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Why I hate the movie Jungle Fever., let's talk movies...!

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bliss_eternal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-14-06 03:34 PM
Original message
Why I hate the movie Jungle Fever., let's talk movies...!
Edited on Sat Oct-14-06 03:36 PM by bliss_eternal
Please feel free to share your thoughts about a film that showed an interracial/multicultural relationship and what you liked and/or disliked about it. Also list any films that you feel portray our relationships in a positive light.

I'll start: Jungle Fever sucks!

When I saw the film, I was not dating interracially. My bf at the time was the same race as me, but I still saw the film and thought, "...what a crock of shit!" I had an immediate negative reaction to this film, and here's why.

1. Treats interracial relationships as an exercise in curiousity.

I saw this film as suggesting that "Jungle Fever" was some sort of inherent curiousity that people have about what it's like to "get with" someone of the African American race. I acknowledge that exoticsm does exist. But I find it profoundly demeaning, presumptive and insulting that he's making a grand sweeping statement with this film that this is ALL there is to any person that enters a relationship with an African American. Is it not possible that someone could see beyond an African American's ethnicity and just be attracted to who and what they are (i.e. intelligent, professional, creative, beautiful, spiritual, fun, interesting, etc.)? Is it so difficult to imagine that one would not just see a person the way one's sees a person of their own ethnicity--as a person that they'd like to get to know better? Someone they enjoy spending time with?

2. Gave a negative terminology to interracial dating and relationships.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say,"...Oooh he's got Jungle Fever." Again, because this term for me brings up the idea that one isn't interested in another person, but their ethnicity/race alone. I find the term Jungle Fever negative and limiting.

3. The film focused on the "problems" of interracial relationships and dating.

While I understand that this is the aspect that Spike Lee wanted to focus on in his film, I get the sense that this was the only aspect of an interracial relationship that he is aware of--or chooses to be aware of. I get the vibe from Mr. Lee that he believes that such a coupling is always going to be problematic, difficult and cause nothing but pain to those involved. I understand that this certainly may have been the case for a long time in this country, and still is in many parts of the country unfortunately. But I was uncomfortable with the fact that he seemed to "advocate" such a perspective with this film.

One certainly can't give an accurate or honest voice to a perspective that they don't understand or necessarily agree with, as it would come across as false. But I would have appreciated his film more if another point of view had been presented somehow. As it stands, Jungle Fever shows people being punished and ostracized for choosing to "love" an African American. Not cool.

For me, such a stance is akin to the male films that show women being punished for being sexual--they get pregnant, they are raped, beaten or abandoned. Jungle Fever for me is a bigoted stance of racial relations and very pessimistic. Maybe as such it is an honest portrayal of race relations in America. :shrug: I don't know. For me, I choose to not see my relationship is "problematic" or to expect negativity. I believe it's possible to be aware of ignorance and know how to recognize it, without getting dragged down by expecting to meet it around every corner.


4. Didn't allow the actress to add any credence to her role.

I've read and seen interviews from that time with Annabella Sciorra (one of th female leads of Jungle Fever), where she openly admits that she had a tough time with Spike on this film. Why? Well, Spike did only consider the perspective that interracial couples are about curiousity. Sciorra didn't see the character this way. She felt her character was genuinely attracted to this man, not because she was "curious" about his race or some racial stereotypes but because he was smart, professional, attractive, etc. Spike Lee fought her on this--which adds to my opinion that he has a very negative and limited view on this issue.

This is all I can think of about Jungle Fever for now. :) If you have any opinions about this, or other films representing interracial romance please share!

:hi:

bliss
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kwassa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-16-06 02:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. I feel a little differently about it
Most people I know in interracial relationships hate "Jungle Fever". I actually liked it at the time, though it was so long ago I can barely remember it.

I saw Spike as trying to be deliberately provocative, to look at the worst case scenario involved, in order to get people asking questions. I think he also did this in "Do the Right Thing" and "School Daze", so in a way these are polemics as well. I never interpreted this as more than Spike playing Devil's Advocate.

I heard the term "jungle fever" before Spike, too, though he used it for it's inflammatory potential. I haven't seen most of Spike's movies, though, particularly the more recent ones, but he seems to have mellowed somewhat. He can get on his high horse and pretend to speak for all black people at some points, but I know a lot of black people that disagree, strongly. One that has told him off in no uncertain terms is Samuel Jackson, who played the junkie brother (?) in "Jungle Fever", which I think was his first major movie role.

I haven't seen many IR depictions in films that I thought were good or realistic. Where I like the IR relationships that seem the most real are in, of all places, cable home improvement shows, on channels like HGTV. This is probably because they ARE real. It is not uncommon to have an IR couple doing a makeover on a house in one of these shows.

I think mainstream TV is just too far behind and too chicken to accurately portray modern intercultural and interracial America.
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bliss_eternal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-16-06 05:03 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. That's fair...I can respect and understand
Edited on Mon Oct-16-06 05:36 PM by bliss_eternal
your perspective. :hi: I really appreciate your response to this, as I didn't think anyone would. LOL!

I came here today, planning to link the information I found just last night on this topic.

Had I not found this information, I would have been inclined to consider maybe he was playing devil's advocate to a degree. :shrug: Now, I'm not so sure...

Unfortunately, given my initial impressions and now the other information that I've found, I'm inclined to think Mr. Lee just isn't that deep. :( I get the sense that he had personal issues with the subject matter and angrily lashed out, painting a bleak portrait of what our relationships are in his opinion.

I may be way out of line to say this, but I really get the sense from him that he feels interracial relationships are wrong. :(

On-line articles have the possibility of being incorrect as any source of media does.

Here's a few of the items I found interesting from an on-line article:

Not all that long after his mother died, Lee's father married a white Lithuanian Jewish woman, whom Lee has since said he hates. Because of Lee's film Jungle Fever, which offered a dim view of interracial romance, much has been made of a rift between father and son. But, purely in terms of dates, Bill Lee's second marriage can't have been the main cause. Lee's father composed music for all of his films up to Jungle Fever in 1991. Why would a marriage in the late Seventies lead to a rupture in the early Nineties?

-------------------------------------snip---------------------------------------------------------

Taken from:

http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,925...

Also:

Spike then had to explain to his lead actress the dynamics of the characters and the dramatic situation as he saw it. With his usual candour, Spike remarks: "Amongst black people, you have always heard it said that once a black man reaches a certain level, especially if you are an entertainer, you get a white trophy woman. I didn't make that up."

Sciorra remembers: "At some point we discussed the characters' attraction to each other, and Spike said, 'This movie is about fear of the big black dick.' That just made me laugh - maybe there are some people out there who are afraid of Spike's dick, but I didn't understand that from the character. If I had, I would have addressed the character differently."

The difference of interpretation caused friction on set. Monty Ross (the film's co-producer) remembers Spike getting frustrated with his lead actress: "It was tough, because when it came to the love scene Anna just froze up. She made a scene the first time we filmed her with Wesley : this black man was more of a caveman, and he just wanted to get next to this white woman. We didn't want the movie to come across as a black man just relentlessly pursuing a white woman. We wanted there to be equal passion, both people to be hungry for each other. Anna said, 'This is who I am, and I've never made love to a black man, and you know I don't know what to do.' Spike was like, 'But you're an actress, you have to act.' It was tense..."

------------------------------------------snip-----------------------------------------------------

taken from:

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/film/features/articl...

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Brewman_Jax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-18-06 09:24 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. You are correct
Hollywood in general, both movies and TV, is too scared of scaring the majority and losing money. No question, it is about the money . This recent NPR article covers that very topic. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=62...
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bliss_eternal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-21-06 06:18 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. An entitiy like Hollywood
Edited on Sat Oct-21-06 06:22 PM by bliss_eternal
is in a position to make a huge difference, but intead "plays it safe" or decides to go with what's hot and trendy. Think how many latina actresses got work because Jennifer Lopez became a phenomena. I'm thrilled to see the sisters working, but it pisses me off that latinas, blacks and asians are subject to trends in casting as opposed to working because they are as talented as any caucasian actor.

The fact that Spike Lee, an independent black filmmaker merely reinforced negative stereotypes about interracial dating and relationships, the same way Hollywood does everyday, just pisses me off. No, he certainly doesn't owe us anything. But while he may think he's upholding what's best for the black race, he's making it harder for ALL people of color including blacks with films like Jungle Fever. Or at least that's the way I see it. ;)

Thanks so much for the link to the article, Argyle! I love reading this stuff!
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Catherine Vincent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-31-06 01:57 PM
Response to Original message
5. I agree with most of what you said about the movie, bliss.
I enjoyed it for Samuel Jackson's character (he was very good, and so was Haley Berry). I did think the scenes with the white guy and the black girl was authentic. They both liked each other because of their personalities and not because one was white and one was black. We can't forget about that couple. I really liked how his friends at the news stand would give him a hard time because she was black. That's how it really is in the outside world. I think that is why a lot of white men won't date or marry a black woman because of what everyone will say.

I think it's nice when I see interracial couples (mostly white men/black women) together because I feel the feelings is strong there in spite of what family and friends say about it. And I also figure that they're liberals. :)
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bliss_eternal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-03-06 12:54 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Thanks for the reminder, cat_girl...
Edited on Fri Nov-03-06 01:09 AM by bliss_eternal
How could I forget the amazing performance of Samuel Jackson?! He was amazing! I was especially impressed after learning of his personal issues with drug addiction. He worked on this film after getting out of rehab. :wow:

Halle Berry gave a great performance, too. :thumbsup:

I had almost forgotten about the relationship of Pauley (the guy at the news stand) and the character portrayed by Tyra Ferrel. I did appreciate that they seemed genuinely interested in one another. But given that Lee still gave them negativity to deal with (don't the friends beat Pauley up?)...it would seem his message was that such a coupling is "dangerous." That bothers me. But I guess I should at least give him credit for portraying a couple that were attracted to each other as opposed to the other example in the film. Thanks so much for bringing a different perspective to this discussion, cat_girl.

:hi: cat_girl--good to see you here!
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