Latinos, Politics, and American Cinema Essay

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Latinos, Politics, and American Cinema

Feature films in the United States influence American viewers' attitudes on a wide variety of topics. Americans attitudes toward politics are shaped by films, and specifically the politics of racial interaction. The history of modern feature films begins with Birth of a Nation (1915), a film that misrepresents the Black race by justifying the existence and role of the Ku Klux Klan in American society. From this racist precedent, producers and directors understood that visual messages, however latent, were a useful means of communicating a political message to a large audience. After this epiphany, a myriad of films were made for different political causes. Most films had multiple messages,
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Stam states that this discourse is beside the point because it is impossible to make a 'realistic' film. The fact that film-watching is an escapist endeavor cannot be denied, but the problem lies in the fact that modern Western society has to 'see it to believe it,' and subsequently viewers associate films with a sense of the real. Stam is right in saying that a realistic film cannot be made, but he ignores the fact that the stereotypes he dismisses had very real political messages in the Welles era. The presence of these racial and political messages in films cannot be denied because to a large extent they account for the racist attitudes against Latinos that persist today in White mainstream America.

Later in film's history, the Chicano resistance movement sought to change the overall racist views that, by the 1970's had been embedded in the American psyche. The conservative stereotypes of violent, sex-crazed Latinos had a negative impact on the race's treatment, so Luis Valdez and his cohorts presented a liberal brand of politics to counter this racism, using films that embraced the true Chicano cultural identity.
The history of film is essentially one of representation of certain groups, or as the case may be, misrepresentation. After America’s short stint with Nickelodeon-type movie theatres, full-length feature films became the norm with Birth of a Nation (1915). D.W. Griffith used the film to innovate cinematography, but made few compromises to create a
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