- Just Brush It Off:Our reaction to this image was divided. Some of us thought that it was humorous, as Griffith intended, and others were a little offended. Griffith uses humor that was typical of movies of the time: i.e. The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin, etc. This humor, called slapstick, made silent films more entertaining. If there was no sound, movement had to be exaggerated to hold the attention of the audience. However, some were offended by the comedy, because of the racist undertones. It is reminiscent of Disney's cartoon: "Mickey's Mellerdrammer." It takes a serious issue and makes a mockery of it to try and downplay exactly how serious it is. It is common for people to take to humor, when they don't know how to react to something controversial.
'Til Death Do Us Part:
Upon viewing this scene in the film, we were touched by the image of two family friends on opposing sides, reunited by war and embracing in death like brothers.
In this scene, Griffith utilizes one of the key aspects Williams mentions in Playing the Race Card: using realism to “serve the melodrama of pathos and action.” This scene takes place during a pretty realistic Civil War scene. Griffith uses this realistic action to build pathos within the audience. The violence causes the audience to feel emotional already, but when the boys of the two families—one from the North and one from the South—die together, it shows solidarity for a common cause, and reinforces Griffith’s “unifying the nation” theme as propaganda.
- Bang Bang!:We enjoyed the realism of this scene, because it retied our feeling to the historical context of the film, relating back to Williams' concept of realism. Even though Griffith's audience knew the outcome of this scenario, Griffith still effectively managed to build up the suspense and effect our perception. In thinking of this act, we were reminded of Marx's Manifesto, in that violence can be justified as a means against the enemies of our ideologies. Booth felt justified in killing Lincoln, because he was responsible for freeing the slaves in the Civil War. Griffith uses this image as a portrayal of melodramatic themes in that it pits good v. evil in who supports "white v. black." In answering the question that Katrina posed on the blog, we don't think that violence is justified against the enemy at all times, even if it is effective propaganda. Because, someone's foe, is someone else's friend.
- Love? or Lust? True or False?:This image caused us to feel baffled, because of it's unbelievable nature, at least to the context and perspective that we have watching it today. We know that Griffith has purposely made people of color seem immoral to further his white audience's prejudice against them, and justify his entire fabricated, propagandized revisionist plot. Not only does Griffith make the black man a demon of the white woman's purity, as Williams discusses, but he has sexualized this woman of color, to threaten the white man's integrity. All around, Griffith is trying to demonize blacks, and then justify racism. It is easy to think of someone as an enemy, when they are different from ourselves, especially if they have a different set of values than we do. Griffith fabricated these actions as directly opposing all that his primarily white audience valued, and succeeded in propagating his melodramatic view of race relations in the early 20th century.
- What?:This statement is highly inflammatory to us, because of its complete falsity. It is literally just a lie that Griffith told to serve his purpose more effectively. It might be somewhat accurate to say of his portrayal of the Civil War, but Griffith's portrayal of Reconstruction, is completely hyperbolized and revisionist. What's worse is that he says that it is "not meant to reflect on any race or people of today," because it obviously is. Griffith is trying to unify white people against black people in the present. Griffith uses fiction; much as Stowe and others did in their Tom and anti-Tom shows to make historical commentary without the audience necessarily feeling like they are being propagandized. This might be another fundamental element of melodrama and melodramatic grammar: propagandizing the audience with hyperbole and fiction, without the audience realizing that this is happening.
- Mammy's At It Again:This scene provoked a surprised reaction in us when the "Mammy" character, displays such anger towards a black man. Her behavior confused us in a sense because it contradicted the good vs bad nature of melodrama. Mammy, a black slave who appears to side with the white opposition, represents a gray area in between the oppressors and the oppressed. In a way, Mammy's support of the whites justifies racist sentiment, and victimizes the men of the South in not just the black v. white contest, but the North v. South opposition. This is one of the only remnants of pro-Tom sentiment left in Griffith's narrative. It also justifies his support of the Klan in the film, because he showing that not all blacks are bad, yet, as Williams demonstrates, his comic representation of Mammy shows that they cannot be taken very seriously either. Not surprisingly, the Mammy character passed the test of time and continued to appear in films such as Gone With the Wind and the Shirley Temple movies, continuing the stigma that the "good" blacks are the ones that remain loyal to their "kind" Southern masters.
- I'll Jump!:We were appalled by this image, which shows a woman immediately before jumping off a cliff to her demise. The reason why we were so appalled is because this woman chose to jump to her death rather than be married to a black man, which reflects the sentiments of the period all too well. Blacks were not viewed as simply an inferior race, but were often considered their own species subordinate to humanity in its entirety. Because of this, such an interracial relationship was considered a threat to White purity, and thus was looked towards with extreme contempt. To this woman, being married to a black man was probably the worst thing that could possibly happen to her, as it would undoubtedly bring such shame and dishonor to herself and her family that even death was preferred. This same melodramatic element was displayed in The Poor of New York, when Lucy and Mrs. Fairweather tried to escape the shame and suffering of their poverty. Making the actions of the victim-heroes so extreme in melodrama causes the the audience to empathize more with the tragedy that "evil" can bring about in the world, and effectively polarizes people into morally "good" camps and morally "bad" camps.
- This is Just Wrong:Honestly, by this part of the film, we were just incredulous. This depicts an all black jury, apparently passing judgement upon "the helpless white minority," which would never occur in contemporary society (because juries are representative of populations), let alone the time period that is depicted in this film, and therefore provides an ironic juxtaposition of what group holds power in American society. Marx describes history as a series of conflict between classes. This is also an aspect of melodrama: fear of modernity, of change, and in this case, fear of power shifts between the two classes of people in the South--black and white. Griffith knew that oppression is something that easily strikes fear in the heart of many, and in this case "the white minority" is being oppressed by legal means. Also as Marx states, when people are oppressed by unjust law, they become vigilante and take the law into their own hands. We can see, historically, that whites have no problem with this vigilante justice, for it can be seen in the decades in which "lynch law" ruled the South. In this way, Griffith's melodrama becomes dangerous, as we have discussed in class. He hyperbolizes to such an extent, that it justified that sort of victim-hero, avenging mentality in his white audience. However, it also can be seen that Griffith took his fictionalization to such an extent that black people of the time also took to the streets in protest. Perhaps this film did more polarizing than unifying, as griffith intended.