White Chicks (2004)
The American popular culture perfectly interconnects the cultural achievements of black and white people. The cultures of black and white people merge into a single entity, which is displayed in many spheres of culture. Nowadays, the situation has not changed, and even though in the world of cinematography white culture holds the leading positions, the culture of black people is also of significant importance. An example of this is the movie White Chicks (2004). Therefore, this paper will argue that the film introduces modern black culture connected with the issues of race, identity, gender and sexuality, minstrelsy, and some others.
The movie White Chicks is about the adventures of the two black brothers who are FBI agents. They have to protect the two wealthy white sisters from kidnapping. The brothers decide that the best way to do it is to disguise themselves as the white sisters. The two brothers find themselves in various funny situations because they have to communicate with people from different social and cultural background, and it is far from being easy for them to pretend that they are white girls.
The problems of race and identity of the popular culture are very acute in the film. For example, although the brothers try to behave like upper class white women, they still prefer those songs and dances that are typical of popular culture of black people. “Black” music often appears in the film, so such elements of culture can be called the part of the black identity. Also, the brothers are very good dances, even though they are not professionals. They are FBI agents, and the fact that they are so good at dancing shows that this art also plays an important role in the black people’s popular culture. Obviously, the film raises the problem of various stereotypes, some of which have become so common that black people feel such attitudes and stereotypical beliefs to be a part of their experience. For instance, according to the chapter “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy”, “It is still true, alas, that to be an American Negro male is also to be a kind of walking phallic symbol: which means that one pays, in one’s own personality, for the sexual insecurity of others” (217). The image of such a black man is used in the film.
The theme of gender and sexuality hardly needs any additional comments. It derives from the fact that two male characters disguise themselves as females. They start to have different female experiences, for example, become the objects of sexual interest of other men. Moreover, the movie touches the topic of female psychological and behavioral differences, even though it does it very superficially.
Besides, the film White Chicks is considered to be a so-called whiteface performance, which is opposite to the blackface performance. These two types of performance are both used for comic purposes, but while blackface performances and blackface minstrelsy are often offensive, the whiteface performance in the film is not. For example, the chapter “The Great Black migration into America’s Living Room” states that American popular culture of the 1920s including the blackface minstrels “held such an array of prejudices about Afro-Americans - the black male as both stupid, childlike, fawning “coon” and devious…that it became difficult to create a black character that would not resonate with some stereotype or other” (82). The film White Chicks does not include negative stereotypes about white people, although the main characters are quite shallow.
To conclude, the movie White Chicks introduces the issue of the American popular culture connected with race, identity, gender and sexuality. Moreover, the film contains some elements of the whiteface show, which is opposite to the blackface minstrel show, although it is less stereotypical.
“It Hurts Me Too”
Music is one of the fields where the contribution of the black people is strikingly significant. Harlem Renaissance and its prominent representatives made such music as jazz and blues a part not only of the American popular culture, but also a part of the world heritage. Nowadays, jazz and blues are perceived as American culture. Many of the popular jazz and blues songs created by the black people got another life as new versions and continue to be the favorite songs of the new generations. One of them is “It Hurts Me Too”. This paper will argue that the two versions of the song demonstrate the unity of the black and white culture in the concept of the American popular culture and the role of black people’s culture in its history.
The song “It Hurts Me Too” was first recorded in 1940, and it is considered to be a blues standard. A famous black blues singer Elmore James recorded his version of the song in 1962, and it became a hit. There have been many other versions of the song, and one of them is created by Bob Dylan in 1970. Dylan included it in the album “The Self Portrait”. The version of Elmore James is widely known for its guitar passages. The version of Dylan also includes some guitar music, but in general, the song sounds completely different from its older version. Nevertheless, the influence of the blues version on the Dylan’s version is clear because James not only sung the song, but also wrote some of the lyrics and music. The second version of the song is an example of the culture of the white people meeting with the culture of the black people. According to Norman Mailer and his article “The White Negro”, “…in this wedding of the white and the black it was the Negro who brought the cultural dowry” (4). These words are definitely true about the new version of the song “It Hurts Me Too”.
Both Elmore James and Bob Dylan have been very famous. Their roles in the history of American popular culture are quite significant, and their versions of the song “It Hurts Me Too” became hits. According to the article “The Seventieth” written by Bruce Schulman, Dylan was famous for his distrust for established institutions and attention to many other serious issues. In these terms, the song “It Hurts Me too” is not as important part of Dylan’s legacy as the song “Hurricane” because the main theme of the first song is love and relations between people. The singer expresses his love for a girl and says that he does not want to lose her. He calls her “baby” and promises that their future will be wonderful. The song is rather calm and romantic. It is clear why the song was so successful. According to Wald, the song “It Hurts Me Too” was one of the songs that “have been described as one of the first blues standards and the inspiration for many blues songs of the era” (47). James was a gifted guitarist and his lyrics and guitar parts were the key to the success of the song, while Dylan has been a cult figure in the history of American popular music. The critical perception of both songs has been positive, even though the Dylan’s version has never attracted as much attention as the version of James. It is interesting that he is white, but the culture of black people has influenced many of his songs. John Leland in his book Hip: The History describes the white artists who perform with the types of music that are traditionally considered to be black people’s music. Bob Dylan is one of them and it shows the place and role of black culture in the American popular culture. Dylan’s version of the song shows that blues music was not only a phenomenon of the black culture, but also an integral part of the American popular culture. This type of music influenced and inspired many talented artists regardless of their color of skin.
To conclude, the song “It Hurts Me Too” was recorded in 1962 by Elmore James. Bob Dylan created his version of the song and included it in his album “The Self Portrait” in 1970. Elmore James altered the lyrics of the original song and created the guitar parts. Dylan in his version used traditional blues motifs because the song was considered to be one of the blues standards. Both versions of the song were very successful, although some of the Bob Dylan’s other songs became more famous. The main theme of the song “It Hurts Me Too” is love and the relationship between people. It is very romantic and does not raise important social problems as other songs of Bob Dylan. Moreover the song demonstrates the significance of the blues music in the history of American popular culture and its persistence in the different periods of time. Besides, the song “It Hurts Me Too” indicates the unity of the culture of black people and white people with the help of its two versions, one of which is created by a black artist and another one by the white one.