«THE COLOR OF LOVE ON THE BIG SCREEN: THE PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD FILMS IN INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS FROM 1967 TO 2005 By NADIA A. RAMOUTAR A ...»
THE COLOR OF LOVE ON THE BIG SCREEN:
THE PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD FILMS
IN INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS FROM 1967 TO 2005
NADIA A. RAMOUTAR
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDACopyright 2006 By Nadia A. Ramoutar To my parents, Chad Ramoutar and Gloria Jean Ramoutar For your courage to love outside the color lines To William, Dorothy, Jean, Helga, Eve and Aaron for our journey to belonging To my son, Devin and all our children, May you be free to love as your heart desires.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThe guidance, wisdom and insights of Dr. Lynda Lee Kaid have helped me in ways beyond this mere document and research. Her vast experience as a researcher and academic scholar were of incredible value to me as she generously guided me each step of the way. Her promptness and compassion in everyday decision making and research design supported me beyond compare. She is a role model for me in my career as educator and researcher.
Another role model and brilliant women, Dr. Helena Särkiö, inspired and encouraged me to make this research count. She was there for me at every turn, prompting me to a standard of intelligence I could not have attempted alone, offering not just her wisdom but also her exuberant friendship and support. She motivated me to delve further into race and gender studies knowing all the while it mattered profoundly. I am forever grateful to Helena for her guidance and encouragement.
I would also like to thank my other committee members, Dr. Mark Reid and Dr.
Bernell Tripp. As a scholar in Black Film, Dr. Reid's teaching and research gave me the background and skills to question every frame of film I watched and every word of dialogue I heard. He prompted me to expand the scope of my study in significant ways.
For her rigorous and knowledgeable role, Dr. Bernell Tripp moved me to question my motives and my methods which resulted in better research designs. Her knowledge of mass Media history gave me a strong foundation for my research. I also thank Danny Shipka for his constant companionship in this program and undying support in my iv research and well being. I would like to thank Monica Postelnicu and Hyun Yun for their knowledge, assistance and friendship. Also, I thank Sherry Gilmore for her technical support, encouragement and timely assistance.
This journey would not have been possible without my amazing support team at Flagler College. I thank the Delphi Panel of Jim Gilmore, Jim Picket, Tracy Halcomb and Danny Shipka for guidance and wisdom. I also want to thank the devoted students who supported me and assisted with my research. I greatly appreciate the support from Dean Paula Miller and Chair Tracy Halcomb and thank them for making the impossible possible all the way from the application to the defense. No project as large is ever possible without some very serious support teams at many levels. I would like to thank the people who believed in me and encouraged me to complete this dissertation with such dignity: Arlene Blain, Holley Hackett, Darragh Ramoutar, Elizabeth Claire, Rachel Thompson, Laura Mongiovi, Joe Vlah and Dianne Tymmeson. I thank Kathe O’Donnelly for her constant care and vigilance. I also thank Kenny Hamilton for his infinite patience, humor and insights often at the toughest parts of the journey. I thank Devin Reardon for making it all worthwhile. I could never have done this without all of your support and love. I finally have to express a deep appreciation to the media scholars who paved the way and inspired me to care and the students who are yet to arrive.
In writing this dissertation, which includes a qualitative and a quantitative research method to explore and analyze the portrayal of women in interracial relationships in film from 1967 – 2005, it is important to establish my research interest and personal relationship to the topic. In 1967, the year the study sample begins my mother was pregnant with me. A tall, blonde, green-eyed woman in Dublin, Ireland, my mother was married to a short dark Indian man from Trinidad. Such an ethnic blending in Ireland or anywhere at that time (and some would argue even now) was unusual. After being raised in Ireland, I immigrated to America with my parents as a teenager. Immediately upon arriving here I experienced predictable culture shock but not for the reasons I expected.
I found the treatment of American women in society and in the media to be sexualized and patronizing in a more extreme way than European women. The segregation of races among Americans in society and the media was also very obvious to me. I had expected to see many more blended-race people like myself but soon realized that American homes and churches were profoundly segregated.
When I entered the Ph.D. program at the University of Florida I was 34-years-old and a very different person than when I graduated from UF the first time at 21-years of age. In a time of growing multiculturalism in the United States, race relations deserve a closer look. In my specialty of race and gender studies in film I strive to make a significant contribution to the voiceless: the women and men who dare to love or venture
LIST OF TABLES
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
The Influence of Film Portrayals
The Film Feminist Paradigm
Social Construction of Reality Theory
Triangulation: Using A Quantitative Method And A Qualitative Method................34 Multiple Methods as “Crystallization,” Not Merely Triangulation
Creating the Framing Analysis
The Films in the Sample
Conducting the Framing Analysis
3 THE PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS IN FILM
Womanhood in the Sample Films
The White Woman as Flawed and/or Fragile
The Portrayal of White Women with Hispanic Men
The Portrayal of White Women and Black Men
viii White Women as Insignificant
All’s “Fair” In Love and War: The Hierarchy of Skin Tone in the Portrayal of Women of Color
Dark Skinned, Dark Natured Femme Fatale
The Portrayal of Hispanic Women in Interracial Relationships: Late Comers..76 Amerindian Women
Asian Women in Interracial Relationships
Love You to Death: Interracial Relationships on the big screen exist in a Violent and Conflicted World
“Gender Benders”: Women in Interracial Relationships Failure to be the Traditional Female.
The "Super-Model" Minority: Women of Color as Exotic, Erotic, and Exceptional; Men of Color as the Perfect Gentleman
Model Minority Males: The Perfect Gentlemen
The Mary Magdalene Frame: Unworthy Women Who Distract Men from their Mission in Life
The White Male Fantasy: Skin, sex, subservience and Saving the Damsel in Distress
4 COMPARING AND CONTRASTING THE CONTENT
Identifying the Content Analysis Sample
Defining the Coding Categories.
Outlining the Coding Process, Training the Coders, and Calculating Reliability
Implementing the Coding Process
Age and Gender
Role of the Woman in the Film
The Portrayal of Race and Gender
Gender Attributes of Women and Men
Occupations and Skills of the Women
Perception of the Women in Interracial Relationships
5 REFLECTIONS ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF INTERRACIAL SEX OR LOVE ON THE BIG SCREEN
Implications of the Film Study Research
Contributions and Relevance to Theory
The Film Feminist Paradigm
Social Construction of Reality Theory
ix Directions for Future Research and Limitations of the Study
APPENDIX A CONTENT ANALYSIS CODING SHEET
B MOVIES FROM 1967 – 2005 IN TOP 15 BOX OFFICE SALESWITH AN INTERRACIAL ROMANTIC OR SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP
1 Frequency of Race by Gender
2 Skills Women Exhibit
3 Ultimate Values of Men and Women
4 Challenges Facing the Interracial Relationship Couple
5 Decision-Maker in the Relationship Outcome
6 Outcome of the Interracial Relationship
Chair: Lynda Lee Kaid Major Department: Mass Communication What is the color of love on the big screen? It appears that Hollywood’s favorite color is still green, but race differences are used strategically in film. The purpose of this study is to explore the portrayal of women in interracial relationships in blockbuster Hollywood films from 1967 – 2005. Previous research indicates that women are portrayed in film as underrepresented, sexualized and insignificant in comparison to the portrayal of men in the same film. Although studies have been done on women in film, no extensive study has been done on interracial relationships in popular Hollywood film.
The intent of this study was ambitiously to examine the role of sex, gender, and race as factors in the interaction between men and women in interracial relationships. The researcher also examined the changes of portrayal in the films under study over four decades. The study was conducted using framing analysis, a qualitative method and content analysis, a quantitative method. The findings of the framing analysis were used to create the categories of the content analysis. The sample of films studied included top
physical relationship in the film. The final sample included only 36 films for study out of 540 possible films. The findings indicate that interracial relationships are rarely shown in popular films but when they are shown they are portrayed as problematic, conflicted and sexualized. An interracial relationship in the films under study was as likely to end with the man or woman dead, as with a commitment. Most interracial relationships involve a white man and an Asian woman. All women are stereotypically portrayed as young, socially vulnerable, over-sexualized and living in a violent world. The women are usually portrayed as supporting or minor characters. The interracial relationship is shown as usually being sexualized, short-lived and insignificant to the plot. There are trends of portrayal of different races in different decades. Some races are rarely portrayed, while other races are frequently shown. Gender is impacted by race in the portrayal in interracial relationships in films.
Examining the mass media portrayal of women in interracial relationships as represented in commercially successful film marks the gender and racial differences of social constructs of power structures. Studying the way Caucasian women are portrayed in interracial romantic and/or sexual relationships compared to the way Women of Color are portrayed creates an opportunity to explore the color code of love in a mass medium and, therefore, public sphere. The study also seeks to compare the way Caucasian men and Men of Color are portrayed in the films under study compared to the way the women are portrayed. By studying the way race interaction in sexual and romantic relationships are portrayed we attain a greater insight into America social understanding of race and gender as constructs interdependently.
There have been many studies done on issues of race and on issues of gender in film, but very few studies if any, look at the interaction of race and gender through the lens or romantic or sexual relationships. In this study, therefore, the film industry's portrayal of ethnicity and gender over time from 1977 to 2005 is explored through that lens of the interracial relationship and its portrayal of women. The primary goal of this research is to raise awareness of the limited and problematic nature of Hollywood’s portrayal of women in interracial relationships that may reinforce myths about gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. This research also suggests that racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identity in American mainstream film cannot be studied without considering each category's interdependence and influence on each other. It also examines the concept that there is no “woman’s” experience to be portrayed in film, as issues of race and sex clearly impact that portrayal on the big screen.
Thus, an objective of this research is to discover and contrast constructs of womanhood according to race and gender created by Hollywood films in interracial relationships. Are relationships portrayed as important to these women? Are women of color and white women portrayed the same way in interracial relationships? What impact does the racial or ethnic identity of the male or female have on the portrayal of the relationship? Have these portrayals changed since the U.S. Supreme court deemed antimiscegenation laws unconstitutional in 1967? Created in a white male dominated industry, do women in the films under study appear to have control over their life or their relationship? This research addresses a concern of film feminism which recognizes that race and ethnicity are important factors in the portrayal of women in film that have been traditionally ignored in academic and commercial facets.
The research also explores the portrayal of women in sexual or romantic relationships with the understanding that social and political values are constructs of “reality” and that certain behaviors are "normalized". Audience members often look to the mass media to define what is important and what is to be desired or even avoided.