Daily Archives: January 18, 2009


Hey, I’m not mentioned twice in the NYT today!

First Manohla and Tony

“Black men have also flourished on screen as surrogate, spiritual fathers. Much like the wee green Jedi master who instructs Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back,” the Black Yoda helps guide young (white) heroes to their destinies. Routinely paired opposite callow, less expert actors like Keanu Reeves, Ashley Judd and Ben Affleck, Mr. Freeman in particular can be relied on to provide counsel and ballast to even the most lightweight genre exercises, along with a sense of purpose and moral seriousness. The touch of gravel in his voice is suggestive of long, hard-traveled roads, while the sagging, doggone tired and mournful eyes look as if they have borne witness to real pain. Much like James Earl Jones before him, though with less basso profundo, Mr. Freeman has become the go-to guy for voice-of-God narration, and for playing the Big Man upstairs.
Yoda himself is a science-fiction variation on Jiminy Cricket, the cute little critter who, in the 1940 Disney classic, advises Pinocchio to “always let your conscience be your guide.” In Hollywood, black characters have often provided this kind of advisory role, chirping friendly counsel from the sidelines, as Hattie McDaniel does when she maternally scolds (and protects) Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind” or when an avuncular Bill Robinson (a k a Bojangles) teaches Shirley Temple how to dance up a flight of stairs in “The Little Colonel.” These mentor-student relationships invoke what the historian Donald Bogle calls the “huckfinn fixation,” movies in which a good white man, having gone up against the corrupt (white) mainstream, takes up with a “trusty black who never competes with the white man and who serves as a reliable ego padder.” The white hero “grows in stature” from this association because “blacks seem to posses the soul the white man searches for.”

Yoo-Hoo Guys — Over Here!

And then there’s Frank Rich:

“For all our huge progress, we are not “post-racial,” whatever that means. The world doesn’t change in a day, and the racial frictions that emerged in both the Democratic primary campaign and the general election didn’t end on Nov. 4. As Obama himself said in his great speech on race, liberals couldn’t “purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap” simply by voting for him. And conservatives? The so-called party of Lincoln has spent much of the past month in spirited debate about whether a white candidate for the party’s chairmanship did the right thing by sending out a “humorous” recording of “Barack the Magic Negro” as a holiday gift. “

Strictly speaking Mitzi nails it.

Still and all, Frank, I’m sure no stranger to THIS:

“A more general application of the concepts regarding absence/presence in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, this term refers to the way that which is absent in the denotative level of a sign structures its overall meaning.[1] Since every sign contains not merely affirmative connotative meaning (THIS is what this sign IS) but also negative connotative meaning (THIS is what this sign IS NOT), both constitute the ideological meaning of the sign. In classical Hollywood cinema, the woman as object of desire “makes sense” because she IS NOT the active subject. The simpering “fairy” “makes sense” because he IS NOT endowed with heterosexual signifiers. The male hero fulfilling the standard Oedipal trajectory “makes sense” because he IS NOT “queer,” female, of color, etc. Thus the structuring absence is a central part of any stereotype. Because structuring absence is part of the subtext, it operates as an invisible counterpart to the naturalizing process within cinema, and within ideological systems in general.
[1] In psychoanalytic film theory, the cinema, functioning as a representation of the imaginary, makes what is absent, or repressed, present. “

You can also find it HERE:

“Using intellectual montage’s production strategies, Ulmer can function as a trope – a picto-ideo-graphic figure. In fact, Ulmer offers a guide and demonstration of this strategy in his early work on Jacques Lacan’s seminar space. Like the essay in this volume by Jon McKenzie, my story begins with a lunch meeting with Professor Ulmer. We had organized an independent study around lunch – philosophy over lunch – borrowing a Continental way of knowing (but walking to the local sub shop). It was our version of Lacan’s seminars.

Applied grammatology uses psychoanalytic practices, including the notion of a structuring absence or unconscious, to challenge the metaphysics of presence and the self-conscious subject (the tenor). Ulmer suggests that one could retain the structure of Lacan’s presentational strategies ‘while abandoning its reference’ or tenor (Ulmer 1985: 189). This strategy depends on what Ulmer calls double inscription that draws on both conscious and unconscious machinations, scientific and poetic approaches, in one operation. Now, though, the tenor does not dominate and force the poetic into effacement. One of the key works on the application of psychoanalysis to culture is Freud’s study of Michelangelo’s Moses. Freud carefully articulates the possible meanings of the figure’s posture especially in reference to how the fingers grasp the beard. From the beard, Freud draws conclusions about the structuring absence of the meaning of the figure – that is, what Moses is looking at is not portrayed. We have only the turned head and the grasp of the beard to guide us about what Moses’ gaze sees (and how what he sees forms his attitude, character, and, ultimately, his identity).”

Sing us out Bob.