Stereotypes or Modern Day Racism

Jungle Fever, a film created by Spike Lee, explores the beginning and end of an interracial relationship in the urban streets of New York City. Wesley Snipes, a successful, happily married architect is married to Drew who workers as a buyer at Bloomingdales and together they have a young daughter Ming. What seems like the perfect family is quickly disturbed by an Italian American women by the name of Angie Tucci. Angie lives in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, with her abusive and racist father, her two brothers and boyfriend.

Eventually, Flipper and Angie begin seeing each other and finally have sexual intercourse. Flipper then proceeds to tell his longtime friend Cyrus that he’s having an affair with a white woman. Cyrus refers to the affair as “jungle fever,” an attraction born of sexualized racial myths rather than love. Angie also confesses to her friends that she’s having an affair with a black man and everyone is left in shock. After the word gets out about Angie and her affair with Flipper her father begins to brutally beat her.

Cyrus’ life also goes up in shambles, his wife finds out about the affair he’s having with a white woman and so does his daughter Ming. The movie concludes in Flipper trying to mend his marriage with his wife although it is unsuccessful and speaking to his daughter. He sits in bed and explains to his daughter why her parents won’t be getting back together. Flipper then leaves his ex wife’s house and abruptly a young crack addict approaches him calling him “daddy”.

Flipper quickly grabs her and cries in torment realizing that he lived up to the stereotype of a black man. Similar to Recitatif by Toni Morrison, although a friendship, the two unidentified characters are left with the impression of a stereotyped black person and stereotyped white person. Toni Morrison informs the audience that the characters are black and white but doesn’t clarify between the two. She gives the audience a description of their mothers and instances in their life to trick the reader into proving that race stereotypes exist.

“I cheated on Drew for the first time.”

“Man I thought you was going to drop a bomb.”

“Well she’s w-w-white.”

“SHE’S WHITE?!”

“Well she’s Italian.”

“I know you didn’t bone her, I know you have better judgement than that, I know you’re a strong black man.”

“A strong black man that threw her on the table.”

“You boned her.”

That was the conversation of Flipper confessing cheating on his wife with Angie, his assistant. Cyrus like any other man condones this behaviour however is disappointed with the fact that Angie is white. Cyrus’ anger stems from the stereotype that white women only date very successful black men at a higher social class. He is disappointed and knows that Flipper lived up to the stereotype allowing Angie in his life. It is a situation that we often see in contemporary life and a stigma that sticks with successful black men. This relates to the final meeting of Twyla and Roberta. In this final meeting the two women meet in a gourmet kitchen where Roberta tells Twyla she is married to a rich man and became the stepmother of four children. In this part of the book Roberta is showered in elegant clothes, buys expensive food and even has a chauffeur. She also boasts about her step children being bussed out of their neighborhood for school, enjoying the luxuries of her rich husband. Roberta’s behavior and entitlement gives off a perfect example of what people think when they see a successful black man with a white woman. People being to question their love for each other and begin paying attention to the income of the man, proposing that’s the only reason white women are attracted to the high class black man and again proving that stereotypes exist.

Recitatif is a story that influences prejudice and race stereotypes. The vagueness of Maggie’s race identity is a key to her significance in the story. Her significance is also used in a way to show that racial concepts and stereotypes can be originated in people’s mind. Another example of stereotyping was in the beginning of the story when Mary told Twyla that “they never washed their hair and smelled funny” after meeting Roberta. The stereotype that white women don’t wash their hair is a miniscule rumor that exist. However Mary’s comment becomes uncertain because while black people do not wash their hair in the same way as white people, the reader is now forced into making assumptions of the race of the characters. Through the story Morrison gives out clues about Roberta and Twyla’s race confusing the reader forcing them to stereotype prejudices about race.

The verisimilitude used in both works of art fooled their audience to fall into proving that racial stereotype exist. A white woman seen with a successful black is a stereotype that exist in eyes of both races, however the perception is based off of prejudice and prior knowledge. The fact that Toni Morrison deliberately gave the audience the opportunity to assign meanings to the race, in our class discussion it was obvious that people had racial stereotypes. The final scene of the movie when Flipper walks out of his ex wife house and encounter the young crackhead prostitute foreshadows why Cyrus was so upset that Flipper was having an affair with a white woman; tying it to the stereotypes of why a white woman is attracted to a successful black man.

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