Hidden Figures Long Form Essay

In the media, racism is either non-existent or intensely focused upon. In the case of Hidden Figures, a movie about three black women, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who struggle to prove themselves in the segregated and male-dominated world at NASA, it leans toward the middle of the two. This middle-ground is a trend that is even seen with recent shows like 2 Dope Queens, a show meant to highlight the talents of those from diverse backgrounds. However, this show falls flat in establishing its desired message, which also occurs in Hidden Figures despite both discussing or showing controversial issues. While Hidden Figures excels at getting the message of racism across, it restricts the conversation it can have on the topic and thus limits the impact of its message because similar to shows like 2 Dope Queens, it resorts to nonconfrontational tones and supporting characters that act as a crutch to the stars true success in order to pander to a wider audience.

Altering a narrative in order to connect to a wider audience isn’t new. It’s been seen in books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and even more recently with HBO’s special 2 Dope Queens. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a book written by a white woman that portrayed a tamer side to slavery and ended with the main character, Uncle Tom, gaining freedom through death. Despite causing feelings of indignation and anger from the black community, the white community responded strongly to the story. That’s because in order to get the white public to resonate with the message the author had to create characters that they could empathize with while not feeling like they were being attacked for the institution of slavery. A similar mentality is still prevalent as seen with 2 Dope Queens which premiered on HBO in February of this year.

2 Dope Queens is hosted by two black, female comedians, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, who invite various guests and comedians onto the show. This show is based on their podcast, of the same name, which focused on promoting comedians and people of diverse backgrounds, such as people of color, females, and those of the LGBT community. However, the show does not fully embrace the original purpose of their podcast and in the first episode, only two of the five comedians were of color, and only one was female. Despite their podcast having a history of success, a lot of major companies are still afraid to solely rely on the success of minorities and resort to using white actors/comedians/etc. as a way to guarantee some form of revenue. Plus, since the show now includes a bigger and whiter audience, they don’t want to make it feel as though they are excluding them from the narrative. In addition, they steer away from controversial topics since as a new show they don’t want to polarize people. This is what causes them to play it safe and include comedy that is neutral and easy to laugh at but doesn’t necessarily make a statement. When they do include a female comedian, who does a routine that discusses some controversial topics they make her go first so as to follow her up with routines that are “safer” so they can end on a positive and non-confrontational note. Ending with a “happy-ending” makes it so people come back to watch again. However, this isn’t the only tactic they use to get people to stay and watch, they also have a well-known celebrity join them, to add credit to their show and entice people to watch. For the first episode, they use Jon Stewart, even making sure to include his name in the synopsis of the episode. Not only is he used to gain more viewers, he also acts as a way to legitimize their comedy, because if a famous comedian supports your show then it must mean it’s good. However, in doing so they are using someone else’s fame to help support their goals instead of relying on their own humor and talent. Relying on someone else is a trap that is easy to fall into. People make it seem like you aren’t good enough the way that you are, so you change yourself or rely on others to make yourself “better”, but in doing so you lose that originality and feature or message that defined you. 2 Dope Queens gave up the amount of impact their message about diversity would have in order to be successful in the eyes of the public and the company. Unfortunately, Hidden Figures is guilty of the same issues.

While Hollywood has more recently begun to trust that a story focused on minorities can and will make money, as seen with such hits as Black Panther and Get Out, at the release of Hidden Figures, Hollywood was still hesitant about giving the story entirely to three black characters. As such, they resort to lessening the impact of segregation and racism during the 1960s and also include a white male figure who acts as a hero and takes some of the focus from the women’s stories, losing some of the message’s impact, just as Jon Stewart did for 2 Dope Queens. This is seen most prominently with Al Harrison, Kevin Costner, Katherine’s boss. They could have given the narrative completely to Katherine and watched as she climbed the ranks and proves herself to her colleagues by her own efforts. Which they do to a point, but they also use supporting characters like Harrison and John Glen, to shoulder some of her burden and aid in her success, making it seem like she couldn’t have succeeded on her own. There is no reason for them to have these male supporting leads provide such a pivotal role to Katherine’s success, especially when they have characters like the Polish engineer who gives Mary the idea that it is possible to become an engineer as a colored woman. But it is Mary herself who determines her own success. She is the one who takes the matters into her own hands and goes to court to defend her position. Even with Mary’s future depending on the decision of a white male judge, he isn’t acting as a crutch that is needed to help her succeed, he instead functions as a roadblock that Mary must overcome. With Katherine, that’s not the case, because Harrison is very likable, understanding, and is seen as caring for the mission more than the differences in a person’s skin color. Basically, Harrison is an idealized character. Which is the other problem the movie has that lessens the film’s impact: resolving all the conflicts and ignoring the reality of America during that time.

As the movie strives to be a feel-good movie, it aims to end on a happy note to get more people to like the movie, again relying on tactics and tropes instead of letting the character’s story speak for itself. The three women accomplish a lot and it’s an amazing success story by itself, but by the end the movie decides to make it seem like people are no longer racist and segregation is no longer a reality, despite it taking several more years for blacks to gain full rights. In one scene, as John Glen is hurtling back to earth, it makes a point to show all these people from different walks of life standing together with a common hope, not looking at their differences but being brought together by the fact that they are all Americans. This is even more obvious when it contrasts with the various scenes in the movie where it explicitly shows only black families watching the TV together, versus those who were white watching the news somewhere else. Then after they show everyone standing together they proceed to resolve most of the conflicts. Ms. Mitchell, the white counterpart, and a roadblock to Dorothy’s success, finally gives Dorothy her rightful title of supervisor and even asks for her help in teaching her own “computers” how to program the IBM. Katherine, through the help of John Glen, gets her job at the Space Task Group back, and Mary is now a certified engineer. It’s a very idealistic ending, and while it does highlight each women’s very real achievements, it doesn’t acknowledge that segregation and racism did continue, even at NASA. As one computer programmer who reviewed the movie said, “the strange thing for me is that I saw more black programmers in this movie than I’ve ever encountered in my entire career… Even today, some of my customers look at me funny when I show up to fix the problem” (Henderson). Meaning there is still an issue with racism and explains why 2 Dope Queens was formatted the way that it was. While the movie misses the chance to really delve into the full extent of segregation, at the very least the times it does focus on it, it does it well.

Hidden Figures scenes of segregation and racism work because they not only contrast scenes of the women alone vs them at work it also emphasizes the microaggressions they face. These microaggressions are what really helps create an atmosphere of tension, and highlights how it’s the small things that can slowly eat away at a person’s patience and tolerance. Most of the examples of racism are seen through the way her colleagues look at her when she enters a room, how they don’t talk to her, or how they get her a coffee pot that says “colored” on it, or even how a white woman hurries her daughter away from a black man drinking from a colored water fountain. The movie even makes sure to highlight how the little things like going to the bathroom, getting a library book, or going to class are much harder for a person of color. When they do acknowledge the historically violent and oppressive moments of segregation, they do so subtly. A brief scene of people protesting with the police surrounding the protestors, a news program in the background, a mention in the pastor’s sermon, or a brief reference to Rosa Parks. They make sure to emphasize these scenes by either making them silent, as with the scene when Katherine first enters the Space Task Group so that you become acutely aware of the stares. Or with a burst of music that highlights the absurdness of the situations they are put in, like Katherine having to run half a mile to go to the bathroom. To emphasize the tension of racism in general, they show scenes that show both the women in the workplace and by themselves. There is an obvious personality shift that is seen between the two locations, so that when they are alone you get to see more of their personalities shine and see them smile and have fun, while at work they are polite, wary, and reserved. It just adds to the effect of how they had to be on constant alert of their situation because one wrong move wouldn’t be tolerated.

The other point they make sure to acknowledge is that racism is dynamic and might not always be obvious, especially to the person who is being racist. Ms. Mitchell, Dorothy’s “villain”, one day tells Dorothy, “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against Y’all” (Hidden Figures). With Dorothy responding, “I know, I know you probably believe that” (Hidden Figures). That scene shows us that despite Ms. Mitchell clearly being prejudiced against Dorothy she doesn’t think she herself is. It creates an interesting new dynamic for a character that at first was only a one-dimensional villain. It gives you some insight into how she views herself. Then there is Katherine’s relationship with Paul Stafford. Paul Stafford is the classic antagonist to Katherine, yet he slowly starts to accept her. He doesn’t have a complete change of heart, as it appears Ms. Mitchell does, but he does begin to grudgingly acknowledge her when she speaks. This is the one time the movie doesn’t have a perfect resolution between a character and their antagonist and shows how very often it is hard for a person to get rid of their prejudices. While they could have overall been more open and obvious about the turmoil that came with segregation, they do portray it as best they can with the limitations they have and highlight that tension and fear that each of the women faced each day.

In the end, the fact that these types of movies are being made is already a step in the right direction. However, the way the narrative is portrayed still leaves something to be desired. It still relies on old tropes like having a happy-ending where all the conflicts are resolved and using more famous actors to support the film. Despite all that, Hidden Figures has a remarkable cast that plays off each other very well and does a really good job at giving the audience a sense of what it would be like to live like and work in the segregated 1960s. Hopefully, now that movies like Black Panther have done so well, Hollywood will no longer rely on cheap tactics to get people to like the movie and instead realize that people will enjoy the story the way it is, without having to change the narrative.


Henderson, Odie. “Hidden Figures.” Roger Ebert, 20 Dec. 2016, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/hidden-figures-2016. Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.

Hidden Figures. Directed by Theodore Melfi, performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kristen Dunst, and Glen Powell, 20thCentury Fox, 2016.

2 Dope Queens, Directed by Tig Notaro, HBO, 2018.

The Lasting Significance of “Do The Right Thing”

Jack Deering

Dr. Boyd

ENGL 129

27 April 2018

The Lasting Significance of Do the Right Thing

    Spike Lee’s eye-opening film Do the Right Thing chronicles the fictional events that transpire during an extremely hot day in a Brooklyn neighborhood in 1989. The escalation of conflict begins when a black character nicknamed Buggin’ Out questions why there are no black people featured on the “Wall of Fame” in the neighborhood’s popular pizzeria, which is owned by Italian-Americans. As the scorching day progresses, the racial conflict in the neighborhood continues to escalate and eventually culminates with the killing of a black man by a white police officer who uses a fatal chokehold. Throughout the film, Spike Lee explores racial tensions in the Brooklyn neighborhood, a microcosm of the greater New York City area and the United States. In effect, he exposes the ugly reality of racism and police brutality towards black people in America long before these issues became part of the mainstream media through more recent movements like Black Lives Matter. The larger project of the film, then, is to reconfigure the national discourse around the Civil Rights Movement in America by shifting it away from the passivism of Martin Luther King Jr. and towards the more radical activism advocated by Malcolm X, who viewed violence in self-defense as not “violence,” but “intelligence.”

    The first instance in the film that comments on police treatment of black people establishes the atmosphere of distrust in the police within the black community. Thirty minutes into the film, two officers arrive at the scene where a few black men aimed water shooting from a fire hydrant at a white man’s car. As one of the police officers shuts off the fire hydrant, he threatens that if the fire hydrant comes back on, “There’s gonna be hell to pay! You’ll come and answer to me goddammit!” When the other officer attempts to question a witness, who is referred to as the “mayor” of the block, the mayor replies, “Those that’ll tell don’t know, and those that know won’t tell.” This statement and the refusal of the mayor to report on what he witnessed underscores the distrust that minorities have for the police. Rather than cooperating with the police, many minorities refuse to assist police officers investigating crimes because they distrust the officers. This incident from the mayor, according to critic Brian Johnson, also reflects the reluctance of many black people to work with the police and could signify the beginning of the “snitches get stitches” mentality (2015:25). Due to distrust towards police, many people prioritize the demands of criminals over the demands of justice. This atmosphere of distrust often results in police officers and minorities working against each other, rather than with each other, throughout the United States today.

    In addition to bringing awareness to the distrust in police, the film calls attention to racial profiling issues by police, an issue that further exacerbates the distrust. After the statement from the “mayor,” the officers give up on questioning witnesses, and one officer suggests to the car owner, “I suggest you get to your car quick before these people start to strip it clean.” This racist comment by the police officer emphasizes the racial profiling of black people that plagues many police departments; this officer assumes that the black neighbors on the street are prone to criminal activity. If the same incident had occurred in a white neighborhood, the officer likely would not have made this comment. The same officers whose duty it is to promote justice can sometimes make racist assumptions about people from minority groups. Many communities throughout the United States continue to suffer from racial profiling, and this profiling can be especially oppressive when it comes from police officers, as it did in Do the Right Thing.

    In addition to racial profiling issues, the film heightens awareness of the shared perceptions of wastefulness that exist among police and black people. Later in the day, flanked by dramatic music, the same two police officers drive by three older black men spending time together outside on the sidewalk. This scene features close-up shots of the faces of the officers and the faces of the black men as the officers drive by. The faces of both the police officers and of the three black men are all very scrutinizing, as if all of the men are thinking I’ve got my eyes on you or I know what you’re up to. As the police officers stare down the black men, one of the officers utters in a disgusted tone, “What a waste.” Then, before the officers are out of the black men’s sight, one of the black men delivers the same comment, “What a waste,” in a more angry, frustrated tone. The comment from the police officer encapsulates the view that many officers have about black men, which is that they are lazy and unproductive; in fact, the men are of retirement age and are simply spending time together. On the other hand, the comment from the black man captures the sentiment that many black people have about police officers in their communities, which is that having so many cops in black communities is wasteful because the officers are not performing their required duties of maintaining peace and safety in the communities. The same black man further emphasizes his negative perception of the police by complaining that he was “so rudely interrupted by New York City’s finest” with strong sarcasm on the word “finest.”  These perspectives of police officers seeing black people as a waste and black people seeing police officers as a waste still exist in today’s America. With these perceptions, the atmosphere of support that is necessary between police and black people erodes; without police supporting black people and black people supporting police, effective law enforcement is not possible. These negative perceptions contribute to an unproductive and contentious relationship that can ultimate result in tragedy.

    Lee brings awareness to the ultimate tragedy that can result from the atmosphere of racism, racial profiling, and distrust, which is the unjustified killing of black men by police. The film calls attention to this issue through Radio Raheem’s tragic ending. In the film, the tensions between the police officers and the black neighbors come to a crescendo after Sal violently smashes Radio Raheem’s stereo. Raheem tackles Sal, pins him against the ground, and attempts to strangle him. Upon spotting the chaos, police officers arrive on the scene and pull Radio Raheem off of Sal. Officer Long puts Raheem in a chokehold with his baton and continues to tighten his grip as a black man shouts, “You’re killing him!” Others watch in fear and despair, fearing the Radio Raheem will lose his life. The films cuts to a close-up shot of Radio Raheem’s face as it falls lifeless, at which point Officer Ponte utters, “Gary, that’s enough.” The film then cuts to a shot of Radio Raheem’s shoes shaking inches above the ground, revealing that Officer Long has essentially hung Raheem to his death. The officers then let Raheem’s lifeless body fall to the ground, and they shout at him to “Quit faking it!” and “Get the fuck up!” Realizing what they have done and all of the witnesses looking at Raheem, Officer Ponte demands, “Let’s get him outta here.” After the police drive Radio Raheem away, the camera pans across various neighbors who say, “It’s murder. They did it again just like Michael Stewart,” “Murder! Eleanor Bumpurs! Murder!,” “Damn, man, it ain’t even safe in our own fucking neighborhood,” “Never was, never will be,” and “It’s as plain as day; they didn’t have to kill the boy.” As all of these neighbors make these comments, Smiley’s cries of agony can be heard in the background.

    The tragic killings of black people by police were not a temporary problem near the film’s release in the late 1980s. The continuing severity of the problem is evident; since the film’s release in 1989, many more black people have, like Radio Raheem, been killed by unjustified violence from police. These victims include Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and Philando Castile. Eric Garner’s death in 2014 was eerily similar to Radio Raheem’s. Like in Radio Raheem’s death, a New York police officer put Eric Garner in a chokehold, despite the fact that the New York Police Department banned the use of chokeholds in 1993 (NY Times). Although the officer eventually released Garner from the chokehold, he pinned Garner’s face to the ground while four other officers restrained Garner. Garner pleaded for his life as he struggled to say “I can’t breath,” eleven times, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later. Do the Right Thing brought a greater awareness to the violence that police are capable of inflicting on black people, and this issue has continued for the nearly thirty years since that have passed since the film’s release. The people in communities where these tragedies occur wrestle with them the same way that neighbors in the film did, by lamenting that another innocent person has been killed, struggling to comprehend why the officer had to use lethal force, and crying out in agony.

    The response of the neighbors to Radio Raheem’s death points to the shift from the passivism of Martin Luther King Jr. towards the more radical activism advocated by Malcolm X in response to oppression. After the police have driven away, Mookie picks up a metal trash can and heaves it through the window of Sal’s pizzeria. The angry crowd then storms the restaurant, destroying everything inside of it. Watching from a distance, Sal shouts, “That’s my place!” and Vito comments, “Fucking n*****s.” These comments from Vito and Sal are reflective of the sentiments that many people feel in the wake of rioting and looting spurred by police brutality. They view the rioters as irrational and animal-like. Many people focus on the tragedy of business establishments being destroyed, rather than the real tragedy that spurs this dramatic response: the death of an innocent black man at the hands of police. Spike Lee himself captured this idea when he said, “The critics are focusing on the burning of the pizzeria, and nobody ever mentions the death of Radio Raheem, because to them Sal’s property is more important than another death of a young black kid, another black “hoodlum” (Johnson 2015:25).

    Whereas Martin Luther King Jr. would likely have viewed the violent response from the crowd as “impractical and immoral,” Malcolm X would likely have seen it as “intelligence” and “self-defense.” By choosing to include a violent response from the crowd, Spike Lee calls attention to the reconfiguration of black peoples’ mode of resistance to oppression. Instead of embracing the peaceful passivism of Martin Luther King Jr., the marginalized are now turning to Malcolm X’s ideology of a more radical activism in the form self-defense. The emphasis of this shift is further reinforced when Smiley walks into the pizzeria and places a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X on the burning Wall of Fame as the song “Fight the Power” plays in the background. Through their violent reaction to Raheem’s killing, the Brooklyn neighbors are fighting the powerful, oppressive system with the ideology promoted by Malcolm X. Rather than peacefully calling attention to issues of racism rampant among powerful people, the crowd in Do the Right Thing is more literally fighting the oppressive power. The violent, or “intelligent,” actions of self-defense in Do the Right Thing resemble the many responses to police brutality since the film’s release in 1989. In response to unjustified police killings of black men, violent riots have ensued in Los Angeles in 1992, Ferguson in 2014, Baltimore in 2015, and Charlotte in 2016. Like the riot in the film, all of these riots have been characterized by shattered glass, looting, and fire. The form of protest promoted by Martin Luther King Jr. has shifted to the one advocated by Malcolm X and remains strong today. Although many continue to echo the sentiments of Martin Luther King Jr. in arguing that these violent responses are immoral and unproductive, these violent protests are an effective mode of calling the media’s attention to racial issues in America.

    In conclusion, by telling the story of a quarrelsome, tragic day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, Spike Lee brings awareness to both the racism that black people face on a daily basis and the devastating effect it has on marginalized communities. In a wider sense, Lee explores violence as a response to oppression, and he transforms the national discourse about racial justice by shifting it from Martin Luther King’s ideology of peaceful protest to Malcolm X’s perspective of self-defense. The significance of Lee’s message continues in today’s polarizing society, and one of the closing scenes in the film serves as an poignant reflection on current issues of race and society in America. The morning after Radio Raheem’s killing, the neighborhood’s popular radio host expresses his sentiments when he professes, “My people, my people. What can I say? Say what I can. I saw it, but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it, what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together, are we gonna live?” The camera pans up to the radio host gazing out the window; below the window in big letters is the word “LOVE.” Through the words and imagery of this scene, Spike Lee sends a message that maintains significance today. If we are “gonna live together” we must cultivate an atmosphere of trust instead of distrust, of support instead of opposition, and of love instead of hate.



Do the Right Thing. Directed by Spike Lee, performances by Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, and Bill Nunn, Universal City Studios, 1989.

Mays, Jeffery C. “3½ Years After Eric Garner’s Death, Family Still Waits for Closure.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/25/nyregion/eric-garner.html.

Longform Essay (Lucas B)

Lucas Baldridge

ENGL 129

Prof. Boyd

27 April 2018

The Displaying of 21stCentury Discrimination in Hidden Figures

Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures examines the ongoing effects of racial and gender discrimination by delving into the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. By showing the conditions in which they lived and worked, Melfi offers social commentary on the sexism and racism that these women faced as employees of NASA in the 1960s. Throughout the film, Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary were not only facing racial prejudices, but also endured quite a bit of discrimination due to their gender. Hidden Figures displays the interconnection of these two types of discrimination, which happens to mirror the same prejudices in which women of color faced in America even as the Civil Rights Movement gained in prominence. But as a film created in 2017, Hidden Figures additionally explores the depths of gender and racial discrimination as an intersectional issue in the 21stcentury.

Although each of the main characters, Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary, have their own instances of discrimination, the film prefaces their collective discrimination at important moments in the film. The film opens with the three main characters encountering a racist cop on their way to work. Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary were all on the side of the road trying to fix their broken down car. As minutes pass, a cop finally arrives to the scene to see what the trouble was about. Despite the fact that the women were clearly in need of assistance, the cop was quite aggressive towards them. He steps out of his car with baton in hand as if he is facing up against three criminals. Jokingly, Mary even remarks that it is “no crime being a negro,” which despite its obvious banter, was seemingly a truth for this police officer. To continue with his obvious prejudices, the police officer is incredulous that Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary all work for NASA. He asserts his confusion by saying “no clue they hired…,” leaving audiences wondering about the implications of his comment. It could easily be a comment made towards their race or gender, which was confirmed by the panning of the camera from the cop to the aggravated women. Even though the police officer ends up escorting them to their workplace, the ladies’ initial confrontation with the officer was shaped by harsh comments about their race and gender.

The discrimination put on by the police officer to Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary is remarkably relatable to police brutality in 21stcentury America. Especially in recent years, there have been many cases in which cops have taken unnecessary control of African-American citizens. It seems as if every few months, another innocent African-American civilian is shot and killed, for reasons unknown to the public eye. This has to be due to the racial prejudices surrounding African-Americans, as a large majority of such murders normally involve a young black male being shot and killed. To further the connection between such discrimination from the 1960s to the 21stcentury, we can delve into the case of Sandra Bland. The arrest of Sandra Bland was disturbing enough, as she faced horrific abuse from Texas state trooper Brian Encinia, but even more discrimination surfaced during her stay in prison. She was denied her free calls, which seemingly left her heartbroken and lonely (Nathan, 2016). The prison guard that did not allow her to exercise her basic rights as a prisoner was displaying upmost racial and/or gender discrimination. This specific instance could have been the breaking point for Bland’s mental health, which was deemed unstable by a psychiatrist. In the coming hours after being denied her phone calls, Bland hanged herself from the ceiling of her cell bathroom (Nathan, 2016). Her obvious mistreatment can be a direct link to her suicide, and it is clear that such mistreatment occurred because of her race and/or gender.

Despite the women facing discrimination collectively, they continued to face such discrimination separately, as they lived on different lives at NASA and at home. Mary was the first woman of the original group to face discrimination on her own. As Mary was assigned to the engineering team, she was asked why she does not become an engineer. Her response to such questioning was that she is “a negro woman,” and that she can’t waste her time thinking “of the impossible.” It is obvious, that despite her qualifications as an intellectual worker at NASA, Mary was still unable to achieve such a title due to her race. This was reiterated later in Melfi’s film as Mrs. Mitchell, one of the head employees of the NASA facility, told Mary that her application to earn the job title ‘Engineer’ was denied because she had not received certain classes from an all-white school, which was not possible for Mary for obvious reasons.

Even though Mary received much discrimination racially, she also underwent gender discrimination from her husband. While at a church luncheon, her husband could not fathom the idea of Mary becoming an engineer. He said that “women were not meant to be engineers” and continuously tried to deter her from such aspirations. Although he becomes more supportive of her decisions in the end, his initial reaction to her goals of becoming an engineer lays the framework for any gender discrimination that Mary faces throughout the entirety of the film.

This idea of interconnected discrimination is also noted in the depiction of Katherine’s life. Katherine experiences heaps of racial discrimination, but one of the most impacting features of her racial discrimination is outlined during her bathroom breaks. Every time Katherine was in need to use the restroom, she had to trek half a mile across the NASA plant in order to find a ‘Colored Restroom.’ Melfi directs these scenes perfectly by adjusting the camera in ‘long shot form’ to show how far of a travel it was for Katherine to get to the restroom each day. Mr. Harrison, who is the head of the launch programs at NASA, eventually questions her for why she is always “disappearing.” At this moment, Katherine breaks down and explains her situation to all of those in the Engineering Laboratory. Her anecdote to Mr. Harrison was so compelling that he eventually broke down all of the ‘Colored Restroom’ signs, but it still does not erase the fact that such restrooms existed, which is an obvious display of racial segregation.

Even though Katherine endured many other instances of racism, she was also a victim of gender discrimination. The first instance of such discrimination came from her future husband, Colonel James A. Johnson. During their first encounter, Colonel Johnson is confused at why NASA gives “such hard jobs” to women. Obviously, this is a form of gender discrimination, as Colonel Johnson did not see it being a responsible business decision to allow women to endure such hard tasks in the workplace setting. A second instance of such discrimination comes when Katherine is originally denied permission to sit in on the Pentagon Meetings, which discussed the launch in which she was working on. Mr. Stafford, the lead engineer of the group in which Katherine worked, denied her attendance to the meetings. Reluctantly, Mr. Harrison stood up for her once again and allowed her to attend the meeting. Katherine even ends up making a groundbreaking calculation during the meeting, impressing all of those in attendance. It is obvious that her attendance should not have been questioned from the start, but her gender was the reason for her original denial.

To explore the idea of individual discrimination further, it is also important to delve into the life of Dorothy Vaughan. Specifically, we must focus on Dorothy’s encounter with Mrs. Mitchell when asking for a supervisorial position at NASA. Mrs. Mitchell informed Dorothy that she was unable to pursue such a position because NASA “does not hire coloreds.” This is obvious racial discrimination, and truly unfair to Dorothy as she is presumably a supervisor to the ‘Colored Computers.’ Dorothy simply wanted the position title to acclaim the pay she deserves, but her race kept her from such aspirations. Dorothy also faces another instance of racial discrimination, but this time in a public setting. While visiting a public library with her children, Dorothy was harassed by a librarian to leave because it was not a library for “colored folk.” Dorothy and her children were eventually escorted out of the library with the guidance of a security guard, but such discrimination is quite stapling, as it was in a public setting this time.

Even though Dorothy faces quite a bit of racial discrimination, she was also discriminated against because of gender. Such an instance is found during her trialing with the IBM computer, which was seemingly broken until she fixed it. As Dorothy was fixing the computer on her own accord, she was yelled at for being in the room containing the IBM computer. Eventually, we discovered that this was because of her gender. The only workers in the IBM task group were white males. As the workers learned that Dorothy was the reason for the computer’s functionality, she was eventually hired to the task team, but she was asked to leave her ‘Colored Computers’ group behind. Such a request was unfathomable to Dorothy, and she insisted that her group of girls would be alongside her on the IBM task group. Luckily, her requests were met with acceptance, and she persevered through such a strata of gender discrimination, which was hindering her entry into the IBM computer task group.

To understand how Hidden Figures, a film portraying the era of the Civil Rights Movement, is relatable to 21stcentury intersectionality, it is important to reveal the unfair treatment to women of color in the 21stcentury. The three women discussed all faced workplace discrimination due to their race and gender. These same occurrences can easily be found in 21stcentury America. The Lily, a verified analytical/news website, provides statistical analysis to show such workplace discrimination. They showed that women, on average, are paid 20% less than men of the same job title (The Lily News, 2017). To then emphasize the effects of intersectional discrimination, they also state that black women are paid 63% of what men of the same job title are paid (The Lily News, 2017). This statistic highlights the interconnected discrimination endured by African-American women in the 21stcentury.

By displaying the effects of workplace discrimination from the 1960s in a film made in 2017, Melfi is obviously proposing his own social commentary on the lasting effects of such intersectional discrimination. As previously discussed, workplace discrimination is a huge problem in 21stcentury America, which is why Hidden Figures is such a relevant film when discussing the effects of discrimination as interconnected between those of racial and gender minorities.


Melfi, Theodore, Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, Allison Schroeder, Mandy Walker, Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch, Peter Teschner, Wynn P. Thomas, Renée E. Kalfus, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Kimberly Quinn, Olek Krupa, and Margot L. Shetterly. Hidden Figures., 2017.

Nathan, Debbie. What Happened to Sandra Bland? The Nation, 26 Apr. 2016,                                                www.thenation.com/article/what-happened-to-sandra-bland/.

“The Pay Gap Is Worse for Black Women. Here’s a Look at the Statistics.” The Lily News, 31 July 2017, www.thelily.com/the-pay-gap-is-worse-for-black-women-heres-a-look-at-the-statistics/.






Finally Essay on Black Panther


Aidee Tejeda Manzano

April 27th 2018

English 129

Split Paths

The Marvel Film Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler is ostensibly a typical comic book superhero-villain narrative: Killmonger (Erick Stevens) as the murderous villain with no mercy and the Black Panther (T’Challa) as the brave prince of Wakanda. However, these two characters actually represent two opposing conceptions of black identity in the world. Killmonger is an allegory for African American pain and a hero for diasporic Africans. While, T’Challa is an allegory for ancestral privilege and a hero for the Wakandans. But, overall both of these characters are anti-heroes.

Killmonger and T’Challas upbringings were those of an orphan and a prince. Killmonger was stripped of this birthright, he is the son of King T’Chaka’s brother N’Jobu. N’Jobu had taken a war dog assignment in the United States. During his time in the states he witnessed the oppression of his people such as mass incarceration and poverty He falls in love with an African American woman. Killmonger’s father helps Ulysses Klaue steal vibranium from Wakanda in an effort to gain the resources to aid his suffering brothers and sisters. T’Chaka confronts him and ends up killing him. In T’Chaka’s defense the murder was to the save the life of Zuri, when frankly it was to maintain a lie about Wakanda being a primitive country. T’Chaka’s attempt to save a life damned Killmonger’s life. Killmonger is left alone in the hoods of California to survive. By his own merit, Killmonger graduates from MIT and joins the military’s ghost units. In the military he severs the role of a tool to take down governments. Killmonger only knows stories of Wakanda and its surreal beauty. A Wardog tattoo is left to him by his father, as his key into his native land. A native land, that he kind of resents. The land that outcast his father and his people (non-Wakandan Blacks).

T’Challa is the son of T’Chaka, making Killmonger and him cousin, and is the Black Panther. T’Challa is surrounded by support and culture from his family. He wants for nothing, expect for aid in progressing through life without his father. His father who he idealized and worshiped just to find out he was not the man he believed him to be. T’Challa’s ancestral privilege blinded him from seeing the truth and Killmonger’s desire to use Wakanda’s resources to support other blacks globally. This ancestral privilege cuts him off from feeling connected to other black communitys’s worldwide, because he knows specifically what place he is from and what people are his. All of the Wakandans have always been home, as opposed to the black community of diasporic Africans Killmonger is from. In the eyes of the Wakandans presented in the film, with the exception of Nakai, they see only themselves as each other’s people. W’Kabi comments on foreign aid were simply “if you let refuges in they bring their problems,” T’Challa did not appear to oppose this comment (Black Panther). Through darker lenses Wakanda parallels US isolationism with not wanting to be involved with matters that do not concern them, but having spies planted all over the world.

Killmonger as an allegory for black pain was presented in the opening Museum scene. In the British museum scene with the African artifacts, Killmonger is casually browsing the art pieces. He is the only black person present in the scene and the only person being watched by the white security team. He confronts the museum curator by asking about a hand axe, he corrects her on where the axe is actually from (Wakanda). In a condescending tone she does not believe him. It is almost ironic that a white person will not believe a black person on their own history. Killmonger throws in her face that he will just take the artifact back, just as her ancestors stole it on the first place. The women’s face looks appalled as if he had said lies. By using medium and medium close-up shots of Killmonger and the museum curator, the directors were able to establish the tense dialog between the two characters. In this scene Killmonger is showing the desire all minorities have to want pieces of their culture and nation back. Because, if not being able to physically visit a piece of home can be a medium, an especially strong medium if home has never been seen. Killmonger fits this profile, since he was born in the United States and only heard stories about Wakanda. Before making his escape with the vibranium axe, Killmonger spots a traditional mask and says he is “feeling it”, even if it opposes his urban style (Black Panther). His denim jacket, white shirt, gold chain, hipster glasses, and dreadlocks to the side depicted Killmonger as the black community that has lost their connection to their ancestral state and have taken on the common style of their new world.

On the other hand, T’Challa when not in his Black Panther suit is shown in his traditional textiles alongside his family and friends who also embody traditional African culture. T’Challa is presented in his native land first, not visiting a foreign land like Killmonger. Multiple extreme long shots are done when introducing Wakanda, while when introducing Killmonger’s home only a vertical long shot of a apartment building is done in the perspective of young Erik (Killmonger). The extreme long shot of Wakanda shows its beautiful rural areas, its massive waterfall, the busy market place that is a melting pot for all the different tribes, and the high tech buildings. In Killmonger’s home everyone is alike, in T’Challa’s people can be differentiated based of their clothing and physical alternations. T’Challa’s people are all from different tribes, but they give the illusion of a common heart beat after the coronation with the “X” dance which sounds like a giant heartbeat. T’Challa’s home has light, colors, and traditional music from drums. He has the most beautiful sunset in the world, the sun set promised to Killmonger by his father, the sun set that was also his birth right. Just as all diasporic Africans and those stolen from their homelands deserved their sunsets.

Further examination of T’Challa’s coronation shows how accepted he was by the Wakandans because of his ancestral privilege. The common heart heat beat was for him and possibly followed his own. A long shot in the perspective of T’Challa after defeating M’Baku shows his people cheering him on and the sun light illuminating him. In the last step of the coronation, T’Challa must be transported to the ancestral plane. In his ancestral plane he is dressed in a white shirt with gold African prints on the collar. He is presented to his father and other ancestors in panther form. His ancestral plane is in a beautiful African savanna with a pink and purple sun set. He gets a positive message on how to rule in his father’s absence.

On the contrary, Killmonger’s coronation has an air of hostility. The Queen Mother, Ramonda, did not believe he had the right to challenge T’Challa for the thrown even after he reveled his royal linage. I was shocked that Killmonger was not received with any sympathy by anyone. These royals probably knew his father and knew what he suffered as a child, yet no one gave him a chance. Zuir who Killmonger knew as uncle James, does nothing in defense of Killmonger but jumps in the defense of T’Challa. This occurred similarly to how black issues are treated in our society. The recent increase in school shootings, emphasized how differently our society reacted to a shooting at a more privileged and white school as opposed to a shooting at a predominantly black school. Since Killmonger was not an original Wakandan they were ready to throw him out as an outsider. It was a great moment when Killmonger introduced himself in his native tongue and not English, I believe that showed his want to be accepted and his vailed connection to Wakanda. It exemplified that he was not some nomad, he has roots but those roots won’t bind him. During the fight for the crown, there were some moments when T’Challa fought hard but Killmonger physically was stronger. T’Challa was driven by his pride to defeat an outsider and Killmonger was driven by the suffering he endured to get what was his. Killmonger is presented as merciless, unlike T’Challa who showed mercy for M’Baku. These two situations cannot be clearly compared, because of the differences in context. Showing mercy to M’Baku would not make T’Challa lose Wakanda but if Killmonger had shown mercy to T’Challa he would have lost his dream.

The dream he wanted so badly he cut himself off emotionally in order to achieve. The dream the sheltered privileged T’Challa was given by birth. After defeating T’Challa, Killmonger says, “is this your king” to the Wakandas enforcing his belief that he is the rightful ruler of Wakanda. Even with his strength he is not accepted fully. The Wakandan citizens, except for the royal and military members, are not present to acknowledge him. He is giving one short “X” or heartbeat, it was given in fear not love. Killmonger’s ancestral plane takes the form of the small apartment in the hood. Instead of being presented in his prime state, he is shown as a vulnerable boy. His father is the only person there, reinforcing that Killmonger has no connection to his ancestor. As a child he tells his father that no tears have been shed for him and that death is common. That is the reality of Killmonger’s life. All he knows is death is a way to survive, unlike T’Challa who’s experience with loss has been limited. Killmonger’s acceptance of death makes it easy for him to want to completely eliminate the oppressor and control the world as a practical solution for his people. He does not care about the lives that will be lost. No tears were shed for his father, so why should he shed tears for the death of others. After returning from the ancestral plane, he forces the caretakers of the garden to destroy the heart shaped herb. This scene was contradictory, Killmonger wants to be a part of Wakanda but he also wants to destroy its past and re-direct its future.

The last scene of Killmonger is a long shot that comes in closer from behind him. All the audience see is the flames engulfing the garden and the king “full of hatred” (Black Panther). The scene that formally introduces Killmonger to his thrown is shot upside down and gradually fixes itself. The shot is accompanied with music by Kinderic Lamar, not drums like T’Challa’s, this scene was the power transition. As opposed to T’Challa’s simple silver “suit chain”, Killmonger is dressed with the large gold chain. Killmonger as the representation of black pain shows how out of its way black pain has to go to be noticed. All Killmonger has done has been exaggerate and he had to be extra in order for his pain to be seen.

His extreme radicalness was necessary to get the point across of how large black pain that a radical solution is the only one. Killmonger had to be radical to challenge T’Challa’s privilege. Challenging T’Challa’s privilege was the only way for T’Challa to be presented as an anti-hero not the perfect superhero. In the final scene, on his “deathbed” Killmonger says, “bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage,” he is confirming that he is the black man, women, and child whose history has been stripped and have been forced into oppression (Black Panther). Heavy is the head the wears the crown, but even heavier are the hearts of those that are chained down.

This spilt in identity in the black community is a shared with other minority groups that experience migration either by pull or push factors. As a Latina who was born in the United States but raised in Mexico for five years, I’ve experience both sides. When I moved back to the U.S. I felt T’Challa’s ancestral privilege. However, after living in the U.S. for several years and then returning to Mexico, I was not accepted. I was considered “white”, my cousins did not speak to me for a week because they did not think I spoke Spanish. As minorities our identities are split, complex, and sometimes unknown to us, however our pain persist.


Work Cited

Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler, performances by Chadwich Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, Marvel, 2018

What Black Panther Does and Doesn’t Do for Black Culture

Long before it was released on February 16, 2018, Black Panther was hyped to be not only the next great movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also, a defining moment for black culture. After its release, the movie was praised for all aspects ranging from direction to costume design. Its popularity has led it to become the third highest grossing US film ever, trailing only Start Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar. Much of this success owes its thanks to the movie’s undeniable political tone. Black Panther is not just another classic Marvel, superhero movie, but rather “a movie about what it means to be black” (Times Magazine). Its release during a time of a regressive political culture makes just the existence of Blank Panther feel like resistance (Time Magazine). Its representation of black people and their culture is revolutionary within the film industry, especially in a blockbuster movie. For one of the first times, it gives a voice for black culture in Hollywood and offers model for black success in the 21st century. However, the movie is just the start. Despite its groundbreaking contribution to black culture, Black Panther falls short of its supposed political goals of black liberation instead settling to appease its white oppressors. The film is a success for its representation of black culture in the mainstream offering a perfect building block for the future, but it leaves the door open, in many regards, to fully breaking free from the oppressive stereotypes of blackness.

Black Panther is by no means the first black superhero movie. Both Blankman and The Meteor Man in the mid-1990s had black superhero figures along with Blade in 1998 and Hancock in 2008 (NY Times).  However, these movies were seen as partly comical or ignored the issues of blackness (NY Times). Superheroes are so beloved and powerful that the idea a regular black person could experience those traits was so far-fetched that the movies warranted humor (NY Times). The reason why Black Panther is so revolutionary is the fact it embraces its blackness and attacks the issues of black life head on.

This celebration of black culture within the movie provides incredible benefits for those who watch it, especially young black children. For many years, black people have abandoned cultural traditions, such as eating watermelon or traditional hair styles, that were once sacred to them for fear of being demonized or ridiculed (NY Times). In many cases, they have lost their identity, and Black Panther offers the opportunity for them to find it again. The movie is centered in the idea of exploring one’s reality and the personal struggle of accepting who you are (Time Magazine). Especially for black culture, it is similar to the “first time I knew I was black” movement. The struggles with identity are seen most directly in two of the main characters, T’Challa and Killmonger. These characters are mirror images of each other with drastic differences in their understanding of their own identities, despite their shared bloodline. This difference is due to their different upbringings, with T’Challa being raised as royalty in a rich African country and Killmonger being raised an orphan in poor Oakland, California. T’Challa is very comfortable with who he is while Killmonger struggles to find his true identity throughout the film (Time Magazine).

More than just the characters themselves, the film offers the chance for the audience, particularly black people, to explore their own identity. The portrayal of black culture in this populist and open setting is important, as it gives confidence to those who watch it. As Chadwick Boseman, actor who plays T’Challa, said, the movie provides “a great opportunity to develop a sense of what that identity is, especially when you’re disconnected from it” (Time Magazine). Not only does the film give black people a chance to see and understand black culture and tradition by relating to the characters on screen, but it also provides a great opportunity for others, especially white people, to see and understand black culture (Time Magazine). Alongside discovering one’s identity, the movie also gives people the chance to see a black superhero with its own kind of power rooted in strength, agility, and intelligence (Times Magazine). Instead of focusing on black pain, suffering, and poverty, the characters are portrayed as powerful and intelligent while still embracing their blackness (NY Times). This creates a perfect model for young black children to look up to providing them a path for future success. The fact that Black Panther is able to embrace black culture and provide strong, black characters in an extremely successful and widely popular film is perhaps the movie’s greatest accomplishment. Forget the fact that the movie itself is good by any normal standard, it moves beyond the traditional mold and contributes greatly to black culture.

Alongside providing an identity for black people in popular culture, Black Panther also is an expression of Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism is an idea that combines African mythology with technology and science fiction to rebuke conventional depictions of black oppression and create a future in which blacks are in power (Time Magazine). For much of their history, black culture has longed for a homeland in which they can truly call their own (NY Times). Whether real or mythical, black culture has imagined a place and a future in which they had complete freedom and were absent of all fear from any type of oppression (NY Times). Somewhere where blackness is a thing with meaning, lineage, value, and power (NY Times). This is especially true for African Americans who have fought through slavery and segregation, and live in a place that is home but at the same time isn’t (NY Times). Black Panther and Wakanda provide just this home for African Americans and black culture. While it is not real, it still offers a place that is safe and untouched by colonialism. Wakanda represents what could have been for the history of black culture. It is also acts as a model for the future with Afrofuturism, as a place not devoid of racism, but rather one where black people have an even playing field in terms of wealth, technology, and military might (Time Magazine).

While Black Panther provides incredible benefits to black culture in terms of identity and Afrofuturism, it fails to go far enough in terms of truly creating a black culture free of outside influence. The movie undoubtedly does a great job at creating a unique black identity. However, it stills displays many of the destructive myths about Africans that have been around for hundreds of years. It displays a divided, tribalized continent that is run by wealthy, power hungry, and feuding elites whose nation, with the most advanced technology in the world, still relies on lethal combat or coup d’état for power (Washington Post). While these ideas could be defended by claiming the movie is displaying true African heritage, they are still at their core stereotypes that have been used to generalize and describe Africa as a whole.

Furthermore, other Marvel movies focus on somewhat ordinary people who, to the viewer, seem totally likely to be superheroes (Washington Post). Black Panther, on the other hand, must focus on African royalty and warriors to seem in the least bit believable (Washington Post). Alongside this, Wakanda’s wealth stems from a “lucky meteor strike and the benevolence of its all-wise rulers” and not from “the ingenuity of its people. (Washington Post). Despite the movie’s best efforts to provide a fresh identity to black culture, it still portrays Africa not as a physical place but rather, as a representation of blackness with people of one race sharing cultural unity and historical fate (Washington Post). To top it all off, despite Wakanda’s incredible technological advancements, a “returning” American is still able to stroll in and briefly come to power (Washington Post). This behavior follows extremely close to colonialism in the 19th century which is something Wakanda was supposed to be free from (Washington Post). The movie is still an incredibly important cultural event and is revolutionary in its representation of black people and their culture. However, it missed many chances to separate itself from many destructive stereotypes. While many of the issues above are simply “a part of the story,” their inclusion in the film feels almost like a cop-out. Instead of fully breaking the stereotypical mold of black culture, the director and producers played to the stereotype in some aspects so that the movie still be accessible to a non-black audience.

The danger of Black Panther not going far enough, in terms of breaking the stereotypes of blackness, is that it marginalized many within the African community who have little to gain from Afrofuturism. As mentioned before, the ideas of Afrofuturism within the film offer safety and peace to many within the black community. However, Afrofuturism offers little to non-African-Americans (Washington Post). Many of the ideas that come with Afrofuturism align freedom with the continent of Africa for the good of those African-Americans subjugated by slavery and segregation and not the people of Africa. They, being African-Americans, use the people of Africa and their land as props for their own struggles (Washington Post). Therefore, by failing to expel many of the African stereotypes and promoting Afrofuturism, Black Panther offers very little to the people of Africa.

The film at its core is also extremely political. It doesn’t shy away from any of the major issues that black people face around the world today. For the first time, it offers a great voice to many of these issues in a mainstream, blockbuster film. However, it fails to go far enough in promoting black liberation from oppression as it settles for uncontroversial politics. The movie follows an understanding of black liberation that advocates for bourgeois respectability over armed revolution (Canadian Dimension). It somewhat ignores the history of real-life anti-colonial struggles in Africa through its message that armed revolution is bad (Canadian Dimension). Overwhelmingly, the movie makes out T’Challa and his liberalistic approach to be good and Killmonger and his armed revolution to be bad. Yet, violence is ok for the white CIA agent when he saves the day from a black revolution by shooting down the ships carrying weapons (Canadian Dimension). This promotion of peaceful politics allows the white audience of Black Panther to feel comfortable with the movie without feeling threatened (Canadian Dimension). While a stance against full, armed revolution is not inherently bad, the movie seems to totally negate any chance of black liberation without the appeasement of whites. This message, of course, plays into Marvel’s bottom line of pleasing all moviegoers so they can fulfill their bottom line of selling tickets.

The movie also frames any person in favor of revolution in a negative light. Killmonger, the leading advocate for revolution, holds all the most hideous traits and is framed as a manic consumed by rage and violence (Canadian Dimension). This behavior follows the common troupe that “any black revolutionary who seeks to use violence to meet their aims becomes even worse than the system they’re trying to take down” (Canadian Dimension). Yet, this is not the case for all white revolutionaries. As seen in the recent movies The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner, white activist who use violence to fight an unjust system are seen as heroes while Killmonger is framed as a villain (Canadian Dimension).

Black Panther is truly something to celebrate when it comes to promotion of black culture. Its representation of black people and culture on screen in a major film is import for the identity and understanding of black life, especially for black children. However, the movie fails to go far enough in many aspects that could have shed more positive light on the fight for black liberation from oppressive white, neocolonial systems. Wakanda leaves white people free of guilt because they do not have to face the harsh realities of their history and are unthreatened by their passive politics which fall into white, colonial institutions (Canadian Dimension).  Black Panther leaves a lot on the table for being a truly revolutionary film, but it offers the perfect building block for black culture to continue to make headways into the mainstream.


Works Cited

Time Magazine

NY Times

Washington Post

Canadian Dimension

The Social Commentary Behind Jordan Peele’s Get Out

Director Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film Get Out, released to overwhelming critical acclaim and massive box office success, documents the story of a young African-American man named Chris Washington who travels with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage, to a rural country estate in order to meet her parents. Beyond the ornate interior and immaculate lawns of the home, Chris quickly discovers the innocuous-appearing family engages in a new-era form of slave trade, one which involves the transplantation of ailing white people’s minds into the vessels of black bodies. The elements of the film—including the characters, plot, and setting—weave a complex montage of suspense and social commentary. Overall, the film uniquely portrays to the audience a stylized version of the modern African-American experience. Peele strategically incorporates extended metaphors and clever subversions of conventional horror tropes to ultimately create a timely satirical critique of the systemic racism present in the contemporary United States.

The extended metaphors mentioned above play a pivotal role in the film. One of the most prominent metaphors is the literal commodification of black bodies by the Armitage family. By transplanting a white person’s consciousness into the “vessel” of a black body in a procedure referred to as “The Coagula,” the white characters in the film hope to achieve “superior” physical attributes in order to avoid illness, medical conditions, aging, or death. In this way, the white characters are forcefully possessing the bodies of the unwilling African-Americans that Rose brings home to her family. The emphasis on the white characters’ fixation with Chris’ physicality at various points throughout the film underscores the racist notion of the white characters that black bodies are physically superior.  Moreover, Rose’s father plants the suggestion that people of African descent have more athletic success when he recounts the story of his own father losing to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. The Olympic loss of the Armitage grandfather implies a long-rooted familial obsession with the physicality of black bodies and hints at the underpinning motivations behind the transplantation procedures.

One cringe-worthy scene involves the Armitages’ friends and family bluntly showering a montage of microaggressions on Chris, channeling a plethora of racist stereotypes to inquire primarily about his physical abilities. Eventually, the viewer discovers these microaggressions are not elicited for conversational purposes between the characters, but rather because the guests are evaluating how much they want to bid for the vessel of Chris’ body in a game of silent bingo. Therefore, the microaggressions planted by the Armitage family are purposefully framed as masking a violent form of dehumanization. The bingo game, conducted in the backyard of the Armitage house, eerily parallels a slave auction in its similarities. The idea of a wealthy white group bidding large amounts of money to essentially colonize a black individual’s body expresses the filmmakers’ illustration of a modern kind of slavery, one in which African-Americans are once again cruelly treated as property.

Above: Armitage family and friends gather for a game of bingo to bid on Chris’ body.

The parallels between historical slavery in the United States and the transplantation slavery of the film can also be drawn in the motivations of the blind art dealer. Later in the film, the blind art dealer asserts that he does not care about Chris’ skin color and therefore was not “racist.” Instead, in one of the movie’s creepier moments, he claims he wants the artistic photographer’s “eye” that God gifted Chris. “I want your eyes, man,” the art dealer hoarsely whispers to Chris in the holding room. The dealers’ allusion to the religious beliefs underlying his desire to take over a new body proves to be similar to the religious justification previously used by “Christian” American slave-owners to defend their own support of slavery. More specifically, many pro-slavery arguments that materialized in the nineteenth century focused on discerning religious justifications from biblical narratives to promote racism and grant legitimacy to the ownership of colored human beings. One such ill-founded belief claimed black humans were created by God solely for physical labor due to their “superior” physical abilities, something that is echoed in the Armitage family’s plans to harvest Chris’ body.

In addition to the white commodification of black bodies, another metaphor heavily conveyed in Get Out is the minority experience in a setting predominantly controlled by white people. To function in society as a racial minority, the film suggests one must conform to the expectations and roles perpetuated by the majority. The authentic component of the individual always exists below the surface of mechanical daily actions and routines but it is constantly concealed behind a false “white” front. For instance, in the midst of the Armitage family event, Logan, one of the four African-Americans present, robotically interacts with Chris around the throng of white attendees surrounding them.

Above: Logan (a white man’s consciousness invasively existing in the body of a black man) and his wife Philomena stiffly interact with Chris.

This visibly awkward strain present within Logan results from the clash between the white consciousness and the mind of the “host” individual trapped in the Sunken Place, as well as the inability of the “host” to authentically respond to Chris’ casual conversational attempts. The accidental flash of Chris’ camera then triggers the violent awakening of the person to which the body actually belongs within Logan, implying the quiet existence of someone beyond the artificial surface-level presentation. In this way, Logan’s “host” body represents the front minorities often must fortify in order to succeed socially, personally, and professionally in a society largely controlled by white people. On the other hand, the individual who emerges after the flash of Chris’ camera embodies the genuine personality traits and mannerisms minorities hide in order to fit into the limiting mold of white expectations.

A third significant metaphor is the Sunken Place where Chris finds himself after the hypnosis facilitated by Missy, Rose’s mother. While Chris and Missy talk late one night, Missy begins to scrape a spoon against her glass teacup, an action which soon places Chris in a paralyzing trance he cannot escape. This trance fundamentally shifts Chris’ perceptions of his environment and even the way he inhabits his own body. He finds himself not in the present moment but locked in a dark abyss of his own mind almost as a third-party observer to his surroundings. Missy and her family use hypnosis as a tool to directly gain control of the minds of their black victims, who are then surgically modified to harbor the invasive consciousness of a white person.

The Sunken Place becomes the state of existence the victims permanently adopt once the transplantation occurs, where the victim exists as a passenger to the operation of their bodies. On the surface level, the Sunken Place metaphorically stands for Missy’s complete control over Chris. On a deeper level, as Peele explained to Variety, the Sunken Place represents the constant “state of marginalization” and restricting obstacles long faced by African-Americans, especially the prison-industrial complex, which disproportionately targets black Americans and their communities for non-violent crimes such as marijuana possession. Comparable to Chris’ inherent inability to physically and mentally free himself from the confines of the Sunken Place, the film indicates African-Americans are too often fenced into entrapping cycles of poverty, crime, and violence.

Above: During a hypnosis, Chris finds himself trapped in a dark mental abyss where he cannot control his own body.

Along similar lines, Peele interestingly includes subversions of conventional genre tropes to produce a wholly unconventional horror film. These subversions collectively defy common narrative norms including the lack of a white savior figure and the antagonistic role of the police. Perhaps one of the most surprising twists unpacked by the filmmakers is the reveal of Rose as a key agent of the Armitage family’s body-snatching agenda. As Chris struggles to leave the estate for the safety of New York City, it is revealed Rose manipulated him to bring him back to the Armitage family so the surgical transplantation could be conducted, her character serving as a type of black widow figure. By refusing to grant Rose innocence in the situation, the filmmakers effectively dismantle the audience expectation for the innocuous white woman to save the protagonist from his encroaching fate. Besides surprising viewers, this artistic decision functions to overthrow the white savior archetype present in a vast majority of films about the African-American experience. Unlike Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures and Brad Pitt in 12 Years a Slave, Get Out does not include a white character who serves as reassurance to audience members that not every white character is a racist or antagonistic force. Thus, the film purposefully ignores the white apologist trope when the viewer discovers Rose is also involved in the transplantation process.

Above: Rose subverts the white savior trope when she is revealed to be involved with luring victims for the transplanting.

Furthermore, an additional provocative subversion is the role of the police in the film. In most horror films, the police are seen as a comforting reminder of safety and protection from the villain or monster in the narrative. Generally, the arrival of the police signals the end of the movie, the idea that the protagonist is removed from the danger now being handled by a large institutional force armed with the size and means to adequately handle the posed threat. Despite the conventional usage of police in horror films, the local police operate in Get Out as a direct source of hostility and malevolence towards Chris. The first interaction with a police officer transpires early in the film shortly after Rose’s car collides with a deer. When the cop unwarrantedly demands Chris’ license much to his discomfort, it becomes clear the police in the film are not there to rescue Chris from the terror that awaits him. In contrast, if the film centered on a white protagonist, the racial profiling and undue suspicion from the police would be a non-issue and would therefore render the presence of the local police as consoling and encouraging.

Above: A local cop confronts Chris and demands his ID.

The second and final appearance of the police comes during the nail-biting conclusion of the final scene, when Rose predatorily pursues Chris into the depths of isolated woods with a rifle. Chris narrowly escapes a violent death by awakening the consciousness of the African-American groundskeeper with a flash of his mobile’s camera, who then shoots Rose. As a wounded Chris stands over Rose’s bloodied body, and Rose screams for help, the flash of police sirens emanate from the distant darkness. At this point, it dawns on the viewer that Chris, an innocent black man, might be fatally shot by the local police for the racially-biased assumptions they would formulate regarding the scene around him: the dying white woman calling for help on the ground, the blood on Chris’ body, the rifle nearby. Immediately, the audience recognizes the police are not there to aid Chris in escape; instead, they might even prevent him from escaping the situation. The stakes at this point are that much higher since the protagonist just scarcely fled the menace of the Armitage family.

Employing the idea of the police as a threat as opposed to security references recent contemporary events of police brutality on individuals and communities of color. Similarly, the subverted role of the local police connects to the metaphor of the Sunken Place for the prison-industrial complex, in which the police perform a constitutive part. In spite of the sudden conflict presented by the police sirens, the viewers are relived to find Chris’ best friend, Rod, the primary comedic relief, behind the wheel of a TSA vehicle. The fact Rod, another African-American man, instrumentally helps Chris leave offers a supplementary subversion of the white savior trope because it completely rejects the idea of a black man being saved by a white person. Alternatively, the only savior for Chris is another black man. In any other situation, the scene would have almost certainly resulted in Chris’ incrimination, as prejudiced police officers responding to the scene might have immediately made the racist assumption Chris was the hunter rather than the hunted.

Well-made horror films effectively channel widespread social anxieties into a narrative that builds off of the audience’s fears to construct a chilling, believable story. Jordan Peele’s Get Out artfully channels the daily implications of systemic racism faced by millions of African-Americans into a suspenseful horror film satirizing racial relations. The film begins by emphasizing unpleasant interactions with local police and uncomfortable onslaughts of conversational microaggressions but gradually transitions into illustrating a terrifying form of modern slavery. By expertly lacing together extended metaphors and genre trope subversions, the film serves to encapsulate an accessible allegory on contemporary black identity and the American minority experience. It is for this reason that Get Out will stand distinguished among the most memorable horror films of the past two decades for years to come.

Black Panther and the #OscarsSoWhite Movement: The meaning of the film and its confrontation of social constructs in the modern entertainment industry

The #OscarsSoWhite movement started in January 2015, after April Reign tweeted about the Academy Award nominees. The hashtag she used, #OscarsSoWhite, went viral instantly on social media, and a movement was born.The trend resurfaced the following year when, for the second year in a row, all 20 actors nominated in the lead and supporting acting categories were white (LA Times). Since its debut 88 years ago, the Academy has only awarded 14 black actors with Oscars in acting (USA Today). In the wake of this realization and movement, various A-List actors announced their boycott of the event, and their subsequent revokement of their attendance. This began with Oscar honorary Spike Lee and his wife, and was followed by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and others. This was then followed by recognition from actors like George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis, and President Barack Obama. Those who did attend, but supported the movement, took to the stage to voice their opinions during the live broadcast, causing a stir online and among the media outlets (USA Today).

The Academy has made strides to improve the presence of minorities and women within its membership, offering to double it by 2020, after a unanimous vote. It was referred to as a “historic step” on the Academy’s part (USA Today). This would be impressive if it were not so sad that this small action was considered historic. In 2012, a study reported by the LA Times revealed that Oscar voters were made up of 94% Caucasian and 77% male members. It was not outlined how these statistics would fit into the new initiatives put forth by their “historic step”. But, the entertainment industry still has yet to see a stark change in this, especially in superhero movies. Despite the recent release of Wonder Woman, which quickly became a hit and a pop-cultural milestone, the motion picture was still left out of the most recent Oscar nominations (Variety).  

Thus enters Black Panther, one of the most recent Marvel superhero movies portraying the comic book character of the same name. The film tells the story of the fictional nation Wakanda, a conglomerate comprised of four African tribes that hides itself as a third-world country. One soon finds out, however, that this highly technologically-advanced nation utilizes a meteorite called Vibranium to fuel the superhero, the Black Panther. The almost all-black and mixed gender cast of the film portray minorities in powerful positions, and as the heroes in the film, in addition to the minorities highlighted within the film crew. This is a stark comparison to the heavily-focused white male cast and crew typically involved in a Marvel superhero movie franchise.

The film follows King T’Challa as he takes over the reign after his father’s death. Himself and the nation of Wakanda soon become challenged by outsiders, Klaue and Erik Stevens (later named Killmonger), who attempt to steal Wakandan artifacts that contain Vibranium. Epics battle scenes transpire throughout the movie, as T’Challa calls upon friends and other tribal leaders to aid in the defense against those who threaten their culture. But, after T’Challa falls to Killmonger during ritual combat, the King’s family and friends flee, leaving the throne to the winner. Killmonger ingests the Vibranium herb and becomes a super villain-esque leader, ordering Wakandans to ship weapons to operatives around the world. Before this could be fully executed, it is discovered that T’Challa had survived the combat with Killmonger, and he is soon restored to full Black Panther power after his ex-love, Nakia, steals the solution back from the enemies. The film ends with an epic battle scene, in true Marvel fashion, in which T’Challa defeats Killmonger and his army, with the help of the women in the movie. T’Challa then opens an outreach center in America, that he appoints his sister, Shuri, and ex-love, Nakia, to run. But, if you are a true Marvel fan, you know that the beginning of the credits is not the actual ending of the movie – Marvel always places short clips in the middle and end of the credit sequence. By staying, one learns that T’Challa visits the United Nations to reveal Wakanda as it is, and not as a third-world country; they are no longer in hiding from what one would assume to be the Western world (IMDB).

This movie is more than just a superhero movie; it is about black culture, the journey through it, and a future where this culture could be the culture. It shows how the recognition of one’s civilization is not only beautiful, but preferred. It is where black members of society can embrace their traditions and upbringings without the fear of rejection or misunderstanding. Wakanda is shown as an oasis within African culture. This is a stark contrast to the traditional Hollywood portrayal of black actors in roles displaying poverty, antagonism, and savagery, or the past mistreatment and history of black society within the confines of slavery and the civil rights movement. It acknowledges and celebrates the beauty within black culture, and a world where women are just as powerful and smart as men, all while preserving their identity. But, this film also shows the desire to keep this culture hidden away from outsiders, at the risk of the dissemination of information destroying their tradition. Coincidence is possible, but the placement of T’Challa’s meeting with the UN being after the credits roll, is an interesting concept. Although Marvel fans know of this commonality in every franchise movie, there are still a significant amount of viewers who may not even know that this scene exists within the confines of the movie. This then instigates the belief that even now, there is still a desire to keep the outsiders from getting into the inner workings of the culture, for hopes of preserving it. Cultural appropriation is prevalent throughout modern society, and this possible symbol of preservation could be mirroring hesitation within the people of color in the entertainment industry. Black culture is often times mocked or misunderstood in films, so it has found itself in a niche environment within society, just as Wakanda had within Africa. This scene can be understood as a welcoming and opening up of black culture to society, just as the nation was recognizing itself to the rest of the world.

The fictional nation of Wakanda being housed within Africa, a non-fictional location, is also a poignant presentation of ideals. A lot of other Marvel movies take place in dystopian or entirely fictional realms, thus making them inevitably impossible. But, Africa actually exists, showing Wakandan culture as something that is a very real possibility to human beings (aside from the Vibranium superhero tendencies). This strategic placement calls upon members of black society to embrace their cultural upbringings and traditions, and implement them into modern everyday life.

The simple presence of two white males, Klaue and CIA agent Ross, within the movie is also incredibly strategic. A common joke among all or majority white cast movies is the presence of the “token black character”. You see this in practically every movie. Usually they are portrayed as the sidekick or the evil villain, while exacerbating their personalities to hark on stereotypes like the “loud black friend with a big attitude”. Instead, Black Panther took the chance to portray two of the only white characters as both the villain and the sidekick. Personally, this side note was very obvious and, honestly, hilarious. This can be seen in the shift of black actors only acting as catalysts within the portrayal of a white man, rather than the focus being on other races and genders. It was time that the roles were changed, and the stereotypes fell on someone other than a person of color or woman.

So, what does this mean for the future Oscars? Seeing as Black Panther was released only mere months before the airing of the 2018 awards, it was not included in the nominations. But, we did see a stronger presence from people of color within the nominees. Possibly this was strategic on the nominating committees part, but the films included were strong pieces that deserved recognition. Get Out and CoCo both highlighted different races from different perspectives and plotlines. Call Me by Your Name explored the inner-workings of an LGBTQ member of society. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri championed a non-traditional, strong female lead. If viewership is any indication, seeing as Black Panther just surpassed Titanic, the 2019 Oscars are looking optimistic for the #OscarsSoWhite movement and its mission. Other industries in the nation have transitioned to reflect these arguments against stereotyping and gender/race gaps, Hollywood has been slow to join them. The greatest champions of the industry are still heavily white male-focused, despite the presence of incredible cast and crews that prove otherwise. As celebrities and members of society alike utilize the booming social media scene, movements like #OscarsSoWhite can gain traction faster than ever before. Their power is in the form of technology, just as Wakanda had Vibranium, and the world needs to be open to hearing of the existence of it.

It has not been officially confirmed if Black Panther will be transitioned into a sequel, but there is still more content within the original comic book that could be tapped into. Seeing as Marvel typically produces sequels, prequels, and crossover movies without as strong of following as Black Panther has, it can be easily assumed that a sequel is inevitable for the franchise, just from a financial standpoint. But, it should also be evident from a societal standpoint as well. This highlight and championship of black beauty and culture has caused a movement within the industry, and society alike. Black children of all genders now have someone to admire that looks just like them when they look in the mirror. Black women now have role models that show traditional African clothing, hair, and makeup as desirable, especially in contrast of white America. There is no doubt that there were resources within local communities that have been showing this for decades. But, there is a difference in seeing it on film and among Hollywood.

Black Panther now stands as the future of what can become of the American entertainment industry, and its ability to champion all members of society. #OscarsSoWhite outlined the deep rifts within the industry, and Hollywood’s perpetuation of the workforces tendency to think twice when hiring a person of color or woman. One box-office hit is not going to change this problem overnight, but it sparked a fire within the souls of those trying to make a difference in this fight for equality.


Works Cited

Alexander, Bryan. “Academy Takes ‘Historic’ Steps to Increase Diversity.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 23 Jan. 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/01/22/academy-takes-historic-steps-increase-diversity/79183500/.
Anderson, Tre’vell. “#OscarsSoWhite Creator April Reign on the 2018 Oscar Nominations and Why #BlackPressMatters.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2018, www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-april-reign-oscars-so-white-20180123-story.html.
“Black Panther (2018).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt1825683/.
Ryan, Patrick. “#OscarsSoWhite Controversy: What You Need to Know.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 2 Feb. 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/02/02/oscars-academy-award-nominations-diversity/79645542/.
Tapley, Kristopher. “’Black Panther’ Is a Legit Phenomenon, but Will It Be an Oscar Player?” Variety, 20 Feb. 2018, variety.com/2018/film/awards/black-panther-oscar-potential-nomination-1202704503/.

A Day of Disability. A Day of Enlightenment.

Reset. Once more, I hit reset. I needed five more minutes. It was 9:30 am, and I had hit snooze for the fourth time. With my class starting in about 30 minutes, I begrudgingly rose from my bed, reluctant to start the day. On any other day, I would have brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed out of my pjs, and flown out the door, but today was different. Today, was I had a physical disability, which I had the privilege of easily forgetting, as I had that morning. In fact, I didn’t remember it was my day of disability until I approached my bathroom door. To enter the bathroom in my residence hall, Hinton James, you have to cross over a step. For some disabilities, this would not be a problem, but for others, this would be an impossible task. From that moment on, and through the rest of the day, I remembered that I would have to throw my privilege away, and begin to think like one with a physical disability. To make the challenge more personal, I decided to picture my sister and what her experience might look like if she attended my beloved Carolina. 

My 17 year old sister, Anna, was born with type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA II), a form of Muscular Dystrophy that weakens the muscles over time. Usually, those living with this condition cannot walk, have trembling fingers, feeding and skeletal issues (“Spinal Muscular”). If she had wanted to use my bathroom, she would need to have someone carry her in or have access to a ramp, assuming that the door was wide enough to fit her electric wheelchair. With Anna in mind, I quickly realized that I could run as late as I did on a weekday; many of those who suffer from chronic diseases have daily treatments that are essential to their well being. From personal experience, I know that Anna does not need to wake up on time but wake up early to do her breathing treatments that take at least 20 minutes, and this is all with the mandatory help of a caretaker. I could only imagine being a college student living away from home but still needing assistance on a daily basis. This is just one of many obstacles that students with disabilities face.


My first step out of my building, and I had already broken the rules of a day with a disability. The main entrance has steps in front them, which I used out of habit; again, I had the privilege of forgetting about my temporary disability. Thankfully, all the 3 buildings I had classes in that day had wheelchair accessibility, which is not always the case at UNC (“Building”). Because I was running late, I decided to take my usual short cut to the Stone Center, where my first class of the day was. I didn’t realize until today, but in order to take that short cut, I have to walk on mulch. Although some disabilities would find no problem with this, someone with a wheelchair might have a bumpy ride ahead of them. Once in my first classroom, an auditorium, I quickly realized that I couldn’t sit just anywhere as I normally would; if I were in a wheelchair, then I would have to sit in one specific area made for wheelchair accessibility (I didn’t here because I have a classmate that actually uses that space). For other disabilities, it might be important to be close to the door in order to exist with easy access. Once I was settled in, I followed the class as I normally would. However, it is important to note that if I had a disability such as my sister’s, I would not be able to take out my notebook from my backpack, move chairs, nor use the bathroom without the help of an assistant or friend. Many students with disabilities are sometimes if not always dependent on another person.

Image result for stone center unc

Though most of the buildings I went to were handicap accessible, I found little inconveniences every on campus. For example, Bingham’s wheelchair accessible entrance is on opposite end of where the elevator is; a minor problem to us, but annoying nonetheless. Also, one building’s accessible entrance may not be in the same vicinity as another. When I left Bingham, I had to take a long route around Greenlaw to get to Lenoir, all to avoid stairs. Stairs aren’t the only problem; so much of UNC’s campus is not just brick, but broken, lopsided brick that does not make for smooth travels for wheels. In addition to driving over unreliable brick walks, it would prove quite difficult for a wheelchair to effortlessly maneuver through a sea of people during class transitions. I have enough trouble walking through people as it is, often left with no other choice but to walk on the grass. Concerns like these are only the tip of the iceberg.

As mentioned before, my residence hall would certainly not suffice as easily accessible for students with a disability, not only in its architecture, but in its location as well. Hinton James is quite far from main campus. Considering residence halls near north campus are mainly hall style and on campus apartments are all on south campus, I could imagine it would possibly be best to live in off campus housing for someone with a physical disability. However, if you were a first year, that would require special permission as all first years are required to live on campus. After that, the student would apply for medical or non-medical mobility to access the necessary parking required, assuming the student has access to their own transportation. Otherwise, the university has exclusive transportation for students with physical and mental disabilities called EZ Rider. These applications are all on top of the general information one would include in the application to the university admissions office and the formal registration post admittance to the Accessibility Resources & Services department. That is a lot of extra time and effort put upon a student that not only lives with the everyday stressors of having a physical disability, but bears the same stressors of an average college student. It would certainly be enough for me to want to give up on my dreams, take the easy way out, which should never be the case for a student with a disability. In an article written for the ADA Legacy Project at UNC-CH, Lindsay Carter not only highlighted this struggle, but offered solutions:

It starts in the classroom. Professors and faculty can learn to work with all students in a way that makes the classroom an easier and more comfortable environment for students with learning disabilities. Training faculty in these techniques would be cost-effective, and fewer students would need to seek individualized accommodations. We can also offer trainings to students about how to advocate for themselves.

Students with disabilities should not feel like a burden to others nor themselves; however there were times during the day where I would feel bad taking the elevator up to the second floor and asking my friends to sit somewhere more accessible. These are only two instances that I could experience, but if I were actually in a wheelchair, I’m sure the list would go on. Once, my bus was stopped to load someone’s wheelchair onto the bus. It was a hot day and I had somewhere to go, but I was understanding of the situation. I never considered how the woman in the wheelchair felt, but I hope that she did not feel burdensome. Other moments I reflected on were classic college experiences that I would not have if I were bound to a chair. For example, many students like to climb over the gates at Kenan Stadium late at night and walk on the football field. Obviously, this would be completely impossible for someone in a chair. Another carolina tradition is rushing Franklin Street after a win against Duke. Besides the fact that it would be difficult and time consuming to get to Franklin, it would be nearly impossible to move freely among the swarm of people, tightly packed like sardines. Even during the week, when schedules tend to be set by classes and extracurricular activities, there are countless times where spontaneous plans are made. For someone with a physical disability, that spontaneity could easily turn into another headache.

Image result for 2017 franklin street national champions

The experience of being a student with physical limitations is not all encompassed within this post. There is so much more to be discussed on the matter, and there is so much more for me to learn. Because I grew up with my sister, I have a heightened awareness of the issues these students might face, but that does not mean that I did not learn from this experience; I certainly did. In fact, there is still much I do not know. That being said, I cannot express how thankful I am for this project for the insight it offered into opening the door for discussion and understanding on issues of disability. So often, these are the voices that are the softest, and it is time someone raised the volume.

Works Cited

Carter, Lindsay. “Neurodiversity in the Classroom: One Student’s Proposal.” The ADA Legacy Project at UNC-CH, WordPress, 13 May 2014, http://disabilityrights.web.unc.edu/2014/05/13/neurodiversity-in-the-classroom/.

“Building Abbreviations/Accessibility.” Office of the University Registrar, UNC Chapel Hill, https://registrar.unc.edu/classrooms/course-schedule-maintenance-information/classrooms-building-locations/.

“Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2.” Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/4945/spinal-muscular-atrophy-type-2.

Disability in Chicamagua

A disability can be defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities”.  One’s disability can change perception of the world around them.  This is exactly what happens in Abrose Bierce’s Chicamagua.

In this short story, the main character, a little boy who is a deaf mute, has no idea that his entire world is  crumbling around him until he walks into his dead mother and sees his house on fire.  Bierce does well to portray the boy as a normal child enjoying a  day of make believe in the woods throughout the tale.  When the boy falls asleep, he cannot hear the war that is going on around him.  His world is peaceful.  When he awakes and stumbles upon the wounded men crawling toward his plantation, he does not hear the chaos of the battle or their cries of pain.  He can only rely on what he sees, and all he can relate their crawling to is a “horse play” game that workers on the plantation would play with him.  He uses the soldiers as a means of fun and plays alongside them as they are dying around him.  They are an exciting new development that allows him to join in and “play fight” alongside them, leading them into battle as  they crawl slowly behind him.

It is only at the end of the tale that the boy’s disability is made known and that he discovers that his world is crumbling.  He finds his plantation in flames and his mother fatally wounded by a shell. Had he been a abled boy, he might have heard the battle happening as he played in the woods and come home in time enough to warn his family.  Unfortunately his disability also highlighted his lack of awareness of the situation and that he had no idea of the tragedy occurring around him.  He experienced a moment of joy and fun while those around him were dying.

The boy with his impairment is constructed to be thought of as able. as the plot goes on, making his jumping on the bodies of dismembered and disabled soldiers seem even more grotesque.  His disability highlights his innocence and the innocence of children in general, especially during the violence of war.  In the end when he discovers his family home is destroyed, he becomes an object to be pitied, as many disabled persons are portrayed in narratives.  His naivety due to his deafness is “true” of many children as a whole during times of war.