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Posts posted by 1herm

  1. On 6/14/2018 at 6:30 AM, mjbreuer said:

    1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

    As the song begins with Petunia at Little Joe’s bedside, the meaning of the song comes across as an urgent prayer for his recovery and the care she shows her husband in his time of need. Here, it is particularly appropriate that the character is “Little” Joe, as Petunia’s treatment of her husband is very nurturing, much in the way a mother would care for a sick child. Later, as the scene shifts outside to the line of laundry, we see that Petunia’s devotion to her husband carries over into her domestic duties; Petunia’s happiness, as the song suggests, comes from her love of Joe. As a result, she is willing... more than that, she finds joy in the daily chores that help support and bring comfort to her husband’s life. This is seen later in the film as well, when Little Joe’s gift to Petunia is an electric washing machine. She is brought to tears over the gift, a tool that will help her better care for herself and her husband, which will only increase her joy. The song is beautifully sung by Waters, despite the statements the scene makes about a married woman finding happiness in her blind devotion to her husband and the problematic racism of the stereotypical dialect/slang used in the lyrics.

    2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

    In many respects, Petunia’s behavior towards Little Joe is similar to the way one might expect a mother to treat her child. However, even if the performance might not have appeared much different, the cultural context and meaning of the scene would change quite a bit if Joe were a child. Rather than being a song about a woman’s devotion to her husband (or nation, as the subtext suggests) in spite of his troubles, a song directed toward a child would suggest the themes of selflessness and sacrifice. Petunia finding happiness in a child called Joe would set up the idea that she is setting aside her own ambitions in order to build a better future for her son. 

    3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

    The film is a problematic mix of its technical quality and the racial stereotypes it portrays when viewed through a 21st century lens. Waters is magnificent here, and the musical and dance talent that is assembled in the cast is a “who’s who” of top African American performers of the day. For me, the most problematic scene of the film that illustrates the film’s assets and it’s critical flaw is the “Shine” sequence. The song is an expertly-choreographed and executed dance number, worthy of praise on the part of the filmmakers and the performer. Minnelli’s mise-en-scene is flawless, and “Bubbles” (John William Sublett) gives a stellar dance performance. However, the lyrics and the stereotypical, affected delivery are so overtly racist by modern standards that the scene is difficult to watch. Is is amazing? Is it appalling? Yes to both.

    That shine sequence must be viewed through historical lens Shine was supposed to be derogatory but blacks at the time turned it into a not necessarily a good thing but a new one 

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