Race and Ethnicity Representation in Art and Films Essay

September 30, 2021 by Essay Writer

This essay is aimed at discussing the way in which race and ethnicity can be represented in modern films and artworks. In many cases, they can throw light on the changes that take place within a community during a certain period. In particular, it is necessary to analyze such a movie as Independence Day, directed by Roland Emmerich. Furthermore, one can consider the famous X-Men comics. These examples are very informative because they can eloquently illustrate the values and attitudes, which are proclaimed by American society. Overall, their main message is that America is a diverse community in which racial and ethnic differences must not act as dividing lines; moreover, they should not be viewed as the underlying causes of conflict within the community.

This is one of the messages that these artworks are supposed to convey. On the whole, filmmakers and artists can achieve this goal in different ways. In particular, they focus on characters who are not very concerned about racial or ethnic distinctions, which are completely irrelevant to them. Apart from that, various authors may try to dispel some of the stereotypes that people can easily take for granted because these false assumptions often lead to the marginalization of social groups or individuals. This is the main thesis that should be elaborated in greater detail.

At first, one can consider the movie Independence Day because it shows how the representative of different ethnic and racial groups can be empowered with the help of cinematography. In particular, this film depicts an alien invasion of Earth, and this plot enables the director to describe various representatives of American society and their interactions with one another. For example, one can mention such a character as Captain Steven Hiller, whose part was brilliantly played by Will Smith. It should be noted that he is a courageous and independent person who is ready to risk his life for the sake of his country. In addition to that, he serves in Marine Fighter Attack Squadron1.

One should keep in mind that at the time when this film was released, there were not many movies that portrayed African Americans as soldiers. This is one of the details that should be taken into account. To some degree, such a character is supposed to break different stereotypes according to which black people are predominantly engaged in criminal or anti-social activities. In contrast, Steven Hiller is an example of a person who is able to achieve high social status. Moreover, there are stereotypes according to which African Americans are not able to defend themselves against injustice. They can be regarded only as helpless victims who cannot withstand injustice. In contrast, the character played by Will Smith is not a person who can be easily intimidated. To some degree, Steven Hiller is an eloquent counter-example that can break many racial stereotypes existing in the community. This is one of the strategies that film-makers can adopt in order to change public opinion about the notions of race and ethnicity. Moreover, they can shape the values and attitudes of the audience.

Furthermore, it is possible to consider such a character as David Levinson, who invents a method of defeating aliens and eventually saving the planet. One should keep in mind that he is an MIT graduate working as a satellite technician. To some degree, this image is supposed to dismiss the widely held assumption according to which Jewish people are concerned only with material prosperity and their own well-being.

They have been very widespread in the United States and other countries. In contrast, this person is an individual who is not afraid of confronting danger. One should keep in mind that the volunteers to accompany Steven Hiller, who has to launch an assault on the aliens. Thus, one can argue that this character is also a very eloquent example of how negative stereotypes can be refuted in cinematographic work. To some degree, the movie Independence Day is supposed to demonstrate that American society has succeeded in eliminating the legacies of racial or ethnic discrimination. One can say that Independence Day depicts people who may come from different countries or even continents. In turn, an alien invasion is an event demonstrating that racial and ethnic distinctions should not be regarded as dividing lines which do not even need to exist in modern society. This is one of the aspects that can be distinguished.

It should be noted that the representation of race and ethnicity in artworks and films have been examined by various researchers and art historians. For example, one can mention such an author as Albert Boime, who examines the way in which racial minorities could be portrayed in various artworks. This scholar notes that they were normally placed at the bottom of the social pyramid. Moreover, they had to be “in a humble or service position”2. One can say that these people could be easily dehumanized.

Overall, such an approach denied many people the very right to dignity and individuality. To some degree, this trend has persisted for many years. Yet, during the last three decades, many film directors, writers, and artists have attempted to refute some of these stereotypes. In turn, the film Independence Day demonstrates how public opinion can be changed. There are many other films in which the issues of race and ethnicity are explored in a more subtle way. Nevertheless, this specific movie provides many vivid examples showing the ideal image of American society can be constructed by film-makers who represent the power of mass media. This is one of the points that can be made.

It is also possible to examine the famous comics called X-Men because they are an eloquent example of popular art incorporating both visual images and text. These comics were first published in the early sixties, and since that time, they have remained rather popular among diverse readers. To some degree, this artwork can also highlight the diversity of the modern American society that is represented by people belonging to different ethnic, racial, and religious groups. One of the main messages explored by this film is that race or ethnicity should not become a cause of conflict among individuals who represent a specific community. The characters included in this comic book are not concerned about being white or black. Similarly, they can belong to various ethnic groups. These characters can be of Jewish, Scottish, or Russian origins3.

Moreover, they have diverse religious backgrounds. Nevertheless, these differences never become a cause of conflict or hostility. This is one of the details that should not be overlooked. Certainly, the readers of these comics can learn about the ethnic background or cultural background of the major characters. Moreover, readers can learn that some of them could be the victims of discrimination in the past. For example, one can speak about such a character as Magneto, who was a prisoner of the concentration camp. However, this comic book does not lay stress on the ethnic origin of this character. More likely, this episode is necessary for showing why Magneto has turned into a sociopath who despises people, especially those one who are not mutants.

The characters depicted by the author can accept their racial or ethnic identity; nevertheless, this issue is not of the greatest importance to them. To some degree, this behavior can be explained by the fact that these people are completely self-sufficient. These are some of the main details that can attract the attention of the viewers.

Admittedly, it is possible to argue this emphasis on diversity can be partly explained by the willingness of directors to target a larger audience. In this way, one can increase the box office of a movie or sales rate of a comic book. In some cases, these characters are designed to appeal to a specific demographic group. Thus, one should not forget that films and artworks are commercial products which can be developed according to certain marketing standards. Therefore, directors and artists may have other considerations, apart from aesthetic criteria or social considerations. This is one of the issues that should not be disregarded by viewers or readers.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the behavior of characters described in these comics reflects some of the trends that manifest themselves in modern society. For example, in her article, Susan Saulny argues that the influence of the color line becomes less significant, even in those regions in which racist attitudes were very widespread several decades ago. This author exemplifies this idea by discussing such a trend interracial marriages, which are becoming much more widespread. Moreover, the percentage of such marriages has increased significantly in such regions as North Caroline and Georgia4. One should keep in mind that these parts of the United States were profoundly affected by racism that existed at institutional and informal levels.

Additionally, Janny Scott and David Leonhardt also describe the experiences of people who do not usually pay much attention to such notions as ethnicity, race, or religion; in particular, one should speak about those individuals who belong to the middle-class5. Such people are less likely to emphasize the importance of race and ethnicity because they do not believe that their lives are significantly affected by these factors. Thus, the artworks, which have been selected for the discussion, reflect some of the major social trends affecting the lives of Americans.

On the whole, the chosen examples indicate that rate and ethnicity can be explored in modern art and cinema. One of the main ideas that the film-directors and artist are trying to convey is that racial and ethnic distinctions should not be perceived as some barrier that can prevent people from understanding one another. Moreover, such barriers can result in the dehumanization of a person. Furthermore, by refuting some of the stereotypes about ethnic or racial groups, film-makers and authors are able to demonstrate that such distinctions are often artificially constructed. Furthermore, such assumptions should not be taken for granted. These are the main arguments that can be advanced.

Works Cited

Boime, Albert “Blacks in Shark-Infested Waters: Visual Encodings of Racism in Copley and Homer.” Race-ing Art History. Ed. Kymberly Pinder. New York, Routlegde, 2002. 169-190. Print.

Irwin, William. X-Men and Philosophy: Astonishing Insight and Uncanny Argument in the Mutant X-Verse, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Independence Day. Ex. Prod. Dean Delvin. Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox, 1996. DVD. Web.

Saulny, Susan. “Race remixed: Black and white and married in the deep south: a shifting image.” The New York Time. NYT. 2011. Web.

Scott, Janny and David Leonhardt, “Shadowy lines that still divide.” The New York Time. NYT. 2005. Web.


1 Independence Day. Ex. Prod. Dean Delvin. Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox, 1996. DVD. Web.

2 Albert, Boime “Blacks in Shark-Infested Waters: Visual Encodings of Racism in Copley and Homer,” Race-ing Art History, ed. Kymberly Pinder (New York, Routlegde, 2002) 170. Web.

3 William Irwin, X-Men and Philosophy: Astonishing Insight and Uncanny Argument in the Mutant X-Verse (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009) 185. Web.

4 Susan Saulny, “Race Remixed: Black and white and married in the deep south: a shifting image.” The New York Times. NYT. 2011. Web.

5 Janny Scott and David Leonhardt, “Shadowy lines that still divide.” The New York Time. NYT. 2005. Web.

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