Mike Binder’s “Black or White”

I chose to reflect on Mike Binder’s 2014 film “Black or White” because although it features diversity in its cast selection, the film itself relies heavily on stereotypes to drive the plot. In this film, a man, who just lost his wife, finds himself in a custody battle for his granddaughter with the granddaughters other grandmother. When I searched on IMDB to find the director’s name, I read the summary of the movie provided by IMDB. It read:

 A grieving widower is drawn into a custody battle over his granddaughter, whom he helped raise her entire life.

I felt that this title was incredible lacking to the plot of the film.First of all, it focuses on Kevin Costner’s character, the grandfather. It does not give much detail regarding the granddaughter, or the custody battle.  Is this an example of Hollywood whitewashing and male dominance? Secondly, the title already seems to present a bias to the viewer. It strongly favors Kevin Costner’s character and does not shed light on the other side of the custody battle. In this case, the viewer who reads the IMDB summary will already have an inherent bias.

This movie works to improve race relations but relies heavily on stereotypes to do so and therefore does not achieve its desired goal. The black grandmother (Octavia Spenser) for instance, is a traditional “mammy” character as Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, in their article “Unthinking Eurocentrism”. She is the one that “provides the glue that keeps the household together” and can also be considered a “sassy black lady”, another stereotype in film. The film also portrays the black father as a drug addict and the white father as an alcoholic. The film plot is especially driven by the difference in size of the families, with the grandfather’s family just being himself and Eloise, and the grandmother’s family being full of aunts, uncles, and cousins who all live on the same street.

Although the goal of the film is to show that things aren’t “Black or white” as the name of the film implies, the stereotypes shown in the film make the film very black and white.


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