Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture (Paperback)

Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture By Krin Gabbard Cover Image
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Why do so many African American film characters seem to have magical powers? And why do they use them only to help white people? When the actors are white, why is the sound track so commonly performed by African Americans? And why do so many white actors imitate black people when they wish to express strong emotion?

As Krin Gabbard brilliantly reveals in Black Magic, we duly recognize the cultural heritage of African Americans in literature, music, and art, but there is a disturbing pattern in the roles that blacks are asked to play-particularly in the movies. Many recent films, including The Matrix, Fargo, The Green Mile, Ghost, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Pleasantville, The Bridges of Madison County, and Crumb, reveal a fascination with black music and sexuality even as they preserve the old racial hierarchies. Quite often the dependence on African American culture remains hidden-although it is almost perversely pervasive. In the final chapters of Black Magic, Gabbard looks at films by Robert Altman and Spike Lee that attempt to reverse many of these widespread trends.

About the Author

Krin Gabbard is a professor of comparative literature and English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the author most recently of Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and American Culture.

Praise For…

Gabbard's book is a joy to read, a really fine, original piece of work. He detects a significant pattern in contemporary American cinema, and with great critical insight and clear explanations, he traces its themes and variations.
— Michael Jarrett

This is a clearly written, well-argued book . . . both readable and intellectually rigorous. The author's case that white appropriation of African American culture has shifted from obvious and literal forms to the disembodiment of black expressions is astutely demonstrated by his exploration of the intersection of jazz and the narratives of popular commercial films.Ed Guerrero, Cinema Studies, New York University
— Ed Guerrero

"Gabbard's rcih book reveals that cultural critics have only begun to fathom the sublime and the ridiculous extent of racial appropriations of black culture in white American films. As this book shows, it is both 'magical' and appalling.Linda Williams, author of Playing the Race Card:Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson
— Linda Williams

Product Details
ISBN: 9780813533841
ISBN-10: 0813533848
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication Date: March 30th, 2004
Pages: 344
Language: English
Series: Jazz & American Culture S