- Hardcover: 408 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691058008
- ISBN-13: 978-0691058009
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,035,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson.
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From Publishers Weekly
It seems like a long leap "from Lillian Gish to... Leonardo DiCaprio and from Uncle Tom to Rodney King," but in this dazzling, benchmark work, noted cultural historian and critic Williams makes it with panache and enormous insight. Investigating contemporary racial strife embodied in the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson trials, Williams (Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the Frenzy of the Visible) argues that centuries-old racial and sexual myths and representations are central to U.S. culture and politics. Exploring with acuity and empathy the many permutations of racial stereotypes (e.g., the black sexual predator and the white female victim in Birth of a Nation and elsewhere, and their social and political meanings over the past 150 years), Williams navigates a maze of American popular culture from Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jazz Singer and Show Boat to Roots and Bill T. Jones's Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin. Always provocative, Williams eschews simple explanations and easy liberal or conservative platitudesas in her complicated analysis of the relationship between Jewish assimilation and blackface in The Jazz Singer and of the marketing for Gone with the Wind in Southern states (at age 10, Martin Luther King Jr. performed as a "slave" at a gala celebration of the film). Williams's astounding range of sources and attendant critical literature (she is professor of film studies at UC-Berkeley) is as impressive as her ability to synthesize and interpret so much information without undermining its emotional and artistic impact. This is a vital contribution to American studies as well as film and race studies. Photos and illus.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Williams (film studies, Univ. of California, Berkeley Hard Core) attempts to understand the racial sympathies and hostilities that surfaced during the "trials in black and white" (i.e., the police beating of Rodney King and O.J. Simpson's murder trial) by analyzing the mass culture genealogy of racial melodramas since the mid-19th century. She defines melodrama as "the fundamental mode by which American mass culture has 'talked to itself' about the enduring moral dilemma of race." By examining a variety of melodramas, including novels (Uncle Tom's Cabin), films (The Birth of a Nation), plays (Tommer Shows), Broadway musicals (The Jazz Singer), and TV dramas (Roots), Williams unfolds the "Tom/anti-Tom" dialectic, exposes the logic of race- and gender-based victimization, and shows how both white and black have maneuvered the race card to great moral advantages. "Playing the race card" is simply part and parcel of the racial power games in U.S. culture. For any honest discussion about race relations in America, she argues, we must first acknowledge the indeterminate influence of melodrama. Conscientiously researched, with extensive notes and bibliography, this insightful book is essential for academic libraries and students in film studies. Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Lib., Long Beach
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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The style of the book is readable. Linda Williams is an intellectual but she manages to make her work accessible to those who have not studied film academically. Familiarity with the concept of modernism would help with the first chapter, but is not necessary. If you have studied Morrison, Fanon, Nietzsche, Benjamin and the other thinkers Linda Williams makes brief references to, you will probably get a richer understanding of this book. However, speaking for someone who is only moderately familiar with those intellectuals, I nevertheless gained a deep understanding of the book. Linda Williams is a very competent writer.