and the invitation to identify and empathise with experiences seemingly far removed from her privileged life that appealed to her.
Montré Aza Missouri

4. I’ll Fly Away: Baadasssss Mamas and Third Cinema in Sankofa

Abstract
In “Passing Strange: Voodoo Queens and Hollywood Fantasy in Eve’s Bayou”, the discussion continues with questions of the ‘tragic mulatto’ constructed as a symbol of cultural identity, at times fuelling the imagination of a white southern elite eager for signifiers of cultural demarcations between themselves and their northern neighbours in the United States. African American folklore and culture, as embodied in the Voodoo lady figure, provides this desired distinction by adding visibility to the otherwise invisibility of ‘whiteness’.
Montré Aza Missouri

5. Not Another West Side Story: Nuyorican Women and New Black Realism in J Like It Like That

Abstract
The previous chapter examines representations of black women and Afro-religiosity as signifying a black nationalist identity with the ‘strongblackwoman’ which in Sankofa is the embodiment of a malecentred socio-political objective. Within that chapter, it is argued that although Sankofa presents itself as black woman’s narrative by framing powerful female characters, namely the warrior figure Nunu and her initiand Shola, a character that is identified as a Black Magic Woman, this production exists outside the realm of womanist film. While women characters with agency do appear on screen, the film does not empower the womanist gaze as it neither renders pleasure for the womanist spectator nor does it frame characters that can survive beyond the constraints of patriarchal systems.
Montré Aza Missouri

6. It Is Easy Being Green: Disney’s Post-Racial Princess and Black Magic Nostalgia in The Princess and the Frog

Abstract
The positioning of the Black Magic Woman character beyond the role of bio-logical female and within the African American community, as examined in Darnell Martin’s I Like It Like That is the focus of the previous chapter. In I Like It Like That, the unfixed nature of the Black Magic Woman allows for it to be personified by a Latino transgender character. This depiction speaks to the fluidity and liberating aspects of the characterisation as standing outside of the norms of mainstream society, of which it subverts. Within the previous chapters, analysis of the Black Magic Woman character focused on live action independent and studioproduced films directed by black filmmakers. This final chapter centres on the Hollywood adoption of the Black Magic Woman archetype in the Walt Disney Pictures’ 2009 classically animated musical The Princess and the Frog.
Montré Aza Missouri

Conclusion

Abstract
The objective of this book has been to examine the intersection of race, sex and religion in narrative film, specifically 1990s black film. The primary focus of this work is forging a theoretical framework for decoding film centred on the reversal of the “tragic mulatto” stereotype as transformed into the Black Magic Woman figure, the character of mixed heritage and adherent of Afro-religiosity. This character seeks freedom from the confines of racial and gender inequalities while positioned as a defender of the compound, a space of collective black female empowerment and agency. The Black Magic Woman and her world is a counter to the Hollywood conventions of black female in/visibility and of the dominant cinematic preoccupation with the white male hero grounded in Judeo-Christian mores.
Montré Aza Missouri

Backmatter

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