Many of us grew up assaulted by stereotyped images of people from different backgrounds, and we often accepted them without questioning their validity. This year’s film series at the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum, however, brought to light the dangers of stereotyping by examining films that have played a significant part in American culture.
The Chao Lecture Hall on the Ringling grounds offered “Art and a Movie,” a series of three films which challenged our response to Asian stereotyping. While our modern film images of other cultures have deepened, movies in this series prompted us to respond to pieces that featured blatant stereotyping. Each movie was followed by a discussion — all opened to the public for $5; free for museum members.
The first movie, Teahouse of the August Moon, starred Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford in a humorous satire depicting America’s desire to to change Japan (and the world) in the years after World War II. The follow-up discussion was led by Susan Doll, PhD and faculty member at the Ringling College of Art and Design.
The second movie in the series was more modern but still guilty of projecting rigid images of people from other cultures. In this case, Eddie Murhphy played a detective who sets out to find and protect a Buddhist Monk, The Golden Child. Afterwards, a Ringling staff member led the discussion.
The final film was entitled Rising Sun. Here the theme shifts to our innate fear of strangers and the dangers that subsequently arise. The movie starring Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes examined ruthless Japanese businessmen in a lurid murder mystery of a slain prostitute. Dr. Doll again facilitated a lively follow-up discussion which garnered various and thoughtful responses from viewers.
While I only attended the last film, I am grateful to have discovered a space that values critical thinking and welcomes audience participation. Much like a college classroom, “The Art and a Movie” series offed an opportunity to shed our past and embrace a more open-minded worldview.
The Sarasota Spectator
Our Sarasota Spectator is Betsy Miller, a retired high school teacher and college professor. Originally from Columbus, Betsy has fallen in love with the Gulf Coast of Florida, especially Sarasota. Blogging about the area has been a creative outlet for the writer, opening up an avenue of exploration. You may find the bon vivant enjoying happy hour at a tiki bar, shopping on historic Main Street, or seated at a concert or show at a local theater. Chances are you also might find her buried in a book on one of our beautiful beaches. Asked to give one word about her feelings for Sarasota, Betsy replied, “Smitten.”