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Ethnic Notions (1986)

 -  Documentary
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 132 users  
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This documentary traces the deep-rooted stereotypes which have fueled anti-black prejudice.

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Title: Ethnic Notions (1986)

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Analyzes the evolution of television's earlier, unflattering portrayal of blacks from 1948 until 1988, when they are depicted as prosperous and as having achieved the American dream, a ... See full summary »

Director: Marlon Riggs
Stars: Steven Bochco, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee
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Ethnic Notions is Marlon Riggs' Emmy-winning documentary that takes viewers on a disturbing voyage through American history, tracing for the first time the deep-rooted stereotypes which have fueled anti-black prejudice. Through these images we can begin to understand the evolution of racial consciousness in America. Loyal Toms, carefree Sambos, faithful Mammies, grinning Coons, savage Brutes, and wide-eyed Pickaninnies roll across the screen in cartoons, feature films, popular songs, minstrel shows, advertisements, folklore, household artifacts, even children's rhymes. These dehumanizing caricatures permeated popular culture from the 1820s to the Civil Rights period and implanted themselves deep in the American psyche. Narration by Esther Rolle and commentary by respected scholars shed light on the origins and devastating consequences of this 150 yearlong parade of bigotry. Ethnic Notions situates each stereotype historically in white society's shifting needs to justify racist ... Written by Anonymous

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Fascinating look at the nuances of harmful stereotypes
14 November 2007 | by (Seattle, Washington) – See all my reviews

A nicely subtle parsing of the stereotypes of African-Americans that have dominated popular culture in America since the early days of slavery. The commentary on the evolution of types, and the cultural motivations for the creation of caricatures like the laughing Sambo or the asexual Mammy, is particularly interesting. Both an invaluable historical documentary and an insightful commentary on the larger impact of racist, harmful depictions in popular culture on the people they're intended to ridicule and belittle. Derisory caricatures of blacks have both inspired and justified (and helped to make legal) racism and racial violence.


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