African American Women and Sexuality in the Cinema

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About the Book

The representation of African American women is an important issue in the overall study of how women are portrayed in film, and has received serious attention in recent years. Traditionally, “women of color,” particularly African American women, have been at the margins of studies of women’s on-screen depictions—or excluded altogether.
This work focuses exclusively on the sexual objectification of African American women in film from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Critics of the negative sexual imagery have long speculated that control by African American filmmakers would change how African American women are depicted. This work examines sixteen films made by males both white and black to see how the imagery might change with the race of the filmmaker.
Four dimensions are given special attention: the diversity of the women’s roles and relationships with men, the sexual attitudes of the African American female characters, their attitudes towards men, and their nonverbal and verbal sexual behaviors. This work also examines the role culture has played in perpetuating the images, how film influences viewers’ perception of African American women and their sexuality, and how the imagery polarizes women by functioning as a regulator of their sexual behaviors based on cultural definitions of the feminine.

About the Author(s)

Norma Manatu is an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She lives in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Norma Manatu
Foreword by Kwyn Bader
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 245
Bibliographic Info: photos, tables, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1431-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5144-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii

Foreword     xi

Preface     1

1. Introduction and Overview     9

2. The Form of the Film Medium: Visual Images and Viewer Perception     32

3. Love and Romance: Cultural Prescriptive for “Appropriate” Sexual Behaviors for Men and Women      51

4. Cultural Impact of Film’s Imaging on Black Women     87

5. Similar, but Different: Films from 1986 to 1985 and 1997 to 2001     119

6. Implications of the Incongruity in Black Filmmakers’ Depictions of the Black Female’s Nonsexual Roles     163

7. Conclusion     185

8. Epilogue     201

Appendix A: Films in the Two Studies     207

Appendix B: Importance of Sexual Contact: Behaviors in the Films    210


Bibliography     211

Index     223

Book Reviews & Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title
“a solid contribution…essential…all film collections”—Choice.