Tuesday, January 4, 2011

bell hooks: Cultural Criticism and Transformation -- Notes & Quotes

Folks: Below are some notes I took regarding the film you watched today. It is very important that you take good notes for all the films you watch for the course. You will need them for Blog Posts and for the Exams.  I encourage you to use film quotes (as well as quotes from the readings) in your Blogs. These will be required for the exams.   Best--JRR

bell hooks: Cultural Criticism and Transformation
    •    Important to relate popular culture to theoretical paradigms

    •    Popular culture is where the pedagogy and the learning is located; it helps us understand the politics of difference

    •    The most enabling resources hooks can offer as an academic is giving her students the ability to think critically; thinking critically is at the heart of transforming one’s life

    •    The power of representation: People want to deny the direct link between representations and choices we make in our lives.  While that link is not absolute, images do matter in people’s lives

    •    People want to behave as if certain images don’t mean anything—we must not deny the power of representation to our society 

    •    Motivated Representations: Producers are consciously constructing images and manipulating representations that perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia etc.

    •    Example of Motivated Representation: the film Leaving Las Vegas as a backlash against feminism, mass media used to get women out of feminism and back into patriarchal modes of existence.  Movies are a leading propaganda machine to disseminate reactionary ideologies.

    •    White supremacist, capitalist patriarchy: interlocking systems of domination that define our reality.  These function simultaneously at all times in our lives.

    •    Racism: does not allow for a discourse of colonization and decolonization, keeps White people at the center of the discussion

    •    White supremacy evokes a political world that we can all frame ourselves in relationship to

    •    The ideology of white supremacy allows the collusion of Black people with the forces of racism

    •    White supremacist, capitalist patriarchy refers to an institutional structure, not individual beliefs

    •    Being an Enlightened Witness means becoming critically vigilant about the world we live in.  The answer is not censorship but a pro-active sense of agency

    •    Freedom and Justice are connected to mass-based literacy 

    •    Transformation = Critical Thinking + Literacy

    •    We need to decolonize our minds

    •    We must resist conservatizing representations AND at the same time create new and exciting representations

Quotes by bell hooks from the film:

“Thinking critically is at the heart of anybody transforming their life and I really believe that a person who thinks critically, who, you know, may be extraordinarily disadvantaged, materially, can find ways to transform their lives, that can be deeply and profoundly  meaningful in the same way that someone who maybe incredibly privileged materially and in crisis in their life may remain perpetually unable to resolve their life in any meaningful way if they don't think critically.”

“I was truly awed by how much Hollywood film could like totally alter people's perceptions of national liberation struggles globally in a way that would call attention to those who are in a sense the underclass in those struggles. And that is also the power of white male privilege. White male stardom. I mean it's important for people to look at who produced and directed that film. Because it's not just that Hollywood can do that, it's that specific liberal white men who are moneyed within the context of Hollywood can produce whatever images that they want to produce.”

“What does it mean that media has such control of our imaginations that they don't want to accept that there are conscious manipulations taking place and that in fact, we want to reserve particularly for the arena of movie making a certain sense of magic? A certain sense that reality is being documented and, again, you know, I think that part of the power of cultural criticism and cultural studies has been it's sort of political intervention as a force in American society to say, there really is a conscious manipulation of representations and it's not about magical thinking, it's not about like pure imagination, creativity, it's about people consciously knowing what kinds of images will produce a certain kind of impact.”

“One of the issues that no one wants to talk about is that finally the most successful political movement in the United States over the last twenty years was really the feminist movement and that there is a tremendous backlash to feminism that is being enacted on the stage of mass media. So that films like Leaving Las Vegas really are about ushering in a new old version of the desirable woman that really is profoundly misogynist and sexist. It's no accident, we know that when women went into the factories in the World Wars because men were not here, that when those wars ended, mass media was used to get women out of the factory and back into the home, well in a sense mass media is being used in that very same way right now, to get women out of feminism and back into some patriarchal mode of thinking and movies to me are the lead propaganda machine in this right now.”

“I began to use the phrase in my work ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality and not to just have one thing be like, you know, gender is the important issue, race is the important issue, but for me the use of that particular jargonistic phrase was a way, a sort of short cut way of saying all of these things actually are functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives and that if I really want to understand what's happening to me, right now at this moment in my life, as a black female of a certain age group, I won't be able to understand it if I'm only looking through the lens of race. I won't be able to understand it if I'm only looking through the lens of gender. I won't be able to understand it if I'm only looking at how white people see me.”

“The issue is not freeing ourselves from representation. It's really about being enlightened witnesses when we watch representations, which means we are able to be critically vigilant about both what is being told to us and how we respond to what is being told.”

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