Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Chair

Dr. Allan McBride

Committee Chair Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Member 2

Dr. Marek Steedman

Committee Member 2 Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Member 3

Dr. Joseph Weinberg

Committee Member 3 Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Abstract

Film is arguably a model of reflection and reinforcement of cultural, social, and political values of audience members. Therefore, the images and messages displayed in films are of importance. In this study, film is analyzed in order to determine if Charles Mills’ racial contract is depicted in popular films of 2000-2015. The Racial Contract (1997) suggests that only some people, specifically white people, agree to form a state in which their absolute privileges in the political, economic, and social arenas are guaranteed by virtue of being white. This theory was used to understand the role of black people in American society and, as this study explored, in film. Films which earned the highest box office sales in each year were analyzed, and the roles of black characters and the attitudes towards them were coded. The main question posed is whether black characters are portrayed as authority figures in popular film or are they are restrained by sub-personhood, as the racial contract would suggest. Furthermore, is the racial contract reinforced by this portrayal in a modern age? It was concluded that black authority figures were portrayed actively and successfully in popular film, with a general attitude of support from other characters. Thus, the racial contract was not reflected.

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