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She considers Dandridge's status as a sexual commodity in films such as Tamango, revealing the contradictory

discourses regarding race and sexuality in segregation-era American culture.

 

 

Divas on Screen

Black Women in American Film by Mia Mask

Book Review by Kam Williams

 

By examining the persona of five African-American women celebrities, Divas [on Screen] seeks to push the discussion of African-American celebrity beyond the ‘good, politically progressive role model’ versus ‘bad, regressive black stereotype,’ binary that stifles dialogue and divides scholars. Instead, the ensuing chapters address how African-American celebrity functions as a social phenomenon. This is not to minimize the prevalence of racial stereotypes in the 21st Century…

But the focus of Divas is slightly different. It asks: what can we learn from the complex and contradictory careers of successful black women? Where do we find African-Americans in the performative, ‘other-directed,’ narcissistic culture? What does African-American stardom as a social phenomenon reveal about the aspirations of black folks in the 21st Century? How have African-Americans—in their struggle for inclusion in commercial entertainment—complied with dominant culture?—Excerpted from the Introduction (p. 4)

Vassar Professor Mia Mask has both a bigger vocabulary and a higher IQ than I do, judging by how often she had me reaching for the dictionary and by the many, marvelous insights about cinema she makes that had never occurred to this film critic before. So consider this a fair warning: this sage sister’s book, Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film is not light reading but an academic enterprise of considerable substance. That being said, those willing to make the intellectual effort are likely to find themselves richly rewarded by the author’s fresh perspective, priceless pearls of wisdom and impressive background in terms of the cultural, biographical and historical contexts.

 The title might strike you as a bit of a misnomer, for it suggests more expansive coverage of African-American actresses than the five icons focused on here, namely, Dorothy Dandridge, Whoopi Goldberg, Pam Grier, Halle Berry and Oprah. Yet Professor Mask’s unorthodox approach to the subject still feels comprehensive for, along the way, she manages to incorporate bon mots about many of their accomplished contemporaries.

As for that primary quintet, each enjoys her own chapter. Blaxploitation era idol Pam Grier is given her props for playing macho roles which placed an “emphasis on her body in such a way as to create an image of phallic femininity.” At the other extreme, early pioneer Dorothy Dandridge is credited with cultivating “a public persona of respectable, black bourgeois womanhood, feminine beauty, and domesticity.”

Dr. Mask describes Whoopi as an actress excluded from typical romantic screen liaisons whose repertoire instead reflects an inclination to disrupt “the dominant social order” which explains why she has so frequently defied conventional notions about race, gender, and sexuality. Of course, Halle and Oprah’s careers are deconstructed, too, and in a thought-provoking fashion that will prevent you from thinking of them in the same way ever again.

A fascinating, feminist examination of a struggle for self-definition in the face of a dominant culture and an entertainment industry perfectly comfortable with serving up stereotypical images of black women designed for mass consumption.

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Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

 

1. Dorothy Dandridges Erotic Charisma 13

2. Pam Grier: A Phallic Idol of Perversity and Sexual Charisma 58

3. Goldbergs Variations on Comedic Charisma 105

4. Oprah Winfrey: The Cathartic, Charismatic Capitalist 141

5. Halle Berry: Charismatic Beauty in a Multicultural Age 185

 

Notes 233

Selected Bibliography 269

Index 291

Source: University of Illinois Press

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Accessible, theoretical readings of popular African American women film icons

This insightful study places African American women's stardom in historical and industrial contexts by examining the star personae of five African American women: Dorothy Dandridge,, Pam Grier, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Halle Berry . Interpreting each woman's celebrity as predicated on a brand of charismatic authority, Mia Mask shows how these female stars have deftly negotiated the uneven terrain of racial, gender, and class stereotypes. As international celebrities, these women have ultimately complicated the conventional discursive and industrial practices through which blackness and womanhood have been represented in commercial cinema, independent film, and network television.

Mask examines the function of these stars in seminal yet underanalyzed films. She considers Dandridge's status as a sexual commodity in films such as Tamango, revealing the contradictory discourses regarding race and sexuality in segregation-era American culture. Grier's feminist-camp performances in sexploitation pictures Women in Cages and The Big Doll House and her subsequent blaxploitation vehicles Coffy and Foxy Brown highlight a similar tension between representing African American women as both objectified stereotypes and powerful, self-defining icons. Mask reads Goldberg's transforming habits in Sister Act and The Associate as representative of her unruly comedic routines, while Winfrey's daily television performance as self-made, self-help guru echoes Horatio Alger's narratives of success. Finally, Mask analyzes Berry's meteoric success by acknowledging the ways in which Dandridge's career made Berry's possible.—Publisher

"[A] remarkable, straightforward book. . . . Mask interrogates the star personae of each of her subjects with a rigor that is unique and as refreshing as it is accessible and well written. Mask's cultural critique of her subjects and the world in which they operate resonates long after one has finished the volume. Highly recommended."Choice

"An original and imaginative work that is full of intellectual energy, insight, and engaged writing."Hazel V. Carby, author of Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America

"Mia Mask deftly weaves the lines of inquiry, theory, popular culture, and history while making the complex lives of these amazing, charismatic black women accessible and understandable in fresh conceptual ways."Ed Guerrero, author of Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film

Source: University of Illinois Press

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Mia Mask, Associate Professor of Film, received her Ph.D. from New York University. Before coming to Vassar in 2000, she taught Film Studies at The College of Staten Island-CUNY, graduate Media Studies at The New School, and Film History at Tufts University, where she was a Multicultural Teaching Fellow.

At Vassar College Ms. Mask teaches African American cinema, documentary film history, horror film, feminist film theory, African national cinemas, and genre theory.

She is the author of Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film, published by University of Illinois Press.

Formerly an assistant editor and regular contributor at Cineaste magazine, she has written film reviews and covered festivals for IndieWire.com, The Village Voice, Abafazi: Simmons College Journal, Film Quarterly, Time Out New York, Brooklyn Woman, and The Poughkeepsie Journal. Her criticism was anthologized in Best American Movie Writing, 1999.In the spring of 2003, she was a Visiting Professor of Film Studies at Yale University. She has twice been a visiting scholar at New York University. Her scholarly essays are published in the African American National Biography, Screen Stars of the 1990s, Film and Literature, and American Cinema of the 1970s. She is editing an anthology entitled Black American Cinema Reconsidered. Her television interviews include appearances on "The Full Nelson" and "American Movie Classics."

In 2006, 2007 and 2008 she served at the Institute of International Education as a member of the National Screening Committee assembled to select Fulbright scholars.Vassar

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 We Gotta Have It

Twenty Years of Seeing Black at the Movies, 1986-2006

By Esther IveremReviewed by Kam Williams

Do Me Twice: My Life after Islam A Memoir by Sonsyrea Tate / Women of a New Tribe By Jerry Taliaferro

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 23 April 2010

 

 

 

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