Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grinner's "Hip Hop Sees No Color: An Exploration of Privilege and Power in Save the Last Dance"

     This author Leslie Grinner argues that despite efforts to make Save the Last Dance a film transcending racism and other oppressive -isms, the movie overall reinforces stereotypical, dominant ideology dealing with race/sex/ability/sexuality/religion/property-owning and depicts our not-all-inclusive cultural values. Grinner uses the model she talks about having developed (SCWAMP) to make visible and deconstruct the cultural values inherent to the film. She argues that the usage of SCWAMP on a wider scale is an important analytical tool for studying media. This is the main point of the article, since it is a way for us to see invisible ideological components of what we are exposed to. This is a basic step in recognizing privilege and power and what groups have it in our society. In this way, analyzing media, especially popular media, is a way to almost look in the mirror at what our culture tells us to think and do. For example, Grinner follows the letters of SCWAMP to recognize straightness/heterosexuality, Christianity, whiteness, able-bodiedness, maleness and owning of property in the film Save the Last Dance. Grinner recognizes what things are hierarchically ranked in the film, in other words, what is made a standard in society. The film reflects no other sexuality besides heterosexuality, and the absence of sexualities deviating from this reinforces being hetero- as a standard. Christianity is not directly referenced but morality is, and there are moral standards and moral hierarchy displayed in the characters. Whiteness is a standard for a multitude of reasons in the film. Grinner references the expected sadness on the part of the audience reflected in the tone of scenes regarding Sara's mother's death as an example of this since the same sadness is not present in scenes regarding Chenille and Derrick's mother's jail time and drug addiction. Able-bodiedness is reflected as a norm/standard on a fundamental level since the film revolves around dance. The film reflects the idea that women need men to depend on in order to be successful, and there is competition for men shown amongst the females. Finally, there is the property-owning standard, which doesn't reflect physical property owning necessarily according to Grinner but can also mean economic, intellectual and cultural property, all of which are important values exhibited in the film. The characters that have access to these types of privilege and resources are praised and may seem like protagonist characters that exemplify the achievement of equality in our culture, when in actuality Grinner's argument is that media is complicated and difficult to analyze but SCWAMP is a framework that makes recognition of power and privilege more visible and in turn easier to discuss and works towards fixing.

1 comment:

  1. While reading the article, I zoned in on the author's discussion of Sara's mother's death versus the absence of Derrick's mother. While this helps to make the author's point I also see issues in this. Sara's mother's death is imperative to the plot of this story while Derrick's mother's absence really has nothing to do with it. Just a thought that I had.