Week 2 Day 1 – Question about black female spectatorship

In “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectatorship,” bell hooks recalls her experience of watching Imitation of Life when she was a teenager. Regarding the character of Sara Jane, hooks writes:

There was something scary in this image of young sexual sensual black beauty betrayed—that daughter who did not want to be confined by blackness, that “tragic mulatto” who did not want to be negated . . . I will always remember that image. I remembered how we cried for her, for our unrealized desiring selves. She was tragic because there was no place in the cinema for her, no loving pictures. She too was absent image. It was better then, that we were absent, for when we were there it was humiliating, strange, sad. We cried all night for you, for the cinema that had no place for you. And like you, we stopped thinking it would one day be different. (121-122)

While hooks’ essay is only tangentially about Imitation of Life, how does her discussion of black female spectatorship help us to better understand the film and the plight of Sara Jane’s character within it?


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