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bell hooks, Cultural Criticism… On Spike Lee, 'Girl 6' & Representing Blackness In Hollywood

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 9, 2012 10:22 AM
14 Comments
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I'm a little behind on my "Revisiting Spike Lee's *Forgotten* Films" series; She Hate Me was featured in the first installment in the series (read that HERE if you missed it), and I was going to tackle Girl 6 in installment #2 this week, but didn't get to it. However, my post will be up by Monday/Tuesday next week.

In the meantime, thinking of Girl 6 (a film that I actually liked - unlike most who saw it - and would call one of Spike's most under-rated films; but you can read all about it next week)... this morning, as I sat to start gathering my thoughts for my piece, I remembered this clip - a portion from a much longer video titled Cultural Criticism & Transformation, from the Media Education Foundation, featuring the one and only bell hooks, waxing philosophic on Spike Lee's career in general, with some emphasis on Girl 6. So of course I had to repost it for those who haven't seen it.

Although I suggest you watch the entire series, which is all on YouTube, in pieces. It's many years old, but still relevant.

As an aside, it's actually somewhat uncanny watching her assess Quentin Tarantino's scene in Girl 6, suggesting that sequence is a critique of Hollywood's understanding that what blackness is, or what black film is, can be negotiated by anyone and any filmmaker; that black people aren't *needed* to tell stories about black people, because white people can! It's uncanny because, 16 years later since that film, Quentin Tarantino is behind what might be the most significant *black film* of the year. 

And by the way, bell hooks' Reel to Real: Race, Sex and Class at the Movies is absolutely recommended reading.

The punk who uploaded the video to YouTube didn't allow it to be embedded for whatever reason, and I couldn't find it anywhere else, so you'll have to go to YouTube to watch it. Click HERE to do so.

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14 Comments

  • Orville | June 10, 2012 9:19 PMReply

    bell hooks has NEVER followed mainstream white feminism which she says believed in the whole separate gender from race. A lot of black feminists believe race and gender, and class are linked in relation discrimination. A black feminist Kimberly Crenshaw is the one who created the intersectionality which means people have multiple identities which cross and are a part of their realities.

    There is a black feminist group the Combahee River Collective and they also acknowledge the sexism of black men but also acknowledge the importance of black people working together across gender lines. bell hooks and the Combahee River Collective one of the founders was Barbara Smith wanted to make black communities stronger. bell hooks also wrote a book about black men a few years ago I think it was called Black Masculinities or something like that.

  • misha | June 9, 2012 11:44 PMReply

    Ok, I'm a big fan of bell hooks but I hadn't seen the video of her giving her thoughts on Spike as a filmmaker and I have to say that I love what she had to say, particularly about Hollywood viewing Spike as failure. Also, I literally laughed out loud at her calling Waiting to Exhale a "shitty movie!" I didn't exactly think it was "shitty" (lol) but I get her point, no doubt.

  • Jayson Jay | June 9, 2012 10:07 PMReply

    bell hooks was one of the first prominent Black feminists not to use Black male misandry as a promotional tool so I have a degree of respect for her even though I often disagree.

  • Nadine | June 10, 2012 5:08 PM

    Get on it missy!

  • misha | June 10, 2012 1:14 AM

    Nadine, you are on fire, girlfriend! :) Yes, it's obvious that bell hooks subscribes to Womanism, which very much considers the condition of black men, the black community as whole and not just black women. That's why I'm much more comfortable refering to myself as a womanist rather than a feminist. And with that said, I think this is as perfect a time as any to point out that I do have a blog (http://musingsofasouthernwomanist.wordpress.com/). Gosh, I haven't posted a blog entry in awhile. I need to get on that!

  • Nadine | June 9, 2012 11:54 PM

    Black Feminists have overwhelmingly been "Womanists" or have subscribed to "Womanism" (see http://afeministtheorydictionary.wordpress.com/2007/07/17/womanism/) whose ideologies reject mainstream separatist White feminism which appeared to have an ultimate goal of making greater gains on the backs of men, the antithesis of Black Feminism. Separatist gender ideologies caused a disconnect between White female supremacy Feminists and Black Feminists, who believed that men were just as integral to society as women. I'm thinking that you know this, but I thought I should point it out as I believe your statement feeds into a false victimization of a secondary sub-population at the hands of a tertiary population.

  • Malik Emir El | June 9, 2012 4:07 PMReply

    Girl 6 and all of the Films Spike Lee has Developed speaks to the souls of the So called Black experience. The effort of White hollywood to condem Spike on his work or profits is a clear picture that So called white America just don't get it. In oder to understand the souls and theproblems that exist in our everyday lives you have to at least take the time to experience our side whether through film or living next to Black folk. Spike Lee gives you that chance . Unlike Tyler Perry who forces this Christian humbleness that White folks can feel good about and move around without fear. I commend our brother on keeping it real and close to home. Just as life presents it.

  • Nadine | June 9, 2012 1:52 PMReply

    Yes, I remember this. She touched on a number of topics that have actually worsened since her taping including the music industry, the reintroduction of the color caste system, and Black Exoticism that is used to add "flavor" to the White/mainstream society without jeopardizing the sanctity and conservative ideologues the mainstream society has a foothold on. Good resource for the Tarantino conversation.

  • misha | June 9, 2012 11:45 PM

    Nadine, what you said!

  • Nadine | June 9, 2012 7:57 PM

    @NO - I'm quite familiar with Hurston, her works (the good and the problematic), and her crew. The thing is Hurston didn't put hooks in that box as hooks was not yet born. You pretty much understand what I'm saying and I see what you're saying, but given that she, Hurston, used the term to piss off and shock the Black bourgeoisie (who people really need to call out as they've gotten away with BS for centuries and are very much instrumental in the stagnation of Blacks in America over that same time period), etc..., I just don't see it being applied to hooks as hooks demeanor and carriage are very much the opposite and is derivative of a different time and crew in our recent memory that have their own distinct style. All this to say, just give her a chance. Give the entire talk a chance.

  • No | June 9, 2012 1:59 PM

    No, it was actually Zora Neale Hurston who placed her in a box by coining the term "niggerati." I merely added the letter "a." By the way, Hurston used it to described black intellectuals of her day who traded in cultural explanations and interpretations of the time, and I think it is certainly fair to use the term for the generation of black intellectuals who have walked down that well-worn path in our postmodern era where everything is and ain't black.

  • No | June 9, 2012 1:18 PMReply

    I've never found anything of interest re members of the niggrati in engaging in hack cultural criticism, which I've alway found to be pseudo-criticism masquerading as talking' loud but sayin' nothin'.

  • Art De Guerre | June 9, 2012 7:36 PM

    You realize she used it self-referentially, right? She was part of this group of literary intellectuals.

  • Nadine | June 9, 2012 1:44 PM

    Instead of listening to what this one woman has to say, you instead place her in a box ("niggrati"), put your hands over your ears and sing "la,la,la,la,la"... nice.

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