On a serious note today, the focus will be on stereotypes in movies and the insistence on fear mongering in the industry of film
It is clear to many by now that studios in Hollywood care little to nothing about authenticity and representing other races in a proper well rounded light. While my focus will be on African stereotypes, I will at this point make It clear that I am not saying that one race deserves to be treated differently from another. Rather I am trying to identify a bigger problem in terms of representation of “ethnic” characters in movies.
I will begin with TV shows and then work my way up to movies. What comes to mind when you think of Africa? Well, Africa is ……… *you search your mind for any other cues but there are none* (and you can’t do a Google search). Let me begin by referring to the events of the American Dad episode “camp refoogee” with the following synopsis on IMDb. “Stan and Steve try to turn an African refugee camp into a fun summer camp, but get attacked by a group of rebels. Back at home, Roger and Francine pose as a college professor and his wife”. I know I know, its all harmless you know, they went to Africa and saved people in a refugee camp and its all good. But no, it is not good, not at all. In the episode, Stan tries to bond with Steve after again messing up his plans to have a life. He does this by taking a CIA plane to the middle of a “deserty” place (referred to as Africa in the series) and lands in the midst of a civil war/refugee crisis. Stan sets up camp refoogee and creates a fun camp for the refugees and does stuff that Americans(at least in most movies I’ve seen) do when they go camping. You know, bonfire, s’mores, ghost stories, build tents and stuff like that. There is an awkward interaction between Stan and a warlord which results in a van wilder-esque challenge to decide which camp is better. Stan, seemingly oblivious to the actual humanitarian crisis he is in the middle of , loses the challenge and also the camp. There is also a side plot with Steve meeting an African girl who gives him a totem for protection and later leaves with the warlord. Hayley spends time in the UN aid centre where things look a bit more extravagant compared to the people that they were assigned to give aid to.They eventually leave on the CIA plane by which they came to Africa.
That summary made a lot of sense and its all good, right? It isn’t. The first thing that annoyed me about the depiction of Africa in this episode was the sheer non-sensibility regarding the terrain. There are airports in all of African countries as we also travel by air around our countries, continent and around the world. Why was there no airport in the whole episode? No indication of border control or any sort of security? The second thing that annoyed me was the whole sub plot with the totems, it was very disappointing really as any research would show that people who still do all the totems and magic stuff are as hard to find as people who believe in ghosts. Third thing was the accents, I have observed that the dialect coaches for regional accents in Africa must make a lot of money for doing absolute crap. I never heard such accents until I came to London. Even at that, I’ve only heard two people talk that way in my entire life. It is the same accent that I’ve heard on every TV show with an African. Just baritone nothingness with broken English and a general brutishness about them. Finally, I was also annoyed by seeing yet another warlord/rebel in fictional Africa. I am yet to see any such thing in my actual life and I am really disappointed by the lack of research or regard for authenticity when it comes to telling stories set in Africa.
This is just one example of the representation of Africa in Hollywood.
I hope to return to write an article about the situation in films.