Watermelon Man

Watermelon Man is a Blaxploitation that was produced in 1970 by Columbia Studios. Blaxploitation films use othering to help construct black identity. Melvin Van Peebles was the director of this film. He was one of the first black film directors to have a film produced in a Hollywood studio.

This film focuses on the life of a white life insurance salesman, named Jeff Gerber who has shocking life crisis. Jeff is a racist and experiences little hardships in life. He is unaware of how his actions and comments impact the black people surrounding him. Everything changes for Jeff when he wakes up one morning discover that he is a black man. As a black man, Jeff is forced to endure the racist hardships he once imposed on black people.

This film presents stereotypes such as black men are thieves and rapists. Then it goes on to present the fallacies of these stereotypes through Jeff’s transformation. Jeff is accused of being a thief while running for the bus one morning. This is something we’ve seen Jeff do as a white man, but once he attempts to do it as a black man he bombarded by a white crowd and accused of stealing. He is judged by the crowd simply because of his skin color. A black bus driver who Jeff torments every day is the only person to come to his defense.

In a scene prior to Jeff’s transformation, the bus driver asks him to pay his fair. Jeff responds by saying “Arrogant, arrogant, they’re all arrogant! You know in the good ole days you’d be driving the bus from back here.” In the scene after Jeff’s transformation he is accused of being a thief, the bus driver recognizes him based on his actions. After rescuing Jeff from the angry white mob he asks, “What happened to you man?” “You know they don’t love us, you know?” To which Jeff angrily replies “Us???” This comment removes the otherness created between Jeff and black people.

Full movie link to Watermelon Man.

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