Our team chose to focus on representations of women in Spike Lees latest joint,
Bamboozled. This theme was attractive to us because we felt the filmmaker
had a powerful message to send his audience after viewing the trailer in class.
Despite the fact that there is only one woman in a starring role, a multitude of
specific and acute ideas are presented by Spike Lee through the film. We were
also eager to take advantage of the opportunity to apply what we have learned
in class to the thought-provoking and controversial nature of his work.
When reflecting upon representations of women, we felt that a continuous
motif of women as puppets is present. The lead female character, Sloan
Hopkins, is played by Jada Pinkett Smith. She comes across as being under
Pierre Delacroix, or his puppet, from her first appearance in the film. The
opening scene of the movie emphasizes this as he is yelling at her for not
informing him of a staff meeting. Sloan continually apologizes but, not knowing
about the meeting, has no reason to do so. Regardless of this fact, she is put
down and silenced by Delacroix. He dismisses everything she says and acts as
the voice of authority with no consideration of the actual circumstances. She is
merely his puppet who has failed. When Delacroix comes up with the Mantan
Show idea, Sloan feels strongly against it. However, she is the one who has to
research and come up with historical portfolios for the show. She tries to
educate everyone about what they are getting into by doing such a blatantly
wrong show, but her voice is not heard and her arguments are brushed aside.
She remains a puppet controlled by Delacroix. It seems the only way she has to
get any attention is to agree and go along with the horrible concept. These are
just a few examples of how Sloan acts as a puppet. We would like to move on to
some other representations of women that continue this motif.
Women in the film were also portrayed as puppets for society. This is
demonstrated through the stereotypical roles the characters fulfilled. They were
used as a tool for advertising, in this case clothing and an alcoholic beverage.
Scantily clad and engaging in sexual behavior, the women are used as objects in
advertising to sell products. Another character that is highly sexualized is the
only female member of the rap group, Mau Mau. Her official name in the credits
is Smooth Black, but we will refer to her simply as Lollipop Girl. She plays the
role of group slut and comes across as sexually promiscuous. There is always
a lollipop present with her and its obviously meant to be a phallic symbol. Her
main response is agreeing with all the men in her music group. This makes her
submissive in the same vein that Sloan bows down to the wishes of her male
counterparts. While these are two completely different characters both visually
and mentally, they are portrayed in a similar manner of disrespect. Both play the
role of a yes woman despite their attempts to assert themselves.
Throughout the film, women in high levels of education or authority were
viewed to be just as ignorant as Lollipop Girl or the women in the commercials.
In the eyes of the male characters, women with PhDs as well as professional
writers could just as easily have been the booty bitches from the Timmi
Hillnigger commercial. All the women are tied down by the strings of
sexualization no matter what they try to do. A college degree, intelligence, and
determination makes them no different in the eyes of men. No matter what a
woman does to try and prove herself in the film, she gets nowhere. Sloan is
even accused of sleeping with Delacroix to get her position. She feels the need
to prove herself to Manray and other characters by explaining her ascent to the
top, an internship. This is further illustration of the idea that women have to use
their sexuality to get somewhere in life, despite intelligence or determination. If
a woman does use her sexuality for personally beneficial reasons she must
either defend or hide it.
We feel the portrayal of women in Bamboozled says a lot about the way
they are represented not only in the media, but in capitalistic society. Women
are underrepresented in the media, like this film, and the few depictions are
generally negative. They are the slut, yes woman, or sexual object. There are
infrequent representations of women in positions of authority or in assertive
roles. We wonder if its possible for females to overcome these stereotypes in
actual society when they are constantly tied down by the strings of their
puppeteers. But the question remains, who are the puppeteers?
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