This website analyzes two films using from an Ethnic Literary Studies perspective. The first film Soul Man (1986) directed by Steve Miner. In this film, a young man dresses in blackface to qualify for a minority scholarship at Harvard University. During his time as a minority, he endures racism and “realizes” how hard it is to be a black man.
The second film analyzed is Watermelon Man (1970) film directed by Melvin Peebles. In this film, a black man is dressed in whiteface but later becomes a black man. In the film, he is a “white man” trapped in a black man’s body, and he has to endure the racism he once imposed on black people. Each of these films seems to have good intentions. However, Watermelon Man was better received than Soul Man.
In today’s society, there are a lot of misconceptions and lack of education on the origins of blackface. On the one hand, there are people who don’t see anything wrong with blackface. On the other hand, there are individuals who find it offensive. This is why it is important to explore the history of blackface and the impact it has on our society.
The films being analyzed both seem to have good intentions when using racial cross-dressing. Yet, they each take different approaches. Soul Man, uses blackface and Watermelon Man, uses whiteface.
Watermelon Man takes on more of a political approach, while Soul Man takes a more mainstream approach. Peebles’ film is well received while Miner’s is not. By examining the difference in how each of these films were received, we can gain a better understanding of the root issues of blackface.