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This is about celebrating film, not petty historic grudges. [Oct. 15th, 2007|12:26 pm]
Greetings Fellow Comstoks!
I was reading the New York Times Magazine and I saw an a large 2 column ad for the 80th Anniversary, special restoration edition of The Jazz Singer.

It seems to be missing something. A bit of photoshopping. My copy is a bit smaller, but can you tell what it is?

To be fair, a three DVD set can only contain so much so not everyone can address every issue:
Among the voluminous extras - a commentary track, a documentary on the dawn of ''talking picture'' technology, a huge, nearly four-hour sampling of early sound short films - you'll find only passing, borderline-apologetic references to racial politics, and no one speaking from an African-American perspective.
In Warner Brother's defense, I'm sure all minority film scholars were busy that day.

Extra cringeworthy detail:
Giordano plays the apologist. Jolson was merely highlighting his facial features by "blacking up," he explains, so that he could be better seen in the rear of the theaters; unlike other white vaudeville performers of the day, who indulged in caricature, Jolson was doing his songs "straight," minus affectation or accent.

But that explanation proves disingenuous as we watch "A Plantation Act," an accompanying Vitaphone short which would be Jolson's audition piece for "The Jazz Singer." Jolson appears before a slave-shack set, blacked up and dressed down in straw hat and overalls. He sings three numbers, interspersed with patter spoken in an unmistakably slurry drawl.
Next up: all those Charlie Chan actors were merely squinting under bright studio lights!

[User Picture]From: birds_hum
2007-10-17 07:40 pm (UTC)
But then you go to the other extreme, and that's why I'm going to the extreme I'm going to.

In my experience and in conversations and many things I've read or watched actually happening, many people act or speak from a place of fear (or more specifically "anxiety") before ever asking a question to become more educated about that of which they might be fearful. I also make it clear in my adjacent comment that I consider myself and anyone "like me" in significant ways to be equally capable of being ignorant of a great many things. Not because there's no information, but because for MYRIAD reasons, people don't look for it or don't think to look for it.

Look, I'M of the category of people (which is labeled "people") who doesn't know jack, at the end of the day. I'm not playing the elitist here. I'm grateful for Fengi's post because it brought to my attention some things I didn't know - about history (the Jewish piece in the film and Jolson's life) - and about the present. Could Fengi have rather assumed that I (or his other readers) could go find that information about the commemorative release myself because I have "access" to it and because I'm an intelligent person? Sure, he could have. And I could have found it if one day I thought to myself, "I wonder if they ever decided to commemorate The Jazz Singer."

While I feel I have had to take up a 'people need to be more educated stance,' in this conversation as an opposition to what I perceive to be your 'anyone can learn anything they want' stance, I do not operate under the assumption that everyone's INCAPABLE of learning. Or of making up their own minds. My entire argument has focused on one thing and one thing only: just provide the information, the historical context. I believe it matters.

That being said, we live in a society in which people mistreat other people on an individual and a systemic level constantly, and this is after years and years of 'education' being available to 'everyone' about how wrong racism (and other systems of oppression) is and why. (Similarly, I know that smoking causes cancer/emphysema/etc. and yet I continue to smoke. Why? Because I want to and I'm addicted.)

I believe humans are born with a survival and pleasure instinct. I don't believe - on a psychological level - that we are born thinking we're all equals and knowing how to treat each other decently and with respect and compassion. We are concerned first and foremost with ourselves. We are born with 'drives' that push us to get what we want. And development or growth is a constant process of understanding our anxiety, how to manage it, and then the release of anxiety in various forms.

The idea that humans are somehow 'naturally' capable of insight, compassion, understanding, awareness (on a psychological level) has been proven to be developmentally and SYSTEMICALLY untrue.

And I'm not saying anyone's 'inferior' because of that. I'm saying the more education, the more insight, the more breadth of information, the more historical perspective, the more contextual understanding that is conveyed - the more possible it is for people (you, me, etc) to learn and grow beyond the 'fear' instinct (death/life instincts, as Freud called them) (a) and (b) beyond what we already assume we know.

I feel this has gotten heated and I don't think we're having an actual discussion anymore. I do appreciate all your points, and I have been thinking about them and will probably continue to.

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