Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee

Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in American Independent Film

by James F. Scott

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9781498548960
  • 9781498548977
Directors Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Spike Lee emerged as filmmakers toward the end of the 1960s, when the breakdown of the studio system paved the way for new production partnerships and gave more creative authority to directors, actors, and writers. In what has come to be called the “Indie” movement, these directors were able to explore ethno-racial themes with more frankness than previously allowed. From the perspectives of their own minority communities, Scorsese, Allen, and Lee dramatized and critiqued the challenges this restless, ethno-racial underclass posed to the “White Republic” imagined by the Founding Fathers.

The three directors whose work is at the heart of this book explore the question of how identity formation is a process of negotiation, particularly among America’s ethno-racial minorities. They emphasize the stresses related to the double burden in the assimilative process of patterning oneself after the majoritarian culture, while acknowledging in complex ways the culture of the community of origin. Annie Hall tells Alvie Singer, “you’re a real Jew.” Buggin’ Out instructs his homeboy friend, “Stay Black, Mookie!” What implications do these phrases carry? Will Alvie have a chance to modify his identity? Should he? Will Mookie honor his friend’s admonition? Is “black” also susceptible to a cultural makeover? Is identity a personal choice?

This book highlights how various films by these three directors explore the ways in which “cultural capital” (musical, artistic, intellectual, athletic, etc.) is used to erase “ethno-racial taint” (skin tones, supposed biological “traits,” offensive cultural habits). The formula ordains that assimilation and interculturation will be asymmetrical, favoring those groups or individuals who bring with them the most cultural capital.
  • Lexington Books; April 2019
  • ISBN: 9781498548977
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee
  • Author: James F. Scott
  • Imprint: Lexington Books
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9781498548960
  • 9781498548977

In The Press

In a sequence of incisive analyses, James F. Scott demonstrates the foundational importance of ethnicity and race in the works of three of America’s most prominent film directors. His attentive readings take due account of the congruities and divergences in each director’s treatment of these major themes, most especially as they bear upon personal and artistic development and equally upon current issues of social identity and conflict.

About The Author

James F. Scott is professor emeritus of English and film studies at Saint Louis University.