Sincere Fictions: The Production Cultures of Whiteness in Late 1960s Hollywood

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This article examines white racial discourses and practices in the film industry at the moment when minority groups, at an industrial and representational level, thrust themselves into its consciousness and challenged its racial conscience. It seeks to establish that there was a prevalent (though not all-encompassing) view among whites in the late 1960s that the industry, despite glaring evidence to the contrary, was basically non-discriminatory and thus not in need of reform. To explore this, I will draw on the work of race sociologists Joe Feagin and Howard Winant. Through ethnographic work with his various co-authors, Feagin has called such color-blind discursive practices “sincere fictions of the white self,” and these fictions, Winant argues, are “indispensable in answering [the] question” of why and how “racism remains” in the post-civil rights period. By looking at production practices and discourses in general and then focusing on two important film projects, The Learning Tree (Gordon Parks Sr., 1969) and Nat Turner (which ended in cancellation), this article argues that the sincere fictions which rendered unequal power relations imperceptible to most whites at the time still set some of the terms of these films’ scholarly coverage. Ultimately, this article suggests that the film business, when examined simultaneously as image factory and industry, offers a revelatory site for the study of racial identity formation.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
JournalVelvet Light Trap
Issue numberSpring
Publication statusPublished - 2011