Monday, 10 November 2014

Representation of Ethnicity

Stereotypes of White People

  • Rich
  • Intelligent
  • Racist
  • More powerful
  • Physically weak
  • Self-obsessed- selfish
  • Not very intimidating
  • High status
  • Posh
  • Law-abiding
  • Live in more developed countries
  • Middle-class
  • White people who 'act black'
  • Brattish children
Stereotypes of Black People
  • Good at dancing
  • Single parent families (dads leave)
  • Like chicken
  • Crime
  • Poor
  • Gangsters
  • Rappers
  • Athletic
  • Humorous
  • Religious
  • Soulful
  • Well-endowed (men)
  • Ghettos/slums
  • Drugs
  • Gangs
  • Guns/weapons (and resultant crime)
  • Dreadlocks- rastafarians
  • Big lips/noses/bums etc (physical attributes)
  • Third world
  • Disease
  • Unclean
  • Oppressed/marginalised
  • Slaves/slavery
  • Intimidating
  • Weaves, afros, short hair, bald

Exam Question on Ethnicity

Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs the representation of ethnicity using the following:
  • Camera shots, angles, movement and composition
  • Editing
  • Sound
  • Mise en scene
50 marks

EAA: Explanation, analysis, argument-20 marks
EG: Use of example-20 marks
T: Terminology-10 marks

This extract from Spooks represents ethnicity in a variety of different ways, in ways that conform to stereotypes and in ways that don't, through the use of the four areas of textual analysis.

Mise En Scene is key in this extract in constructing representations of ethnicity. The two terrorists in the scene conform to the stereotype of terrorists being Arabs/Muslims. Furthermore, the terrorist in the background of the shot conforms to the stereotype through his costume- he is wearing a balaclava, all black and has a gun, these things are all typically associated with criminals.

The dark lighting in the room creates a sinister atmosphere, which also links with the horrific nature of terrorism. The lighting could also link to a something more serious, suggesting perhaps that Danny's job is something serious like a spy. This would break the stereotype of black people having a life of crime.

Danny's further breaks the stereotype as his costume is very smart, he is in a all black outfit with a leather looking jacket on. This therefore breaks the stereotype of black people being poor, as if he was poor he wouldn't be able to afford such a smart outfit.

The setting also plays a key role in the representation of ethnicity through the Mise En Scene, and in this case it infers that the white people conform to the stereotype. The white people seem to be sat in an office somewhere out of harms way, this suggests that they are of a higher status and more powerful than Danny as they seem to be the ones with authority (they are on computers monitoring the situation) and that they are law-abiding citizens (as they are not out there with Danny getting physically involved)- all of which are stereotypical qualities of white people.

The sound is significant in constructing the representation of ethnicity in this clip. The dialogue in this scene further shows that Danny does not conform to the stereotype of a black person, as he speaks with such authority and in such a brave manner to the terrorist- for example when he tells the terrorist 'you will never win'- that it shows that he does have a certain extent of power over the situation. He can stop the terrorist from killing the woman with his words, and therefore he breaks the stereotype of black people having no power. However, to contradict this, Danny's dialogue links in with the stereotype of black people being marginalised and therefore having no power, as he says 'if I'd been born somewhere else it might have been me holding the gun now'.

Furthermore, Danny speaks with received pronunciation. This breaks the black stereotype as if Danny was poor or involved in crime you would associate that kind of lifestyle with a rough, inarticulate voice, but Danny doesn't speak in that way.

At some points in this extract the non-diegetic sound is quite tense, and this could be representing the racial tension between the characters and their ideological differences. This suggests that the Arabs in the scene conform to the stereotype of Arabs being racist, as the tense sound might be referring to this (and therefore racial tension). The tense sounds could also be foreboding Danny's death. The diegetic sound of the gun being cocked also adds to the tenseness of the scene, as Danny knows he is going to die in that split second before the trigger is pulled and he must have been terrified. The fact that the terrorist had a gun through out the scene, yet Danny still speaks with such authority through his dialogue, further emphasises his braveness.

After Danny's death the non-diegetic sound is similar to the Muslim call to prayer- this could suggest that Danny is holy and pure, and that his death was a horrific crime. This links with the stereotypical quality of black people being religious. However, this use of non-diegetic sound could also suggest that the terrorist is Muslim- conforming with the stereotype of terrorists- and therefore it is played after his killing of Danny, as he was responsible for it.

Editing also plays a role in helping to represent ethnicity in this extract. There are a lot of long takes on Danny- which allows the audience to concentrate on his bravery, and it also highlights how he is the most important in the scene. This goes against the stereotype of black people having little power, as it suggests he is the most significant character there. There are short takes of the terrorist- highlighting the fact that he is not worth anything as he is evil.

At the end of the extract there are long takes of the white man crying, which highlight the binary opposite of the black man and him. The black man is emotionally strong when facing the terrorist, yet this the emphasise of the white man crying through the long take suggests that he is emotionally weak. These two qualities conform to the ethnic stereotypes.

Camera shots, angles, movement and composition are pivotal in constructing the representation of ethnicity in this scene. The fact that Danny gets the most screen time emphasises his importance and suggests that he has power, once again breaking the stereotype of black people having a small amount of power. At other points in the extract this breaking of the stereotype is conveyed again, through shots of Danny in which he is in the centre of- further inferring his importance.

At one point in the scene Danny is being filmed from handheld camera that is shaking, and this could reflect the anger building up inside of him. This therefore conforms to the stereotype of black people as anger can be associated with crimes and owning weapons.

A low angle shot is used looking up at the terrorist. This suggests that the Arab has the most power in the scene, and that he is control of the course of events. However, the fact that Danny gets the most screen time infers that he is morally the person with the most power in this scene- and this breaks the stereotype that black people have no power. Yet, the shots towards the end of the extract of the white people back at the office infer that they are really the ones in power as they are overseeing the situation and react little to Danny's death. The editing of their reaction- in slow-motion- further highlights their small amount of emotion when witnessing Danny's murder. This suggests that in society the white people are the ones with the most power, and this therefore conforms to the white stereotype. This slow-motion sequence also agrees with the stereotypical idea of the British having a stiff upper lip.

In conclusion, this extract constructs ethnicity in both stereotypical ways and non-stereotypical ways. The Arab characters mainly conform to the stereotypes and so do the white characters, and the representation of Danny mainly breaks the stereotypes.

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