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Categories of analysis: clip 6



clip 6- The House of Representatives

time: 3:35-6:24
shots: 839-874

filmic technique

  • filmic innovation and development of syntactical devices for moving between, within the frame
  • technique of fading from the empty chamber to the occupied seats
  • using a mobile iris shot to isolate the white visitors, looking on in horror from the gallery: segregation within the frame
  • breaking of the 180 degree rule for film scope

  • examples of how Griffith's formal inventions could be– and often were– developed and used in the service of noxious ideology
  • the fade-in to the legislature emphasizes the quiet refinement of the "Master's house" and then gradually fills the seats with the blacks, suggesting that they constitute an affront to the dignified space
  • the shifting iris shot is used to foreground the separateness between the "helpless whites" and the disorderly, drunken black politicians: plays their purity off the degradations of the chamber
  • encodes filmically the separateness that Dixon and Griffith wanted to institute socially

  • use of music as emotional cue, trigger
  • at first, music suggests the burlesque laughter of a minstrel show: the histrionics of the Blacks are played for the amusement of the white audience
  • shift from the comic music to tragic, ominous tones as the "helpless whites" enter the gallery: indicating outrage that should be felt at this trampling of white rights



racial representation

  • discussion of the conventions of black minstrelsy and how these derisive visual tropes are scattered liberally throughout the scene
  • delusions of grandeur evinced in costumes; fried chicken; poorly concealed alcohol; feet on the desk

  • the black male leer: highly conventionalized representation of white sexual fears
  • animalistic facial contortions directed toward gallery visitors
  • exaggerated expressions, exaggerated fears

  • Dixon and Griffith: collapse any form of economic and political enfranchisement for Blacks with miscegenation
  • vote to legalize intermarriage: constantly framed as most important plank of Black political program
  • preoccupation with sexual mixing of races: so pervasive that it subsumes all aspects of racial relations



literary origins


  • Dixon's obsession theme: conflation– or even elision– of the boundaries between socio-economic advancement of Blacks and their sexual 'designs' on white Womanhood
  • use of stills showing political signs: tripartite platform of equal rights/ 40 acres and a mule / equal marriage
  • miscegenation portrayed as the inevitable conclusion of any sort of social betterment

  • the use of dialect in the book for comedic and contemptuous effect
  • dialect as an immediate badge of racial and social status: mocking differential speech modes
  • equivalence in the role of dialect comedy in the book and visual exaggerations in the film: casting a racial type by drawing it in cartoonish outlines



historical representation

  • claim to the representation of "historic incidents": portrayal of blacks elected to the South Carolina legislature
  • actual facts, statistics of Reconstruction legislature in South Carolina
  • the chamber was composed of a black majority, but also contained a more diversified make-up of whites (not only plantation owners, but also less prosperous yeoman)
  • most of the black representatives were not uneducated, but literate Northern blacks, migrating to the South in search of new opportunities

  • never any such legislative movement toward the passing of laws permitting miscegenation
  • discussion of period statistics on interracial marriage: not an historical reality on any kind of large scale, ‘endemic proportions’
  • Dixon and Griffith devote a disproportionate amount of narrative to the spectre of racial commingling, which was only happening on an infrequent basis
  • reveals more about the fixations and fears of the authors themselves than historical details
  • Silas Lynch: "I want to marry a white woman" (still)



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