‘Black or White’ And What We Mean When We Talk About Race

black or white movie analysis essay

A movie wades into the tortured realities of race in the midst of a national debate

Relativity Picks Up Racially Charged 'Black or White'

We are in the midst of a national conversation – maybe it’s more like a shouting match – over race.

In the seventh year of our first black president, a year after ’12 Years A Slave’ won Best Picture at the Oscars, the streets of America are filled with angry protesters.

The casualties continue to pile up, the wounds of racial profiling are ripped open.

And now a new movie is igniting debate by wading into the complexities of the tortured realities of race.

“Black or White,” the movie by writer-director Mike Binder, stars Kevin Costner as a wealthy grandfather raising his black granddaughter on his own, challenged for custody by her other grandmother – played by Octavia Spencer – on behalf of the girl’s deadbeat dad (Andre Holland).

The characters are strong and complex – the movie doesn’t make it easy for you.

Grandpa is loving, wealthy and an alcoholic. Grandma is loving, economically sound (though not wealthy) and blind to the crack habits of her son, Eloise’s father. (Eloise’s mother is deceased, no further spoilers.) The little girl (played by Jillian Estell) is adorable, smart as a whip and loves both sides of her family.

It rubbed our own critic the wrong way, who felt the filmmaker was tipping the scales against Eloise’s black family: “The film’s strategy in arguing for Elliot’s custody is to denigrate Rowena’s family, especially her drug-addicted son (and Eloise’s biological father) Reggie, played by Andre Holland, and her brother ( Anthony Mackie ), a high-powered attorney who isn’t above playing dirty by painting Elliot as a racist in court to win Rowena full custody of Eloise,” wrote Inkoo Kang.

But I felt just the opposite, and I guess that’s just why this issue gets us so exercised. I don’t agree that the film argues clearly for Costner’s custody, though why wouldn’t he be allowed to make that choice? In the film, Costner is a loving grandfather but he also drinks to the point of putting himself and his family at risk. More important, the film takes an unconventional approach: how about an old white guy who loves a little black girl for a change, but is simultaneously angry at her addict father?

Hollywood is usually in the habit of elevating black characters to sainthood while simultaneously relegating them to the background, or else offering them up as stereotyped ghetto thugs. (I refer you to Chris Rock ‘s painfully honest essay this week a bout the realities of being black in Hollywood ).

I’m used to seeing Hollywood movies about race as rigid, politically correct tomes. It’s one of the things that still bothers me about “Crash,” which I watched again the other night on cable. Matt Dillon , the white cop in that multi-plot film, is a caricature, vilely molesting the elegant, well-to-do Thandie Newton at a traffic stop.  Ludacris plays a straight-up felon from the ghetto who “embarrasses” Newton’s husband, a black producer (played by Terrence Howard), when he car-jacks him. (Is that really what you say to a carjacker? “You embarrass me?”)

Isn’t life more complicated than that? Aren’t people?

When I saw “Black or White” in Toronto – long before the Ferguson protests over Michael Brown, and now those over the case of Eric Garner in New York – I was mainly struck that Binder was willing to depict a politically incorrect storyline.”Black or White” drives right into the pained breach of racial reality – with characters of every race who have the right intentions and yet do the wrong thing.

So back to Ferguson, and the thousands in the streets. Every decent person is enraged over the abuse of police force and the disproportionate violence aimed at young African-American men.  But none of us can say for certain whether the Michael Brown case is open and shut, and that police officer Darren Wilson should have been charged with murder. Weeks ago a friend at CNN – who is of mixed race – called to say she was torn over the case – how often do police officers deliberately murder people, she asked?

Like this movie, we want to stand for tolerance and fairness. The messiness of real life sometimes makes it hard to know where to stand.

To me the whole movie is worth seeing for a speech Costner gives in the courtroom, which blows away the usual groupthink and asks if it’s possible – is it allowed – for a white person to dislike a black person for reasons other than race? That’s a common sense question that in a post-racial world, if we had one, it would be ok to ask.

So when, I would ask, would we get to that place, and how?

Watch TheWrap’s interview with Kevin Costner from Toronto:

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Black or White- A movie that does little to challenge stereotypes

Jillian Estell and Octavia Spencer attend the Los Angeles Premiere of Black or White held at Regal Cinemas on Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP

Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP

Jillian Estell and Octavia Spencer attend the Los Angeles Premiere of “Black or White” held at Regal Cinemas on Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP

Steph Krane , Staff Writer February 4, 2015

There are movies, such as the powerful historical drama “Selma,” that beautifully showcase people of color transcending the labels that society has cast on them. There are also movies that include characters who do nothing but perpetuate racial stereotypes. The recently released drama “Black or White,” which features a talented cast of stereotypes, falls firmly into the latter category.

There is hardly a single character in this movie who is not a textbook example of a racial stereotype. There’s the rich white lawyer, Elliot (Kevin Costner), a middle aged man with a large checkbook and a drinking problem who is left to raise his biracial granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell), alone after both his wife and daughter die. There’s “Grandma Wee-Wee” (Octavia Spencer), the matriarch of a stereotypical black family who is seemingly blind to her son’s crack addiction. And then there’s her son, Eloise’s father, a junkie who got his 17-year-old girlfriend pregnant when he was 23 and spends his days smoking crack on the porch and convincing everybody that he’s clean.

It’s not just the main characters who stand comfortably under the umbrella of overdone stereotypes. The “black side” of young Eloise’s family seems to spend all of their time hanging out on the porch of their house, which is situated in a disadvantaged area of Los Angeles. Deep-pocketed grandfather Elliot’s maid is a Latina woman named Rosalita who barely speaks a word throughout the entire film. And, lest you think that only negative stereotypes are represented in “Black or White,” the film also includes Eloise’s hardworking immigrant tutor Duvan (Mpho Koaho), who never misses an opportunity to market himself or his plentiful academic papers.

Despite the plethora of one-dimensional characters, the plot of the film is done with a decent amount of heart and feeling. The main conflict of the movie is between Rowena (aka “Grandma Wee Wee”) and Elliot as they fight for custody of the bright and charming Eloise. Both sides present a decent argument as to why Eloise should live with them: Rowena has a house full of family and cultural love, while Elliot has been living with his granddaughter her whole life. However, Elliot also has a drinking problem that has manifested since the death of his wife, Eloise’s grandmother.

Despite this drinking problem, Elliot is portrayed as the most competent caretaker for his granddaughter. Elliot’s addiction is juxtaposed with the crack addiction of Eloise’s father, Reggie, in a way that raises questions about race. Why is the alcoholic Elliot fit to take care of Eloise while Reggie’s loving side of the family is not? The answer, viewers can assume, is as simple as black and white.

That is where “Black or White” squanders an opportunity to start a conversation about race. Instead of taking an in-depth look at racial prejudice, the film glazes over the topic in favor of a “happy-but-only-kinda” ending. Instead of going in-depth on the topic of race relations, the movie presents stereotypical characters and features an ending that viewers could probably guess within the first few minutes of the movie.

While “Black or White” certainly does not challenge any racial stereotypes, it is a fairly decent movie with an entertaining plot and a charming young actress. If you’re looking for a movie that you can enjoy without much thought, this is it. However, if you’re looking for a movie that raises questions and conversations about race relations, go see “Selma” instead.

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Mrs. Kratz • Feb 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm

What a well-written, thoughtful review! Your analysis is excellent, your writing concise. The professional review I read offered a similar opinion, but your examples were much harder-hitting and more powerful. Well-done.

How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

A film analysis essay might be the most exciting assignment you have ever had! After all, who doesn’t love watching movies? You have your favorite movies, maybe something you watched years ago, perhaps a classic, or a documentary. Or your professor might assign a film for you to make a critical review. Regardless, you are totally up for watching a movie for a film analysis essay.

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However, once you have watched the movie, facing the act of writing might knock the wind out of your sails because you might be wondering how to write a film analysis essay. In summary, writing movie analysis is not as difficult as it might seem, and Custom-writing.org experts will prove this. This guide will help you choose a topic for your movie analysis, make an outline, and write the text.️ Film analysis examples are added as a bonus! Just keep reading our advice on how to get started.

❓ What Is a Film Analysis Essay?

  • 🚦 Film Analysis Types

📽️ Movie Analysis Format

✍️ how to write a film analysis, 🎦 film analysis template, 🎬 film analysis essay topics.

  • 📄 Essay Examples

🔗 References

To put it simply, film analysis implies watching a movie and then considering its characteristics : genre, structure, contextual context, etc. Film analysis is usually considered to be a form of rhetorical analysis . The key to success here is to formulate a clear and logical argument, supporting it with examples.

🚦 Film Analysis Essay Types

Since a film analysis essay resembles literature analysis, it makes sense that there are several ways to do it. Its types are not limited to the ones described here. Moreover, you are free to combine the approaches in your essay as well. Since your writing reflects your own opinion, there is no universal way to do it.

Film analysis types.

  • Semiotic analysis . If you’re using this approach, you are expected to interpret the film’s symbolism. You should look for any signs that may have a hidden meaning. Often, they reveal some character’s features. To make the task more manageable, you can try to find the objects or concepts that appear on the screen multiple times. What is the context they appear in? It might lead you to the hidden meaning of the symbols.
  • Narrative structure analysis . This type is quite similar to a typical literature guide. It includes looking into the film’s themes, plot, and motives. The analysis aims to identify three main elements: setup, confrontation, and resolution. You should find out whether the film follows this structure and what effect it creates. It will make the narrative structure analysis essay if you write about the theme and characters’ motivations as well.
  • Contextual analysis . Here, you would need to expand your perspective. Instead of focusing on inner elements, the contextual analysis looks at the time and place of the film’s creation. Therefore, you should work on studying the cultural context a lot. It can also be a good idea to mention the main socio-political issues of the time. You can even relate the film’s success to the director or producer and their career.
  • Mise-en-scene analysis . This type of analysis works with the most distinctive feature of the movies, audiovisual elements. However, don’t forget that your task is not only to identify them but also to explain their importance. There are so many interconnected pieces of this puzzle: the light to create the mood, the props to show off characters’ personalities, messages hidden in the song lyrics.

To write an effective film analysis essay, it is important to follow specific format requirements that include the following:

  • Standard essay structure. Just as with any essay, your analysis should consist of an introduction with a strong thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The main body usually includes a summary and an analysis of the movie’s elements.
  • Present tense for events in the film. Use the present tense when describing everything that happens in the movie. This way, you can make smooth transitions between describing action and dialogue. It will also improve the overall narrative flow.
  • Proper formatting of the film’s title. Don’t enclose the movie’s title in quotation marks; instead, italicize it. In addition, use the title case : that is, capitalize all major words.
  • Proper use of the characters’ names. When you mention a film character for the first time, name the actor portraying them. After that, it is enough to write only the character’s name.
  • In-text citations. Use in-text citations when describing certain scenes or shots from the movie. Format them according to your chosen citation style. If you use direct quotes, include the time-stamp range instead of page numbers. Here’s how it looks in the MLA format: (Smith 0:11:24–0:12:35).

Even though film analysis is similar to the literary one, you might still feel confused with where to begin. No need to worry; there are only a few additional steps you need to consider during the writing process.

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Need more information? It can be found in the video below.

Starting Your Film Analysis Essay

There are several things you need to do before you start writing your film analysis paper. First and foremost, you have to watch the movie. Even if you have seen it a hundred times, you need to watch it again to make a good film analysis essay.

Note that you might be given an essay topic or have to think of it by yourself. If you are free to choose a topic for your film analysis essay, reading some critical reviews before you watch the film might be a good idea. By doing this in advance, you will already know what to look for when watching the movie.

In the process of watching, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Consider your impression of the movie
  • Enumerate memorable details
  • Try to interpret the movie message in your way
  • Search for the proof of your ideas (quotes from the film)
  • Make comments on the plot, settings, and characters
  • Draw parallels between the movie you are reviewing and some other movies

Making a Film Analysis Essay Outline

Once you have watched and possibly re-watched your assigned or chosen movie from an analytical point of view, you will need to create a movie analysis essay outline . The task is pretty straightforward: the outline can look just as if you were working on a literary analysis or an article analysis.

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  • Introduction : This includes the basics of the movie, including the title, director, and the date of release. You should also present the central theme or ideas in the movie and your thesis statement .
  • Summary : This is where you take the time to present an overview of the primary concepts in the movie, including the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why)—don’t forget how!—as well as anything you wish to discuss that relates to the point of view, style, and structure.
  • Analysis : This is the body of the essay and includes your critical analysis of the movie, why you did or did not like it, and any supporting material from the film to support your views. It would help if you also discussed whether the director and writer of the movie achieved the goal they set out to achieve.
  • Conclusion: This is where you can state your thesis again and provide a summary of the primary concepts in a new and more convincing manner, making a case for your analysis. You can also include a call-to-action that will invite the reader to watch the movie or avoid it entirely.

You can find a great critical analysis template at Thompson Rivers University website. In case you need more guidance on how to write an analytical paper, check out our article .

Writing & Editing Your Film Analysis Essay

We have already mentioned that there are differences between literary analysis and film analysis. They become especially important when one starts writing their film analysis essay.

First of all, the evidence you include to support the arguments is not the same. Instead of quoting the text, you might need to describe the audiovisual elements.

However, the practice of describing the events is similar in both types. You should always introduce a particular sequence in the present tense. If you want to use a piece of a dialogue between more than two film characters, you can use block quotes. However, since there are different ways to do it, confirm with your supervisor.

For your convenience, you might as well use the format of the script, for which you don’t have to use quotation marks:

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ELSA: But she won’t remember I have powers?

KING: It’s for the best.

Finally, to show off your proficiency in the subject, look at the big picture. Instead of just presenting the main elements in your analysis, point out their significance. Describe the effect they make on the overall impression form the film. Moreover, you can dig deeper and suggest the reasons why such elements were used in a particular scene to show your expertise.

Stuck writing a film analysis essay? Worry not! Use our template to structure your movie analysis properly.


  • The title of the film is… [title]
  • The director is… [director’s name] He/she is known for… [movies, style, etc.]
  • The movie was released on… [release date]
  • The themes of the movie are… [state the film’s central ideas]
  • The film was made because… [state the reasons]
  • The movie is… because… [your thesis statement].
  • The main characters are… [characters’ names]
  • The events take place in… [location]
  • The movie is set in… [time period]
  • The movie is about… [state what happens in the film and why]
  • The movie left a… [bad, unforgettable, lasting, etc.] impression in me.
  • The script has… [a logical sequence of events, interesting scenes, strong dialogues, character development, etc.]
  • The actors portray their characters… [convincingly, with intensity, with varying degree of success, in a manner that feels unnatural, etc.]
  • The soundtrack is [distracting, fitting, memorable, etc.]
  • Visual elements such as… [costumes, special effects, etc.] make the film [impressive, more authentic, atmospheric, etc.]
  • The film succeeds/doesn’t succeed in engaging the target audience because it… [tells a compelling story, features strong performances, is relevant, lacks focus, is unauthentic, etc.]
  • Cultural and societal aspects make the film… [thought-provoking, relevant, insightful, problematic, polarizing, etc.]
  • The director and writer achieved their goal because… [state the reasons]
  • Overall, the film is… [state your opinion]
  • I would/wouldn’t recommend watching the movie because… [state the reasons]
  • Analysis of the film Inception by Christopher Nolan .
  • Examine the rhetoric in the film The Red Balloon .
  • Analyze the visual effects of Zhang Yimou’s movie Hero .
  • Basic concepts of the film Interstellar by Christopher Nolan.
  • The characteristic features of Federico Fellini’s movies.
  • Analysis of the movie The Joker .
  • The depiction of ethical issues in Damaged Care .
  • Analyze the plot of the film Moneyball .
  • Explore the persuasive techniques used in Henry V .
  • Analyze the movie Killing Kennedy .
  • Discuss the themes of the film Secret Window .
  • Describe the role of audio and video effects in conveying the message of the documentary Life in Renaissance .
  • Compare and analyze the films Midnight Cowboy and McCabe and Mrs. Miller .
  • Analysis of the movie Rear Window .
  • The message behind the film Split .
  • Analyze the techniques used by Tim Burton in his movie Sleepy Hollow .
  • The topic of children’s abuse and importance of trust in Joseph Sargent’s Sybil .
  • Examine the themes and motives of the film Return to Paradise by Joseph Ruben .
  • The issues of gender and traditions in the drama The Whale Rider.
  • Analysis of the film Not Easily Broken by Duke Bill.
  • The symbolism in R. Scott’s movie Thelma and Louise .
  • The meaning of audiovisual effects in Citizen Kane .
  • Analyze the main characters of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo .
  • Discuss the historical accuracy of the documentary The Civil War .
  • Analysis of the movie Through a Glass Darkly .
  • Explore the core idea of the comedy Get Out .
  • The problem of artificial intelligence and human nature in Ex Machina .
  • Three principles of suspense used in the drama The Fugitive .
  • Examine the ideas Michael Bay promotes in Armageddon .
  • Analyze the visual techniques used in Tenet by Christopher Nolan.
  • Analysis of the movie The Green Mile .
  • Discrimination and exclusion in the film The Higher Learning .
  • The hidden meaning of the scenes in Blade Runner .
  • Compare the social messages of the films West Side Story and Romeo + Juliet .
  • Highlighting the problem of children’s mental health in the documentary Kids in Crisis .
  • Discuss the ways Paul Haggis establishes the issue of racial biases in his movie Crash .
  • Analyze the problem of moral choice in the film Gone Baby Gone .
  • Analysis of the historical film Hacksaw Ridge .
  • Explore the main themes of the film Mean Girls by Mark Walters .
  • The importance of communication in the movie Juno .
  • Describe the techniques the authors use to highlight the problems of society in Queen and Slim .
  • Examine the significance of visual scenes in My Family/ Mi Familia .
  • Analysis of the thriller Salt by Phillip Noyce.
  • Analyze the message of Greg Berlanti’s film Love, Simon .
  • Interpret the symbols of the film The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • Discuss the modern issues depicted in the film The Corporation .
  • Moral lessons of Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond .
  • Analysis of the documentary Solitary Nation .
  • Describe the audiovisual elements of the film Pride and Prejudice (2005) .
  • The problem of toxic relationships in Malcolm and Marie .

📄 Film Analysis Examples

Below you’ll find two film analysis essay examples. Note that the full versions are downloadable for free!

Film Analysis Example #1: The Intouchables

Raising acute social problems in modern cinema is a common approach to draw the public’s attention to the specific issues and challenges of people facing crucial obstacles. As a film for review, The Intouchables by Oliver Nakache and Éric Toledano will be analyzed, and one of the themes raised in this movie is the daily struggle of the person with severe disabilities. This movie is a biographical drama with comedy elements. The Intouchables describes the routine life of a French millionaire who is confined to a wheelchair and forced to receive help from his servants. The acquaintance of the disabled person with a young and daring man from Parisian slums changes the lives of both radically. The film shows that for a person with disabilities, recognition as a full member of society is more important than sympathy and compassion, and this message expressed comically raises an essential problem of human loneliness.

Movie Analysis Example #2: Parasite

Parasite is a 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller movie directed by Bong Joon-ho and is the first film with a non-English script to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2020. With its overwhelming plot and acting, this motion picture retains a long-lasting effect and some kind of shock. The class serves as a backbone and a primary objective of social commentary within the South Korean comedy/thriller (Kench, 2020). Every single element and detail in the movie, including the student’s stone, the contrasting architecture, family names, and characters’ behavior, contribute to the central topic of the universal problem of classism and wealth disparity. The 2020 Oscar-winning movie Parasite (2019) is a phenomenal cinematic portrayal and a critical message to modern society regarding the severe outcomes of the long-established inequalities within capitalism.

Want more examples? Check out this bonus list of 10 film analysis samples. They will help you gain even more inspiration.

  • “Miss Representation” Documentary Film Analysis
  • “The Patriot”: Historical Film Analysis
  • “The Morning Guy” Film Analysis
  • 2012′ by Roland Emmerich Film Analysis
  • “The Crucible” (1996) Film Analysis
  • The Aviator’ by Martin Scorsese Film Analysis
  • The “Lions for Lambs” Film Analysis
  • Bill Monroe – Father of Bluegrass Music Film Analysis
  • Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’ Film Analysis
  • Red Tails by George Lucas Film Analysis

Film Analysis Essay FAQ

  • Watch the movie or read a detailed plot summary.
  • Read others’ film reviews paying attention to details like key characters, movie scenes, background facts.
  • Compose a list of ideas about what you’ve learned.
  • Organize the selected ideas to create a body of the essay.
  • Write an appropriate introduction and conclusion.

The benefits of analyzing a movie are numerous . You get a deeper understanding of the plot and its subtle aspects. You can also get emotional and aesthetic satisfaction. Film analysis enables one to feel like a movie connoisseur.

Here is a possible step by step scenario:

  • Think about the general idea that the author probably wanted to convey.
  • Consider how the idea was put across: what characters, movie scenes, and details helped in it.
  • Study the broader context: the author’s other works, genre essentials, etc.

The definition might be: the process of interpreting a movie’s aspects. The movie is reviewed in terms of details creating the artistic value. A film analysis essay is a paper presenting such a review in a logically structured way.

  • Film Analysis – UNC Writing Center
  • Film Writing: Sample Analysis // Purdue Writing Lab
  • Yale Film Analysis – Yale University
  • Film Terms And Topics For Film Analysis And Writing
  • Questions for Film Analysis (Washington University)
  • Resources on Film Analysis – Cinema Studies (University of Toronto)
  • Does Film Analysis Take the Magic out of Movies?
  • Film Analysis Research Papers – Academia.edu
  • What’s In a Film Analysis Essay? Medium
  • Analysis of Film – SAGE Research Methods
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Have you ever read a review and asked yourself how the critic arrived at a different interpretation for the film? You are sure that you saw the same movie, but you interpreted it differently. Most moviegoers go to the cinema for pleasure and entertainment. There’s a reason why blockbuster movies attract moviegoers – cinema is a form of escape, a way to momentarily walk away from life’s troubles.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Black or White

05 Feb 2015

By The Record

By John Mulderig

Large-scale issues of race and addiction are examined in microcosm in writer-director Mike Binder’s fact-based drama Black or White .

Though its avoidance of stereotypes and easy answers is admirable, the film provides only modest entertainment for those grown-up viewers able to appreciate its moral shadings.

After a car accident suddenly leaves him a widower, prosperous white lawyer Elliott Anderson (Kevin Costner) struggles to continue raising his half-African-American granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell).

Buttoned-up Elliott finds it difficult to compensate for the absence of his nurturing wife, with whom he had raised Eloise since the girl’s mother, their daughter, died in childbirth.

Additionally, Elliott’s newly developed reliance on alcohol, which he uses to excess to assuage his grief, raises fundamental questions about his fitness as a solo guardian.

In response, Eloise’s paternal grandmother, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer), sues for custody. A successful entrepreneur in South Central Los Angeles, Rowena is also motivated by her concern that Eloise’s life in one of the city’s upscale suburbs has isolated the child from her black heritage.

Since Elliott blames Eloise’s dad, Reggie (Andre Holland), a narcotics-dependent ne’er-do-well, for seducing his underage daughter and contributing to her needless demise, family antagonisms fuel the legal conflict.

So, too, do racial tensions: Rowena’s brother, hotshot attorney Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie), to whom his sister naturally entrusts her case, is determined to portray Elliott as a racist. Elliott’s colleagues, led by his protégé Rick Reynolds (Bill Burr), are equally resolved to play up Reggie’s criminal record. They also deplore the appointment of black Judge Cummins (Paula Newsome) to try the matter.

With personal strengths and weaknesses equally balanced among the characters on both sides, moviegoers’ sympathies are sufficiently divided to keep the proceedings interesting. And some valuable questions are implicitly raised along the way.

Why, for instance, should Elliott’s abusive use of booze be legally sanctioned – in his favour, he does habitually avoid driving while drunk – whereas Reggie’s crack smoking inevitably lands him in prison?

Yet, though Black or White makes for an intelligent interlude, it fails to register a lasting impact. Perhaps that’s because its generally appealing characters are primarily deployed, not as engaging individuals, but as stand-ins for recognisable social groups and tendencies.

The film contains brief bloodless violence, a drug theme, incidental affirmation of a same-sex marriage, mature references, several uses of profanity, at least one rough term and frequent crude and crass language. – CNS


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black or white movie analysis essay

Jillian Estell stars in writer-director Mike Binder's drama 'Black or White,' which was filmed in New Orleans. (Tracey Bennett/Relativity Media)

  • Tracy Bennett
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Jennifer Ehle and Kevin Costner star in writer-director Mike Binder's drama 'Black or White,' which was filmed in New Orleans. (Tracey Bennett/Relativity Media)

Anthony Mackie, left, Octavia Spencer and Andre Holland star in writer-director Mike Binder's drama 'Black or White,' which was filmed in New Orleans. (Tracey Bennett/Relativity Media)

Andre Holland and Octavia Spencer star in writer-director Mike Binder's drama 'Black or White,' which was filmed in New Orleans. (Tracey Bennett/Relativity Media)

Anthony Mackie, left, and Andre Holland star in writer-director Mike Binder's drama 'Black or White,' which was filmed in New Orleans. (Tracey Bennett/Relativity Media)

Kevin Costner and Jillian Estell star in writer-director Mike Binder's drama 'Black or White,' which was filmed in New Orleans. (Tracey Bennett/Relativity Media)

'Black or White' movie review: Kevin Costner race drama not afraid to explore touchy subject matter

  • Mike Scott, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
  • Jan 29, 2015
  • Jan 29, 2015 Updated Jul 17, 2019
  • 2 min to read

The Kevin Costner drama "Black or White" might not be the Oscar contender it was once hailed as following its debut last fall at the Toronto Film Festival, way back when it was still known as "Black and White." But that doesn't mean it's not a solidly made film, and even a brave one, for its willingness to tackle touchy subject matter.

That subject matter is right there in the title: black and white -- which so often boils down to "us and them" in today's America. "Selma" might have emerged as the season's more urgent race drama, and one that has stolen much of the award-season thunder of Costner's film, the New Orleans-shot, Los Angeles-set "Black or White" still drips with timeliness.

It's written and directed by Mike Binder, reteaming with Costner following their 2005 collaboration on "The Upside of Anger." Like that earlier film, it tells the story of an imperfect but loving family touched by recent tragedy.

In this case, the catalyst for it all is the unexpected death of the wife of Costner's character, which we learn about in the film's opening scene. Her death, as it turns out, follows by only a few years the death of their troubled adult daughter, who left behind a mixed-race granddaughter for them to raise.

Before he has time to absorb that emotional one-two punch, however, another crisis crops up: Although the child's ne'er-do-well, drug-addicted father has long been out of the picture, his mother ( Octavia Spencer ) hasn't been. With the wife now gone, and Costner's lawyer character busy drowning his sorrows in the nearest bottle of brown liquor, Spencer's "Grandma Wewe" decides to challenge him for custody of the granddaughter.

"You're a ... cliche," Mackie tells him angrily. "You're a perfect stereotype. You don't even realize the damage you do, beyond the damage you've done to that little girl. You corroborate everything the white community thinks. You're a walking validation stamp on all their (nonsense)."

Later, Mackie and Costner up the stakes in the film's courthouse climax. It's an uncomfortable scene, but that's by design. Like the rest of the movie, it doesn't tiptoe around the subject of race. Rather, it deals frankly and up-front with issues that most people, and most movies, are simply unsure how to deal with, for fear of unintentionally offending someone.

There's a chance "Black or White" just might offend some, but it's more likely to get them thinking and talking. In this day and age, and given recent headlines, it's hard to ask much more from a movie.


3 stars, out of 5

Snapshot : A drama about a man who, after the death of his wife and adult daughter, finds himself in a custody battle over his mixed-race grandchild.

What works : The acting is strong, particularly from Kevin Costner, and the film proves willing to touch on delicate topics.

What doesn't : It has a tendency to indulge in melodrama from time to time, and the story at its center feels unnecessarily tangled.

Cast : Costner, Octavia Spencer, Jillian Estell, Anthony Mackie, Andre Holland. Director : Mike Binder. Rating : PG-13, for strong language, thematic material involving drug use and drinking, and for a fight. Running time : 2 hours 1 minute. Where : Find New Orleans and Baton Rouge showtimes .

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Film Analysis

What this handout is about.

This handout introduces film analysis and and offers strategies and resources for approaching film analysis assignments.

Writing the film analysis essay

Writing a film analysis requires you to consider the composition of the film—the individual parts and choices made that come together to create the finished piece. Film analysis goes beyond the analysis of the film as literature to include camera angles, lighting, set design, sound elements, costume choices, editing, etc. in making an argument. The first step to analyzing the film is to watch it with a plan.

Watching the film

First it’s important to watch the film carefully with a critical eye. Consider why you’ve been assigned to watch a film and write an analysis. How does this activity fit into the course? Why have you been assigned this particular film? What are you looking for in connection to the course content? Let’s practice with this clip from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Here are some tips on how to watch the clip critically, just as you would an entire film:

  • Give the clip your undivided attention at least once. Pay close attention to details and make observations that might start leading to bigger questions.
  • Watch the clip a second time. For this viewing, you will want to focus specifically on those elements of film analysis that your class has focused on, so review your course notes. For example, from whose perspective is this clip shot? What choices help convey that perspective? What is the overall tone, theme, or effect of this clip?
  • Take notes while you watch for the second time. Notes will help you keep track of what you noticed and when, if you include timestamps in your notes. Timestamps are vital for citing scenes from a film!

For more information on watching a film, check out the Learning Center’s handout on watching film analytically . For more resources on researching film, including glossaries of film terms, see UNC Library’s research guide on film & cinema .

Brainstorming ideas

Once you’ve watched the film twice, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas based on your notes. Brainstorming is a major step that helps develop and explore ideas. As you brainstorm, you may want to cluster your ideas around central topics or themes that emerge as you review your notes. Did you ask several questions about color? Were you curious about repeated images? Perhaps these are directions you can pursue.

If you’re writing an argumentative essay, you can use the connections that you develop while brainstorming to draft a thesis statement . Consider the assignment and prompt when formulating a thesis, as well as what kind of evidence you will present to support your claims. Your evidence could be dialogue, sound edits, cinematography decisions, etc. Much of how you make these decisions will depend on the type of film analysis you are conducting, an important decision covered in the next section.

After brainstorming, you can draft an outline of your film analysis using the same strategies that you would for other writing assignments. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind as you prepare for this stage of the assignment:

  • Make sure you understand the prompt and what you are being asked to do. Remember that this is ultimately an assignment, so your thesis should answer what the prompt asks. Check with your professor if you are unsure.
  • In most cases, the director’s name is used to talk about the film as a whole, for instance, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo .” However, some writers may want to include the names of other persons who helped to create the film, including the actors, the cinematographer, and the sound editor, among others.
  • When describing a sequence in a film, use the literary present. An example could be, “In Vertigo , Hitchcock employs techniques of observation to dramatize the act of detection.”
  • Finding a screenplay/script of the movie may be helpful and save you time when compiling citations. But keep in mind that there may be differences between the screenplay and the actual product (and these differences might be a topic of discussion!).
  • Go beyond describing basic film elements by articulating the significance of these elements in support of your particular position. For example, you may have an interpretation of the striking color green in Vertigo , but you would only mention this if it was relevant to your argument. For more help on using evidence effectively, see the section on “using evidence” in our evidence handout .

Also be sure to avoid confusing the terms shot, scene, and sequence. Remember, a shot ends every time the camera cuts; a scene can be composed of several related shots; and a sequence is a set of related scenes.

Different types of film analysis

As you consider your notes, outline, and general thesis about a film, the majority of your assignment will depend on what type of film analysis you are conducting. This section explores some of the different types of film analyses you may have been assigned to write.

Semiotic analysis

Semiotic analysis is the interpretation of signs and symbols, typically involving metaphors and analogies to both inanimate objects and characters within a film. Because symbols have several meanings, writers often need to determine what a particular symbol means in the film and in a broader cultural or historical context.

For instance, a writer could explore the symbolism of the flowers in Vertigo by connecting the images of them falling apart to the vulnerability of the heroine.

Here are a few other questions to consider for this type of analysis:

  • What objects or images are repeated throughout the film?
  • How does the director associate a character with small signs, such as certain colors, clothing, food, or language use?
  • How does a symbol or object relate to other symbols and objects, that is, what is the relationship between the film’s signs?

Many films are rich with symbolism, and it can be easy to get lost in the details. Remember to bring a semiotic analysis back around to answering the question “So what?” in your thesis.

Narrative analysis

Narrative analysis is an examination of the story elements, including narrative structure, character, and plot. This type of analysis considers the entirety of the film and the story it seeks to tell.

For example, you could take the same object from the previous example—the flowers—which meant one thing in a semiotic analysis, and ask instead about their narrative role. That is, you might analyze how Hitchcock introduces the flowers at the beginning of the film in order to return to them later to draw out the completion of the heroine’s character arc.

To create this type of analysis, you could consider questions like:

  • How does the film correspond to the Three-Act Structure: Act One: Setup; Act Two: Confrontation; and Act Three: Resolution?
  • What is the plot of the film? How does this plot differ from the narrative, that is, how the story is told? For example, are events presented out of order and to what effect?
  • Does the plot revolve around one character? Does the plot revolve around multiple characters? How do these characters develop across the film?

When writing a narrative analysis, take care not to spend too time on summarizing at the expense of your argument. See our handout on summarizing for more tips on making summary serve analysis.

Cultural/historical analysis

One of the most common types of analysis is the examination of a film’s relationship to its broader cultural, historical, or theoretical contexts. Whether films intentionally comment on their context or not, they are always a product of the culture or period in which they were created. By placing the film in a particular context, this type of analysis asks how the film models, challenges, or subverts different types of relations, whether historical, social, or even theoretical.

For example, the clip from Vertigo depicts a man observing a woman without her knowing it. You could examine how this aspect of the film addresses a midcentury social concern about observation, such as the sexual policing of women, or a political one, such as Cold War-era McCarthyism.

A few of the many questions you could ask in this vein include:

  • How does the film comment on, reinforce, or even critique social and political issues at the time it was released, including questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality?
  • How might a biographical understanding of the film’s creators and their historical moment affect the way you view the film?
  • How might a specific film theory, such as Queer Theory, Structuralist Theory, or Marxist Film Theory, provide a language or set of terms for articulating the attributes of the film?

Take advantage of class resources to explore possible approaches to cultural/historical film analyses, and find out whether you will be expected to do additional research into the film’s context.

Mise-en-scène analysis

A mise-en-scène analysis attends to how the filmmakers have arranged compositional elements in a film and specifically within a scene or even a single shot. This type of analysis organizes the individual elements of a scene to explore how they come together to produce meaning. You may focus on anything that adds meaning to the formal effect produced by a given scene, including: blocking, lighting, design, color, costume, as well as how these attributes work in conjunction with decisions related to sound, cinematography, and editing. For example, in the clip from Vertigo , a mise-en-scène analysis might ask how numerous elements, from lighting to camera angles, work together to present the viewer with the perspective of Jimmy Stewart’s character.

To conduct this type of analysis, you could ask:

  • What effects are created in a scene, and what is their purpose?
  • How does this scene represent the theme of the movie?
  • How does a scene work to express a broader point to the film’s plot?

This detailed approach to analyzing the formal elements of film can help you come up with concrete evidence for more general film analysis assignments.

Reviewing your draft

Once you have a draft, it’s helpful to get feedback on what you’ve written to see if your analysis holds together and you’ve conveyed your point. You may not necessarily need to find someone who has seen the film! Ask a writing coach, roommate, or family member to read over your draft and share key takeaways from what you have written so far.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Aumont, Jacques, and Michel Marie. 1988. L’analyse Des Films . Paris: Nathan.

Media & Design Center. n.d. “Film and Cinema Research.” UNC University Libraries. Last updated February 10, 2021. https://guides.lib.unc.edu/filmresearch .

Oxford Royale Academy. n.d. “7 Ways to Watch Film.” Oxford Royale Academy. Accessed April 2021. https://www.oxford-royale.com/articles/7-ways-watch-films-critically/ .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Black or White

Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, and Jillian Estell in Black or White (2014)

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

  • Mike Binder
  • Kevin Costner
  • Octavia Spencer
  • Gillian Jacobs
  • 83 User reviews
  • 92 Critic reviews
  • 45 Metascore
  • 1 win & 4 nominations

Official Trailer

  • Elliott Anderson

Octavia Spencer

  • Rowena Jeffers

Gillian Jacobs

  • Jeremiah Jeffers

Jillian Estell

  • Eloise Anderson

Bill Burr

  • Rick Reynolds

Mpho Koaho

  • Duvan Araga

André Holland

  • Reggie Davis

Jennifer Ehle

  • Carol Anderson

Paula Newsome

  • Judge Margaret Cummins


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  • Trivia Kevin Costner personally financed this film, because he was moved by Mike Binder 's screenplay, wanted to tell the story of the family, and to continue the conversation on race in the U.S. among the film's viewers.
  • Goofs When outside the law firm that Elliot visits for the first time, they're discussing his alcohol problem, and a young man in a light blue shirt and mustard colored pants walks by. The same man walks by the same way as they move towards the car.

Elliot Anderson : So, yes, we're different, you and I. You want to submit that? Submit it. We have different skin colors. Is that the first thing I notice when I see a black man, the color of his skin? Yes. Submit away. Because I can go ahead and submit that that's the first thing you see when you see a white guy. Now, I don't know why that is any more than I know why when I see a good looking woman the first things I notice are her breasts, because I do. But if I move on to my next thought quick enough, I'm not a pervert, alright? I'm not a bad guy. I'm just mildly flawed. It's the same thing with race. It's not my first thoughts that count, it's my second, third, and fourth thought, and each and every case I'm in, it comes down to the same thing: the action and interaction I'm having with the person that I'm interacting with!

  • Connections Featured in The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Jennifer Lopez/Anthony Mackie/Iliza Shlesinger (2015)
  • Soundtracks White Lies Written by Paolo Nutini (Paolo Giovanni Nutini) and John Fortis Performed by Paolo Nutini Courtesy of Warner Music UK Ltd. By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing

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  • January 30, 2015 (United States)
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  • Đen Hay Trắng
  • New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  • Sunlight Productions
  • Treehouse Films (II)
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  • $9,000,000 (estimated)
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  • Feb 1, 2015
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50 Film Analysis

Film analysis, what this handout is about.

This handout provides a brief definition of film analysis compared to literary analysis, provides an introduction to common types of film analysis, and offers strategies and resources for approaching assignments.

What is film analysis, and how does it differ from literary analysis?

Film analysis is the process in which film is analyzed in terms of semiotics, narrative structure, cultural context, and mise-en-scene, among other approaches. If these terms are new to you, don’t worry—they’ll be explained in the next section.

Analyzing film, like  analyzing literature (fiction texts, etc.) , is a form of rhetorical analysis—critically analyzing and evaluating discourse, including words, phrases, and images. Having a clear argument and supporting evidence is every bit as critical to film analysis as to other forms of academic writing.

Unlike literature, film incorporates audiovisual elements and therefore introduces a new dimension to analysis. Ultimately, however, analysis of film is not too different. Think of all the things that make up a scene in a film: the actors, the lighting, the angles, the colors. All of these things may be absent in literature, but they are deliberate choices on the part of the director, producer, or screenwriter—as are the words chosen by the author of a work of literature. Furthermore, literature and film incorporate similar elements. They both have plots, characters, dialogue, settings, symbolism, and, just as the elements of literature can be analyzed for their intent and effect, these elements can be analyzed the same way in film.

Different types of film analysis

Listed here are common approaches to film analysis, but this is by no means an exhaustive list, and you may have discussed other approaches in class. As with any other assignment, make sure you understand your professor’s expectations. This guide is best used to understand prompts or, in the case of more open-ended assignments, consider the different ways to analyze film.

Keep in mind that any of the elements of film can be analyzed, oftentimes in tandem. A single film analysis essay may simultaneously include all of the following approaches and more. As Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie propose in Analysis of Film, there is no correct, universal way to write film analysis.

Semiotic analysis

Semiotic analysis is the analysis of meaning behind signs and symbols, typically involving metaphors, analogies, and symbolism.

This doesn’t necessarily need to be something dramatic; think about how you extrapolate information from the smallest signs in your day to day life. For instance, what characteristics can tell you about someone’s personality? Something as simple as someone’s appearance can reveal information about them. Mismatched shoes and bedhead might be a sign of carelessness (or something crazy happened that morning!), while an immaculate dress shirt and tie would suggest that the person is prim and proper. Continuing in that vein:

  • What might you be able to infer about characters from small hints?
  • How are these hints (signs) used to construct characters? How do they relate to the relative role of those characters, or the relationships between multiple characters?

Symbols denote concepts (liberty, peace, etc.) and feelings (hate, love, etc.) that they often have nothing to do with. They are used liberally in both literature and film, and finding them uses a similar process. Ask yourself:

  • In Frozen Elsa’s gloves appear in multiple scenes.
  • Her gloves are first given to her by her father to restrain her magic. She continues to wear them throughout the coronation scene, before finally, in the Let It Go sequence, she throws them away.

Again, the method of semiotic analysis in film is similar to that of literature. Think about the deeper meaning behind objects or actions.

  • Elsa’s gloves represent fear of her magic and, by extension, herself. Though she attempts to contain her magic by hiding her hands within gloves and denying part of her identity, she eventually abandons the gloves in a quest for self-acceptance.

Narrative structure analysis

Narrative structure analysis is the analysis of the story elements, including plot structure, character motivations, and theme. Like the dramatic structure of literature (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), film has what is known as the Three-Act Structure: “Act One: Setup, Act Two: Confrontation, and Act Three: Resolution.” Narrative structure analysis breaks the story of the film into these three elements and might consider questions like:

  • How does the story follow or deviate from typical structures?
  • What is the effect of following or deviating from this structure?
  • What is the theme of the film, and how is that theme constructed?

Consider again the example of Frozen. You can use symbolism and narrative structure in conjunction by placing the symbolic objects/events in the context of the narrative structure. For instance, the first appearance of the gloves is in Act One, while their abandoning takes place in Act Two; thus, the story progresses in such a way that demonstrates Elsa’s personal growth. By the time of Act Three, the Resolution, her aversion to touch (a product of fearing her own magic) is gone, reflecting a theme of self-acceptance.

Contextual analysis

Contextual analysis is analysis of the film as part of a broader context. Think about the culture, time, and place of the film’s creation. What might the film say about the culture that created it? What were/are the social and political concerns of the time period? Or, like researching the author of a novel, you might consider the director, producer, and other people vital to the making of the film. What is the place of this film in the director’s career? Does it align with his usual style of directing, or does it move in a new direction? Other examples of contextual approaches might be analyzing the film in terms of a civil rights or feminist movement.

For example, Frozen is often linked to the LGBTQ social movement. You might agree or disagree with this interpretation, and, using evidence from the film, support your argument.

Some other questions to consider:

  • How does the meaning of the film change when seen outside of its culture?
  • What characteristics distinguishes the film as being of its particular culture?

Mise-en-scene analysis

Mise-en-scene analysis is analysis of the arrangement of compositional elements in film—essentially, the analysis of audiovisual elements that most distinctly separate film analysis from literary analysis. Remember that the important part of a mise-en-scene analysis is not just identifying the elements of a scene, but explaining the significance behind them.

  • What effects are created in a scene, and what is their purpose?
  • How does the film attempt to achieve its goal by the way it looks, and does it succeed?

Audiovisual elements that can be analyzed include (but are not limited to): props and costumes, setting, lighting, camera angles, frames, special effects, choreography, music, color values, depth, placement of characters, etc. Mise-en-scene is typically the most foreign part of writing film analysis because the other components discussed are common to literary analysis, while mise-en-scene deals with elements unique to film. Using specific film terminology bolsters credibility, but you should also consider your audience. If your essay is meant to be accessible to non-specialist readers, explain what terms mean. The Resources section of this handout has links to sites that describe mise-en-scene elements in detail.

Rewatching the film and creating screen captures (still images) of certain scenes can help with detailed analysis of colors, positioning of actors, placement of objects, etc. Listening to the soundtrack can also be helpful, especially when placed in the context of particular scenes.

Some example questions:

  • How is the lighting used to construct mood? Does the mood shift at any point during the film, and how is that shift in mood created?
  • What does the setting say about certain characters? How are props used to reveal aspects of their personality?
  • What songs were used, and why were they chosen? Are there any messages in the lyrics that pertain to the theme?

Writing the film analysis essay

Writing film analysis is similar to writing literary analysis or any argumentative essay in other disciplines: Consider the assignment and prompts, formulate a thesis (see the  Brainstorming Handout  and  Thesis Statement Handout  for help crafting a nuanced argument), compile evidence to prove your thesis, and lay out your argument in the essay. Your evidence may be different from what you are used to. Whereas in the English essay you use textual evidence and quotes, in a film analysis essay, you might also include audiovisual elements to bolster your argument.

When describing a sequence in a film, use the present tense, like you would write in the literary present when describing events of a novel, i.e. not “Elsa took off her gloves,” but “Elsa takes off her gloves.” When quoting dialogue from a film, if between multiple characters, use block quotes: Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented one inch from the left margin. However, conventions are flexible, so ask your professor if you are unsure. It may also help to follow the formatting of the script, if you can find it. For example:

ELSA: But she won’t remember I have powers? KING: It’s for the best.

You do not need to use quotation marks for blocked-off dialogue, but for shorter quotations in the main text, quotation marks should be double quotes (“…”).

Here are some tips for approaching film analysis:

  • Make sure you understand the prompt and what you are being asked to do. Focus your argument by choosing a specific issue to assess.
  • Review your materials. Rewatch the film for nuances that you may have missed in the first viewing. With your thesis in mind, take notes as you watch. Finding a screenplay of the movie may be helpful, but keep in mind that there may be differences between the screenplay and the actual product (and these differences might be a topic of discussion!).
  • Develop a thesis and an outline, organizing your evidence so that it supports your argument. Remember that this is ultimately an assignment—make sure that your thesis answers what the prompt asks, and check with your professor if you are unsure.
  • Move beyond only describing the audiovisual elements of the film by considering the significance of your evidence. Demonstrate understanding of not just what film elements are, but why and to what effect they are being used. For more help on using your evidence effectively, see ‘Using Evidence In An Argument’ in the  Evidence Handout .

New York Film Academy Glossary Movie Outline Glossary Movie Script Database Citation Practices: Film and Television

Works Consulted

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Aumont, Jacques, and Michel Marie. L’analyse Des Films. Paris: Nathan, 1988. Print. Pruter, Robin Franson. “Writing About Film.” Writing About Film. DePaul University, 08 Mar. 2004. Web. 01 May 2016.

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How Black Horror Became America’s Most Powerful Cinematic Genre

Films like ‘Us’ and the recent sequel to ‘Candyman’ are part of a much longer tradition of storytelling, one that often wrestles with the gruesome history of racism.

black or white movie analysis essay

By Gabrielle Bellot

Artwork by Renee Cox and Danielle McKinney

IN 1976, THREE years after “ The Exorcist ” appeared in movie theaters across the United States, James Baldwin shared a brief but biting response to the film in “ The Devil Finds Work ,” a book-length essay about racism in American cinema. If the film, which follows a bedeviled priest’s attempts to save a girl who has become possessed by no less than Satan himself, had quickly become emblematic of a particular style of outlandish horror — perhaps most of all for a lurid scene in which the girl’s head twists 360 degrees around on her neck — Baldwin felt that it was horrific for an altogether different reason: that white Americans could watch it and feel a terrified frisson, but no real fear, by contrast, when imagining the everyday horrors of life as a Black American.

To Baldwin, the film was a series of cheap thrills, cinematic legerdemain designed to terrify and titillate white Americans, who would likely have little to no idea of what it was like to be treated as inhuman monsters, as gruesome things . “The mindless and hysterical banality of the evil presented in ‘The Exorcist’ is the most terrifying thing about the film,” he writes. “The Americans,” he continues, “should certainly know more about evil than that; if they pretend otherwise, they are lying, and any Black man … can call them on this lie; he who has been treated as the devil recognizes the devil when they meet.”

Around the time of the movie’s release, a genre of Black horror was already emerging in America, typified by Blaxploitation films like “Blacula” (1972) and “Blackenstein” (1973), in which Black figures embodied the monstrous creations of white writers. But a more recent slate of films and television shows centered around Blackness — perhaps most overtly Jordan Peele’s “ Get Out ” (2017) and “ Us ” (2019), Misha Green’s “ Lovecraft Country ” (2020), Little Marvin’s “ Them ” (2021) and Nia DaCosta’s 2021 sequel to “ Candyman ” (1992) — have attempted to redress this Baldwinian critique by capturing, in various ways, what it feels like to experience horror as a Black American, when your mere presence can itself be a source of terror to others.

These new films and series have commanded popular and critical attention, bringing a genre of Black horror into the American mainstream like never before. But African American horror is, of course, far from new, and it has a rich, roiling history beyond the silver screen. It can describe the fantastical gothic shadow art of Kara Walker , the dark-skinned vampires in novels by Octavia E. Butler and Jewelle Gomez, the mythic and monstrous beings from the Caribbean and Africa in Nalo Hopkinson’s fiction and the haunting face in Betye Saar’s artwork “ Black Girl’s Window ” (1969), among others. Yet what does feel new is how visible these phantoms, real or imagined, have become for a nation of people who seem to see them and the all-too-true horrors from which they sprung — from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Tulsa massacre to Tamir Rice’s senseless murder by a white cop — as if for the first time. The white Americans that Baldwin described may finally be paying attention to Black horror, at least on the surface. Yet to truly understand it, in art or life, means reflecting on the deeper, more labyrinthine histories that brought us these ghosts in the first place.

HORROR, THE BRITISH novelist Ann Radcliffe famously declared in an essay published posthumously in 1826, is distinct from terror. For Radcliffe, whose fiction was among the earliest to formally be called Gothic, terror heightens our senses; horror paralyzes them. “Terror and horror are so far opposite,” she muses, “that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them.” The former, in Radcliffe’s eyes, is high art; the latter is something authors should avoid. And yet, there remains artistry — and power — in being able to chill an audience so entirely, so existentially, that they feel frightened and frozen all at once, even while existing in a space far removed from any true danger. Horror is, after all, a safe way to experience our deepest fears without actually having to confront them. (That is if its story line or the images it calls to mind don’t reflect one’s own lived trauma.) No matter how real something may seem, even if it’s based on a true story, the genre feels palatable simply because it isn’t happening to us . We have the luxury of turning away, of closing our eyes.

But when one’s very identity as a Black American is the jumping-off point for such stories, it becomes near impossible to distance oneself from the torture and the trauma that well up when we see the flashing police sirens at the end of “Get Out,” just as the character Chris Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya , thinks he’s escaped the clutches of his white girlfriend’s sadistic family, or the blood-spattered scene of Faith Ringgold’s 1967 painting “ American People Series #20: Die ,” made to evoke that decade’s riots. A demonic girl’s spinning head might seem unsettling to everyone, but the fear of being followed —  haunted — by men in white Klan hoods or blue uniforms is one that many white Americans will never know. The resurgence of Black horror, then, forces viewers to witness the frightening reality of being Black in a world that still — as Toni Morrison notes in “ Playing in the Dark ” (1992), her critical study of whiteness in American literature — associates darkness of skin with the old meanings of darkness that our ancestors originally applied to the night: fear, uncertainty, danger.

The genre, to be sure, has a fine line to walk. To capitalize on people’s suffering can easily become misery tourism, turning pain into ticket sales and forcing Black viewers to relive trauma, whether personal or ancestral, for the sake of entertainment. But this isn’t what the resurgent genre I’m talking about is doing; instead, it centers Black American lives and, by doing so, horror inescapably — unavoidably — slips in because that is the inevitable fate of life in a racist world. Black horror, therefore, seeks to capture the all-too-real fear of walking through America in a Black body and, with ghosts and clones and body-swapping conspiracies, it becomes an intentionally exaggerated, baroque realism.

Yet this newly visible genre isn’t simply horror but an extension of an older tradition: the African American ghost story. While ghost stories are often imagined as scary narratives, they don’t actually need to be; in their broadest definition, they simply must evoke the weird, the magical, the fantastical, the Carpentierian marvelous in such a way that their worlds feel like they could contain ghosts, could contain, really, anything at all. Ghosts, of course, are particularly resonant in part because they represent a triumph of sorts over the finality of death, though that triumph is often associated with pain for the living, a trauma of life and death alike. In Toni Morrison’s “ Beloved ” (1987), such trauma is described as “rememory,” a way we experience a memory anew when entering a certain space. “Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay,” Sethe, the novel’s protagonist, says to her daughter Denver, who has just seen a spectral figure in a white wedding dress bent over her mother, as if hugging her. “Places, places are still there,” she continues. “If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place — the picture of it — stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world.” It is the past that haunts us. The sentiment echoes a well-known passage from William Faulkner’s 1951 novel, “ Requiem for a Nun ”: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Trauma, like time, is not linear, each past moment fading into the obscurity of unremembered dreams; instead, it circles back around us, orbits us always like some jagged, unpredictable moon, not yet ready to let us go.

A CERTAIN KIND of trauma surrounds us, then, born out of anti-Black violence and racism; it is a pain witnessed onscreen, in these horror shows and films, and one that so many Black Americans endure off screen, as well, a pain at once modern and centuries old. These newer tales emerge from a deep well of Black folklore — a vast compendium of anecdotes, imagery, mythologies, belief systems and tales shared orally — that stretched from the African continent, crossed the Atlantic and arrived in the Americas by way of the torturous (and, indeed, horrific) trans-Atlantic slave trade, whereby enslaved Africans were forced onto colonial ships, taking little more than their faith and their folklore. Many of the most iconic figures in the folk tales they brought with them — which often feature themes like anthropomorphism, magic and the simple power of quick wit — such as Anansi the Spider, Br’er Rabbit and conjure men and women, are tricksters. Anansi and Br’er Rabbit get their way through clever dissembling, despite being smaller and physically weaker than their compatriots; conjurers use sorcery and a knowledge of their more literal roots: herbal medicine. While spider stories are especially common across the African continent, Anansi originated in Ghana as part of Ashanti oral tradition; his very name comes from the Akan word for spider, and Anansi’s exploits quickly became among the most popular of African fables. As befits a trickster, Anansi is a bit of a shape-shifter, alternately appearing as a large arachnid (his most frequent form), a human with the body of a spider or simply in the guise of an impish person. Whatever his appearance, he is often greedy and selfish, laughingly duping others of wealth and food. Br’er Rabbit’s lineage is murkier. A number of trickster hares appear in African fables, notably those from Senegal, and their capers are sometimes identical to Anansi’s, the protagonists simply swapped. Like Anansi’s, Br’er Rabbit’s appearance is protean, but his most common form is that of an anthropomorphic hare (in American folklore, he is a rabbit), who interacts with other creatures, bamboozling them for his own gain. Sometimes, he is himself hoodwinked, as in the famous Tar Baby fable — which has antecedents in oral traditions from around the globe, including India and Africa — in which Br’er Rabbit’s pride gets the best of him. Tired of being tricked, another animal, Br’er Fox, creates a figure out of tar (a tar baby) and leaves it at the side of the road for Br’er Rabbit to walk by. In time, the rabbit sees the homunculus, says hello, then becomes infuriated when it refuses to answer. After repeated failures to get it to respond, he attacks it, getting stuck in the tar. When Br’er Fox emerges to gloat, Br’er Rabbit begs not to be thrown into the briar patch; the fox, set only on revenge, does just that. But Br’er Rabbit escapes, for the thicket is the place rabbits know best. Even when tricked, the trickster wins.

In the Americas, these sorts of folk tales found new forms, and were altered to reflect the brutalities of slavery, Jim Crow and even the uneasy path one walked while supposedly free. Anansi and Br’er Rabbit took on roles reflecting their new geography, their stories now functioning both as entertaining narratives about guile and greed and as parables of overcoming the cruelty of white masters. This was acknowledged by Simon Brown, who had been a slave for many years in Virginia and had survived, at least in part, on the lessons of such stories: “Like Br’er Rabbit,” he told the folklorist William J. Faulkner, “we had to be deceitful and use our heads to stay alive.” Br’er Rabbit stuck in the tar-baby trap, for instance, could now be read as a slave being caught by a master and tricking him in order to escape, since tar was sometimes used as a theft deterrent on fences around crops. Taken perhaps at its simplest reading, though, the tar baby, catching and trapping all who get too near, is a warning that no one involved in slavery can escape its horrors.

Similarly, conjuration stories, which show Black figures with the magic to transfigure and empower or enervate others, could serve both as charming tales and as potent allegories of how older African belief systems could, in theory, “defeat” the horror of America’s white supremacist systems. Conjure men and women — people who knew ancient African magic and could work this magic, or goopher, as it was sometimes called — might be slaves who practiced their bewitching roots in secret, or freed or escaped persons who lived in isolated areas that offered them some protection from prying white plantation owners, or simply Black Americans who had kept the traditions alive into the modern day. The magical systems evoked in much of this folklore, like obeah, have their roots in African religious and spiritual practices. Their sorcery can transfigure people and things, bestow good or bad luck, heal or hurt — or even offer protection from danger. In such stories, you might encounter the soucouyant, a witch woman who sheds her skin and flies through the night as a flaming ball to find the blood of children to drink, and who can be stopped only if you pour grains of rice or salt in her path, or put salt or pepper on her molted skin, guaranteeing her annihilation at dawn. Likewise, one might run into haints, phantasmagorical flaming skulls, duppies, lycanthropic loups-garous and more. At their core, so many of these tales are about survival. And because the white slave owners rarely appeared to understand the language or practices of obeah, Voodoo and other African traditions, conjure men and women quickly became icons of subversion, Black figures who had the ability to bring the whites to their knees, like the conjure woman Sapphira Wade in Gloria Naylor’s novel “ Mama Day ” (1988), whose legendary magic brings down a slave owner. If knowledge of these old arts represented a power the white colonists couldn’t understand, then keeping these memories alive was a way of keeping yourself alive: folklore as fortress, memory as magic. The stories were talismanic, serving as warnings to live with caution, ever cognizant of the fact that frightening things — be they wicked spirits or white slave owners — might have their eyes on you.

Of course, there was another reason to tell some of these tales: to invoke possibly the most remarkable specter of all, freedom. Perhaps the best known of the stories in this African American folkloric tradition are about flying. “Once all Africans could fly like birds,” begins a version relayed by a man named Caesar Grant of Johns Island, S.C., to the author John Bennett, “but owing to their many transgressions, their wings were taken away.” All people from Africa, including slaves brought to the Americas, can still soar the skies, though, if they remember the magic words — words the white colonists find indecipherable. Utter them, as the slaves do in the story, and you’ll lift off into the clouds, free from the earth’s tribulations. Here, hope, indeed, has become the thing with wings. Remember , the message seems to be, and you, too, may be liberated .

THAT THESE STORIES exist today is a testament not only to oral tradition but to the pioneering efforts of early collectors like Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps (who together published “The Book of Negro Folklore” in 1958) and Zora Neale Hurston (who anthologized the folk tales she collected on her travels in the 1920s in the posthumous compendium “ Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales From the Gulf States ”), along with the Hampton Folklore Society of the 1890s, the first Black American folklore community of its kind, as well as, ironically, the white slavery apologist Joel Chandler Harris, whose wildly popular Uncle Remus stories, first published as a collection in 1880, introduced many white readers to characters like Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby. These stories were told by Uncle Remus, a grinning Black figure Harris himself sometimes pretended to be in real life in a kind of authorial minstrelsy, as Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes in “ The Annotated African American Folktales ” (2017). The character, partially inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom, glorified the world of plantations and white overseers.

Harris’s influence soon became complicated for Black American writers. On the one hand, his collections had unquestionably helped preserve and popularize African American folklore; on the other, it was difficult to appreciate these stories in earnest because of Harris’s unabashed, almost vaudevillian romanticizing of slavery. In response, a number of Black writers began crafting more nuanced folkloric tales, one of the most influential being Charles Chesnutt’s 1899 story collection, “ The Conjure Woman .” Born to freed slaves in 1858 but with white ancestors, Chesnutt was easily able to pass as white but largely refused to, instead writing explicitly about Blackness, passing and racial politics. (He also worked within the N.A.A.C.P. for years and protested the 1915 release of the film “Birth of a Nation,” which celebrated the Ku Klux Klan.)

“The Conjure Woman” features Uncle Julius, a Black man who tells ghost stories to the whites he works for. Unlike the tales of Uncle Remus, these are not curious bits of local color told by a “happy” slave but, instead, intricately clever ways to fool his white employers, using fantastical stories about specters, curses and conjuration. Whether or not the stories are true is irrelevant; they are means to ends for Uncle Julius, who becomes in this way akin to a trickster himself. Chesnutt made it clear in an 1890 letter to the novelist George Washington Cable that these stories were meant to subvert the image of an Uncle Remus-esque figure showing “dog-like fidelity to their old master, for whom they have been willing to sacrifice almost life itself. … I can’t write about those people, or rather I won’t write about them.”

Chesnutt, like many after him, realized these stories were special, rather than something to be ashamed of, the latter a view held by a certain segment of Black Americans at the time. This group not only believed such tales represented and evoked what they thought of as anachronistic avatars from the days of slavery but had also bought into respectability politics, which promoted the integration of Black Americans into society largely by encouraging them to imitate the ways of whites, implying — and sometimes declaring — that European and white American civilizations were superior to those of their African ancestors. Such a perspective, aside from being demeaning to Black Americans, also dismissed folklore as something archaic, when in reality it was — and remains — a testament not to any one era but to something deeper: the indelible histories of trauma that Black people at large have had to endure for centuries, capturing, in some form or another, what it feels like to live in an unequal, unsettled, unsettling world, what it feels like to live in a land that does not always wish you to live at all.

Underlying these stories, then, even the ones that seem the most whimsical and lighthearted, utterly anodyne and utterly unscary, is horror . In the tale of the tar baby, the tar captures those who touch it; if Br’er Rabbit is read as a Black American, a Black person is both captivated by the figure and captured in turn. How can you watch “Get Out” without thinking of that complex, continent-spanning tale whereby a Black man, like Br’er Rabbit, can only escape by outliving and outwitting the whites who have captured him, the whites who fear his body as much as they fetishize it? Or Boots Riley’s 2018 dark comedy, “ Sorry to Bother You ” — in which a Black man is told to use his “white voice” to be a more successful telemarketer, and who later learns that his company is, quite literally, making workhorses out of them — and not be reminded, perhaps, of Chesnutt’s cunning, ever-adaptable Uncle Julius? When how we tell a story may determine whether or not we live to tell another, it becomes harder and harder not to wish for that old incantation that would let one take flight.

This ascendant genre shows, as Morrison wrote of rememory, that the terrors of the past still live in the present — a powerful gesture in an age when Republicans in Texas and Idaho, among other states, have approved legislation prescribing how current events are taught in the classroom, severely curtailing discussions of Black American history, and when it is all too common for conservatives to dismiss the existence of systemic racism or the relevance of historical acts of anti-Black violence. In an era when it is still all too common to see Black bodies under the heel of white cops, Black horror reminds us of the power of storytelling, the magic of our roots — and that the ghosts of the past still walk the American landscape. Who, after all, cannot have unfinished business on an earth so steeped in blood?

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If we identify strongly with the characters in some movies, then it is no mystery that “Casablanca” is one of the most popular films ever made. It is about a man and a woman who are in love, and who sacrifice love for a higher purpose. This is immensely appealing; the viewer is not only able to imagine winning the love of Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman , but unselfishly renouncing it, as a contribution to the great cause of defeating the Nazis.

No one making “Casablanca” thought they were making a great movie. It was simply another Warner Bros. release. It was an “A list” picture, to be sure (Bogart, Bergman and Paul Henreid were stars, and no better cast of supporting actors could have been assembled on the Warners lot than Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Claude Rains and Dooley Wilson). But it was made on a tight budget and released with small expectations. Everyone involved in the film had been, and would be, in dozens of other films made under similar circumstances, and the greatness of “Casablanca” was largely the result of happy chance.

The screenplay was adapted from a play of no great consequence; memoirs tell of scraps of dialogue jotted down and rushed over to the set. What must have helped is that the characters were firmly established in the minds of the writers, and they were characters so close to the screen personas of the actors that it was hard to write dialogue in the wrong tone.

Humphrey Bogart played strong heroic leads in his career, but he was usually better as the disappointed, wounded, resentful hero. Remember him in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” convinced the others were plotting to steal his gold. In “Casablanca,” he plays Rick Blaine, the hard-drinking American running a nightclub in Casablanca when Morocco was a crossroads for spies, traitors, Nazis and the French Resistance.

The opening scenes dance with comedy; the dialogue combines the cynical with the weary; wisecracks with epigrams. We see that Rick moves easily in a corrupt world. “What is your nationality?” the German Strasser asks him, and he replies, “I'm a drunkard.” His personal code: “I stick my neck out for nobody.”

Then “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” It is Ilsa Lund (Bergman), the woman Rick loved years earlier in Paris. Under the shadow of the German occupation, he arranged their escape, and believes she abandoned him--left him waiting in the rain at a train station with their tickets to freedom. Now she is with Victor Laszlo (Henreid), a legendary hero of the French Resistance.

All this is handled with great economy in a handful of shots that still, after many viewings, have the power to move me emotionally as few scenes ever have. The bar's piano player, Sam (Wilson), a friend of theirs in Paris, is startled to see her. She asks him to play the song that she and Rick made their own, “As Time Goes By.” He is reluctant, but he does, and Rick comes striding angrily out of the back room (“I thought I told you never to play that song!”). Then he sees Ilsa, a dramatic musical chord marks their closeups, and the scene plays out in resentment, regret and the memory of a love that was real. (This scene is not as strong on a first viewing as on subsequent viewings, because the first time you see the movie you don't yet know the story of Rick and Ilsa in Paris; indeed, the more you see it the more the whole film gains resonance.)

The plot, a trifle to hang the emotions on, involves letters of passage that will allow two people to leave Casablanca for Portugal and freedom. Rick obtained the letters from the wheedling little black-marketeer Ugarte ( Peter Lorre ). The sudden reappearance of Ilsa reopens all of his old wounds, and breaks his carefully cultivated veneer of neutrality and indifference. When he hears her story, he realizes she has always loved him. But now she is with Laszlo. Rick wants to use the letters to escape with Ilsa, but then, in a sustained sequence that combines suspense, romance and comedy as they have rarely been brought together on the screen, he contrives a situation in which Ilsa and Laszlo escape together, while he and his friend the police chief (Claude Rains) get away with murder. (“Round up the usual suspects.”)

What is intriguing is that none of the major characters is bad. Some are cynical, some lie, some kill, but all are redeemed. If you think it was easy for Rick to renounce his love for Ilsa--to place a higher value on Laszlo's fight against Nazism--remember Forster's famous comment, “If I were forced to choose between my country and my friend, I hope I would be brave enough to choose my friend.”

From a modern perspective, the film reveals interesting assumptions. Ilsa Lund's role is basically that of a lover and helpmate to a great man; the movie's real question is, which great man should she be sleeping with? There is actually no reason why Laszlo cannot get on the plane alone, leaving Ilsa in Casablanca with Rick, and indeed that is one of the endings that was briefly considered. But that would be all wrong; the “happy” ending would be tarnished by self-interest, while the ending we have allows Rick to be larger, to approach nobility (“it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”). And it allows us, vicariously experiencing all of these things in the theater, to warm in the glow of his heroism.

In her closeups during this scene, Bergman's face reflects confusing emotions. And well she might have been confused, since neither she nor anyone else on the film knew for sure until the final day who would get on the plane. Bergman played the whole movie without knowing how it would end, and this had the subtle effect of making all of her scenes more emotionally convincing; she could not tilt in the direction she knew the wind was blowing.

Stylistically, the film is not so much brilliant as absolutely sound, rock-solid in its use of Hollywood studio craftsmanship. The director, Michael Curtiz, and the writers (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch ) all won Oscars. One of their key contributions was to show us that Rick, Ilsa and the others lived in a complex time and place. The richness of the supporting characters (Greenstreet as the corrupt club owner, Lorre as the sniveling cheat, Rains as the subtly homosexual police chief and minor characters like the young girl who will do anything to help her husband) set the moral stage for the decisions of the major characters. When this plot was remade in 1990 as “Havana,” Hollywood practices required all the big scenes to feature the big stars ( Robert Redford and Lena Olin ) and the film suffered as a result; out of context, they were more lovers than heroes.

Seeing the film over and over again, year after year, I find it never grows over-familiar. It plays like a favorite musical album; the more I know it, the more I like it. The black-and-white cinematography has not aged as color would. The dialogue is so spare and cynical it has not grown old-fashioned. Much of the emotional effect of “Casablanca” is achieved by indirection; as we leave the theater, we are absolutely convinced that the only thing keeping the world from going crazy is that the problems of three little people do after all amount to more than a hill of beans.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Casablanca (1942)

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A 2014 drama film written and directed by Mike Binder, starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer .

Elliot Anderson (Costner) is the grandfather of a bi-racial little girl, Eloise (Jillian Estell). Eloise is the daughter of Elliot's own teenage daughter, who died in childbirth, and an older black man and drug addict named Reggie (Andre Holland). Elliot drinks to numb the pain of having lost both his daughter and his wife, who's just died in a car crash at the beginning of the movie. Despite this, he makes a very comfortable living, is not physically or emotionally abusive to Eloise, lives in a nice house in a safe neighborhood, and loves Eloise with all his heart.

The plot kicks off when Eloise's paternal grandmother, Rowena (Spencer), files for shared custody of Eloise after the death of Elliot's wife. She then challenges Elliot for full custody because she believes him to be racist. The rest of the movie is both sides trying to come to terms with the situation and, ultimately, what situation would truly be best for Eloise in the midst of the racially-charged custody battle.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney : Rowena's lawyer/brother Jeremiah. While he's far from the standard example of this trope, and isn't necessarily a bad person, he's still deliberately trying to force a racially-charged perspective in order to make Elliot look bad so Rowena can win the case.
  • Black and Nerdy : Duvan the (poly)math tutor. In addition to being good at math, at the young age of 19, Duvan is fluent in over a half dozen languages, plays piano, and has an obsession with writing research papers on education-related topics.
  • Both Sides Have a Point : Part of what drives the conflict is that both Elliot and Rowena are justified in their perspectives. Elliot is right that Reggie is a worthless deadbeat who's unfit to raise children. Rowena however is justified that Elliot has a drinking problem and that his own abilities to be a parent are impaired as a result.
  • Death by Childbirth : This is part of what drives the plot, informing both Elliot's hostility towards Reggie and his drinking problem.
  • Even Evil Has Standards : For all that Jeramiah is an Amoral Attorney , he has NO tolerance for Reggie's irresponsibility as a person and a father.
  • Fatal Flaw : Rowena's hardly a bad person, and it's made clear that she does genuinely love Eloise and wants what's best for her. Unfortunately, she can't accept just how much of an irresponsible deadbeat Reggie is, as well as how unfit he is to be a father.
  • Heel Realization : Rowena has one that spans the final two hearings, after she witnesses in no uncertain terms exactly how much damage her son's actions have caused Elliot and his family. She realizes that she can't keep defending Reggie and that Elliot is not the racist that she assumed him to be (and that her lawyer brother kept convincing her to perpetuate), prompting her to withdraw the custody bid on the grounds that he address his drinking problem. Reggie also has a heel realization after sneaking into Eloise's room with intent to take her away from Elliot; he sees through her drawings and the photos on the wall, including one of her mother, that she loves all her family and that his actions will only end up hurting Eloise. He gives up on trying to take her and rescues Elliot from drowning before apologizing for the death of Eloise's mother and withdrawing his custody bid .
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point : Jeremiah is entirely correct that Reggie is a drug addict and a criminal, calling him a "walking stereotype."
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child! : Surprisingly averted: While Elliot's daughter died giving birth to Eloise, Elliot makes it painfully clear that he places that blame entirely on Reggie.
  • Mistaken for Racist : Rowena assumes that Elliot is racist because he refuses to ignore Eloise's Caucasian heritage, referring to her as "half-black, half-white" while Rowena and her family only refer to her as black. Rowena's lawyer/brother makes matters worse by deliberately arranging for a black judge and bringing up the fact that Elliot had referred to Reggie as the "n-word" in a fit of rage. Elliot is disgusted by the lawyer playing the race card and brutally defies the trope himself. He calls Jeremiah out on his behavior and delivers a painful "Reason You Suck" Speech , laying out exactly why he called Reggie that slur (it was how he referred to himself in text conversations with Elliot's daughter, so that was all he could think about when he was that angry), showing remorse for doing so, and explaining why he hates Reggie so much (being an irresponsible drug addict and criminal who never showed remorse over what happened to Elliot's daughter).
  • Oscar Bait : Considering the subject matter, it was almost certainly intended to be this, however, it wasn't nominated for any Oscar.
  • Profiling : It is the threat of racial profiling that makes Jeremiah extremely reluctant to involve Reggie in the custody battle. Reggie is a drug-addict and a convicted felon, and Jeremiah doesn't want the stereotypical image of the black druggie convict damaging their case, especially since he's not convinced that Reggie is clean. He acquiesces to Rowena's insistence that Reggie is the father and therefore deserves to be involved. Unfortunately, Jeremiah was right all along about that if nothing else .
  • Raised by Grandparents : Eloise has been raised from birth by her maternal grandparents. Her mother died in childbirth, and while her father is alive, he can't exactly be considered good parenting material.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech : Jeremiah gives a scathing one to Reggie, bluntly pointing out how he's a walking embodiment of every bad stereotype White People have against Black People.
  • This Is Unforgivable! : While it's not actually said in the movie, this is how Elliot sees Reggie's impregnation of his daughter. Averted at the end: when Reggie saves Elliot from drowning (after a knife/fist/coffee mug fight while Elliot was drunk and Reggie was high on crack), Reggie finally apologizes for the death of Elliot's daughter, and withdraws his bid at the hearing the next day, admitting his unpreparedness to be in Eloise's life. This seems to be enough to convince Elliot not to tell the judge what happened, sparing Reggie drug, assault, attempted murder, B&E, and attempted kidnapping charges .
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black or white movie analysis essay

“Black or White” Michael Jackson Song Analysis Essay

Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” is a song that has often been interpreted in various ways. Some say it is a anthem for racial equality, while others believe it is about Michael’s own struggles with race and identity. Michael himself has said that the song is “about people coming together.”

Michael Jackson wrote “Black or White” with the help of his friend Bill Bottrell. The two had worked together on several of Jackson’s previous albums, including Bad and Dangerous.

“Black or White” was released as the first single from Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous in November of 1991. The song was an instant success, reaching number one in more than 20 countries.

In the United States, “Black or White” became the number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song remained at the top spot for 7 weeks, making it the longest running number one single of Michael Jackson’s career.

The music video for “Black or White” was directed by John Landis and featured Michael Jackson in a number of different looks and settings. The video was controversial when it was first released due to its use of special effects and Jackson’s physical appearance.

Despite the controversy, “Black or White” remains one of Michael Jackson’s most popular and iconic songs. It is a powerful message about coming together as human beings, no matter what our differences may be. Michael Jackson’s legacy continues to inspire people all over the world.

For good cause, the King of Pop title was given to Michael Jackson. His memorable lyrics, stunning dance moves, and distinctive costumes captivated his audiences. His legacy has continued beyond death, with his music being broadcast on the radio and his concert film This Is It becoming available shortly after his passing. People continue to moonwalk and perform the Thriller dance in his honor. He addressed racial and social injustices in his songs as well as musical barriers from his era.

One of Michael’s most popular and memorable songs is “Black or White” from his Dangerous album.

“Black or White” was the first single off of Michael’s eighth studio album, Dangerous. The song was written by Michael and produced by Michael and Bill Bottrell. The song was originally written with rock guitarist Slash in mind, but Michael decided to produce it himself with a few changes. The song speaks about racial equality and unity and how we are all the same despite the color of our skin. It starts off with a rap by Michael’s then-11-year-old son, Prince Michael Jackson II, also known as Blanket.

The music video for “Black or White” was directed by Michael and John Landis, who also directed Michael’s “ Thriller” music video. The “Black or White” video was groundbreaking as it was the first music video to be aired on MTV, BET, VH1, and other channels simultaneously. The video features Michael dancing in front of a backdrop of cityscapes from around the world. At one point, Michael transforms into a panther and goes on a rampage through the city streets.

The message of the song and video is clear: we are all the same, no matter what color our skin is. Michael uses his platform to spread a message of love and unity during a time when racial tensions were high. The song was a huge success, reaching number one in 27 countries.

Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” is more than just a pop song; it’s a powerful anthem for racial equality and unity. Michael uses his platform to spread an important message that we are all the same, no matter what color our skin is. The song was a huge success, reaching number one in 27 countries. Michael Jackson’s legacy continues to live on through his music and messages of love and unity.

Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana. He has entertained people for most of his life. Joe Jackson had been a guitarist but abandoned his musical ambitions following the formation of The Jackson 5 in the mid-1960s after Michael and his brothers Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie. In the 1970s and 1980s, he achieved fame as a solo artist with songs such as “Off the Wall,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Thriller.” In 1991, he released “Black or White.”

“Black or White” is a song by Michael Jackson from his 1991 album Dangerous. The song was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell. Michael Jackson stated that the song is about racial harmony and unity. The song’s lyrics discuss racism, poverty, violence and drug abuse. The song also promotes self-improvement and pride in one’s origins.

Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” was released on November 11, 1991. The song was a worldwide success. It topped the charts in various countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Spain. The song also received positive reviews from music critics. Michael Jackson won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Black or White” at the 1992 ceremony.

“Black or White” is an uptempo dance-pop and rock song. The song’s tempo is estimated at around 115 beats per minute. The song features heavy use of guitar, bass and drums. Michael Jackson’s vocal range spans from B3 to A5. The song also features rap verses by L.L. Cool J.

The music video for “Black or White” was directed by John Landis. The video features Michael Jackson dancing and performing various martial arts moves. The video also features cameo appearances by Macaulay Culkin, Tyra Banks and Michael Jordan. Michael Jackson won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video for the “Black or White” music video at the 1993 ceremony.

“Black or White” has been covered by numerous artists. In 2001, a remix of the song was released as part of Michael Jackson’s posthumous album Invincible. The remix was produced by Will.i.am and features rap verses from Busta Rhymes and Fergie.

What is the purpose of the song “Black or White” by Michael Jackson?

The purpose of the song “Black or White” by Michael Jackson is to promote racial harmony and unity. The lyrics of the song discuss racism, poverty, violence and drug abuse. The song also promotes self-improvement and pride in one’s origins.

Even after segregation was made illegal in 1991, his song Black or White is still well-known today. It was composed just a few years after racial integration was embraced. Despite the fact that blacks and whites were legally equal, there was still social stress between African Americans and white people.

The lyrics of Michael Jackson’s song Black or White reflect this social tension, but also show a message of hope for a future where people are united and not divided by race.

The first two lines of the song go, “I took my baby on a Saturday bang / Boy is that girl with you? / I’m glad to see that you’re doing well / But I wanna warn you about her style”. These lines can be interpreted in a number of ways, but one possible interpretation is that the narrator is warning the boy about dating outside his race. In other words, he is warning him about dating a black girl. The use of the word “bang” could also be interpreted as a reference to the fact that black people are often associated with violence.

The next two lines, “She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing / Watch out for her, she’s dangerous”, continue this theme of warning the boy about the girl he is dating. The use of the word “sheep” could be interpreted as a reference to the fact that white people are often seen as being innocent or naïve. This is contrasted with the word “wolf”, which is used to describe the girl. This could be interpreted as a reference to the fact that black people are often seen as being dangerous or predatory.

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Black and White Movies: Video Essay Explores the Power of the Colorless Art Form

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Many audiences are often put off by the prospect of watching a black-and-white movie — chances are, you too went through a stretch during which you viewed colorless filmmaking as perhaps dull and boring. But as most film fans have come to learn, black-and-white films not only defined an era of filmmaking, they also utilize an abundance of shadows and high-contrast lighting to create truly beautiful images to this very day.

Below, RocketJump Film School chronicles the history of black-and-white filmmaking, as well as the elements that make these films so special, in their video essay “So You Don’t Want to Watch a Black & White Movie?”

READ MORE: Watch: Supercut Highlights 26 Movies With Beautiful Black-And-White Cinematography

The video covers the major film movements that perfected the use of black-and-white cinematography, from German Expressionism to Film Noir, demonstrating how horror and crime served as the perfect mediums for colorless and shadowy visuals to thrive in. The video also covers the symbolic contrast between black and white, as well as the dreamlike and nightmarish qualities of the atmosphere the technique creates, while also being capable of establishing a historical and authentic feel to films, adding historical realism to movies like David Lynch’s “ The Elephant Man ” and Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 “ Godzilla ” film.

READ MORE: Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast: ‘Witch’ Director Robert Eggers’ Lifelong Obsession with ’Nosferatu’ and His Plans For a Remake (Episode 13)

The video also explores how removing color cannot only significantly alter one’s visual experience of a film, but also change the narrative impact, as presented with examples of “ Mad Max: Fury Road ” and “ The Mist ,” both contemporary films that prove that, while filmmakers continue to master color in film, black and white will always have a space to be loved and stay relevant. Bookended with quotes from Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese , this video delivers an impeccably in-depth analysis on the importance of color (or lack thereof) in film.

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68 Blindspotting (2018)

Blindspotting (2018) and Seeing Both Sides of the Picture

By Graham King

“How come every time you come around you monsters got me feeling like a monster in my own town?” Collin, played by Daveed Diggs, screams at a white police officer while pointing a gun at him and fighting back tears. This single line by Collin is a perfect encapsulation of everything Blindspotting is about. From gentrification to police violence, Blindspotting tackles many hard subjects in a way that is able to capture the audience’s attention from start to finish. Directed by Carlos López Estrada and co-written by the co-stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, this team creates a comedic drama that depicts how difference, power, and discrimination affect the way people live their lives every day. Estrada said in an interview with No Film School that “the whole movie is about perspective and about angles and different people’s understanding of the same events” and Blindspotting explores these perspectives in a very well done and entertaining way.

Having grown up together in Oakland, California, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wanted to make a movie that felt true to Oakland and highlighted certain conditions that they had experienced in their time living there. In an interview with Colorlines, Diggs stated “We decided it should be about the Bay Area and Oakland specifically because we’d never seen it done in the way that we always imagined it to be, and that it should star us. Right about that time, Oscar Grant was killed at Fruitvale BART Station. In telling an Oakland story, that was a part of the story we were telling.” The police shooting of an unarmed black man is one of the narrative elements in Blindspotting, clearly drawing parallels to Oscar Grant’s murder. Diggs and Casal were able to use this event as motivation to complete this multi-year project and setting the movie in Oakland added a new personal level to the experience.

Screenshot from Blindspotting

Unlike discrimination and power, which are both easily definable, difference is more complex and has different meanings in different situations. In order to understand difference in the context of this movie, it is necessary to break down the title of the film and what it actually means. As described in the scene between Collin and his ex-girlfriend Val, blindspotting is when a situation or an image can be interpreted in two different ways, but you can only see one of the interpretations. A real-life example could be the boys from the Central Park Five case. While some people may see a group of teenagers joking around in the park, others may see a group of thugs harassing and assaulting people throughout the park. In regard to this movie, while people who know Collin know he is a nice and harmless person, outsiders may assume he is dangerous and violent simply based on his appearance. These different views are all shaped based on everyone’s prior experiences in life and it will affect how they view any given situation. However, even if somebody points out the other side of the picture to you, it doesn’t remove the blindspot. Someone can’t go against what their brain instinctually tells them unless they spend the time to retrain their brain to see the other picture. Estrada also uses editing to highlight differences between characters in the film. During a phone call between Collin and Val, rather than having cuts back and forth whenever one person is talking, Estrada decided he would rather use a split-screen to keep both characters on screen the entire time. This split-screen does a great job of showing that these characters have differing views about their life and what living in Oakland means to them. While Collin is content with staying in Oakland and working as a mover, Val wants to get an education and move on with her life. Additionally, the split-screen ties back into what the entire movie is about and continues to reinforce that everyone has different perspectives on the same situations.

Blindspotting also tackles the issues of power in a more straightforward way. The most prominent issue of power is the relationship between the police officer and the black man who was murdered. The police officer was clearly in power in that situation and killed an unarmed man who was not a threat to anyone around him. Although the cop says that he did not mean to kill him at the end of the movie, there is no guarantee that he wouldn’t do it again due to his blindspot. Another issue of power is how people who become convicted felons have that title hung over their heads for the rest of their life. An example from the movie is when the landlord says “You are a convicted felon, Mr. Hoskins. You are now that until proven otherwise. Prove otherwise at all times.” This is something that is applicable to felons in the real world as well. As the documentary 13th described, once you are incarcerated once, you have so many of your rights taken away and there is a figurative scarlet letter placed on you that everybody you met for the rest of your life will judge you on. More specifically, felons lose their right to vote, their right to bear arms, their right to travel abroad, and lastly, it is not illegal for employers to refuse to hire a felon. Being incarcerated once puts you in a powerless position for the rest of your life and allows for other people to trample all over you because they know there is nothing you can do about it.

Screenshot from Blindspotting

The last topic that Blindspotting talks about is discrimination. Other than the obvious discrimination that the police officer displays when he shot the unarmed black man, there are other more subtle moments that discuss discrimination. For example, during one of the scenes Collins’s ex-girlfriend, Val, tells Collin that he should consider changing up his look and cutting his hair because he looks like a criminal. This moment highlights how people will often place blame on the person they assumed did it based on race and appearance. People will often associate certain looks with crime and bad behavior such as being black or dressing differently than how white people dress. In addition to this, Collin was concerned about his relationship with Miles the entire movie because he was scared Miles was going to get him in trouble even though he wasn’t doing anything. For example, after Miles beats up a man outside of a party while holding a gun, Collin confronts him and says “And then what? Then they gonna call the fucking cops and they gonna shoot my black ass and not you!” This is a concern that a lot of black people can relate to. Similar to the Central Park Five, even if the black person was not responsible for the violent actions, the blame will often be placed on them because people love jumping to conclusions.

One counter-argument that people may bring up is that black people are not being treated unfairly by law enforcement or by other people in general. In opposition to this belief, one statistic that I find disturbing is the disproportionate amount of black people that are incarcerated compared to other races. For example, according to the NAACP, “One out of every three Black boys born today can expect to be sentenced to prison, compared 1 out 6 Latino boys; one out of 17 white boys.” In addition to this, after viewing other films or TV shows such as Just Mercy, Fruitvale Station, and When They See Us, all of which are based on true events, I find it very obvious that black people are still being discriminated against and treated unfairly in America based on the high level of discrimination depicted in these various forms of media.

I choose Blindspotting among other movies is because it is geographically relevant to me. Because I live in a town in East Bay, San Francisco I find stories that relate to Oakland and the overall Bay Area to be very interesting and enlightening. Other movies that have attracted me based on their location were The Last Black Man in San Francisc o and Fruitvale Station . All of these movies are important to me because I take pride in the place that I live and I believe that it is necessary to learn about the lives of other people that live in the same area as you. Having lived in a more affluent area of the East Bay, I am often sheltered from the atrocities that are taking place around me. Rather than remain ignorant to these atrocities, it is my duty to educate myself better on the place that I call home.

In the end, Blindspotting highlights many different issues that people of color are still facing every day. From gentrification to making assumptions based on someone’s skin tone and appearance, this movie uses the dynamic between Collin and Miles to show that it is time to let go of these preconceived notions that everyone is so eager to make. It is time to see both sides of the picture, educate yourself on what is going on around you, and get rid of that blindspot that is haunting you every day.

“The Rights of Felons After Release.” The Cochran Firm, 2 Oct. 2018, cochranfirm.com/rights-felons-release.

Luers, Erik. “‘Blindspotting’: Daveed Diggs and Carlos López Estrada on Their New Oakland Classic.” No Film School, 9 Aug. 2018, nofilmschool.com/2018/03-Daveed-Diggs-Carlos-Lopez-Estrada-Blindspotting-interview.

NAACP. “NAACP | Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, 2020, www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.

Rao, Sameer. “Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal Break Down Their Film ‘Blindspotting.’” Colorlines, 23 Aug. 2018, www.colorlines.com/articles/daveed-diggs-and-rafael-casal-break-down-their-film-blindspotting.

Zacharek, Stephanie. “Blindspotting Takes a Hard Look at Race and Gentrification.” Time, 19 July 2018, time.com/5342742/blindspotting-review.

Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays Copyright © by Students at Linn-Benton Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Analysis of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”

Collection of information and data.

The song released in 1991 as the first single of an upcoming “Dangerous” album lasted for approximately three minutes, whereas the album version of the track included a one-minute introduction to the song. The introduction itself consists of a dialogue between a child and a father, with dad being notably irritated by the loud music sounds coming from his son’s room. The conversation ends with the sounds of musical equipment tuning and the phrase “Eat this!” after which the first tunes of the song start playing. Such an opening serves as a shortened version of dialogue in the official music video and, thus, makes more sense for the recipients familiar with the video playback.

The genre of the song comprises an individual pop-rock style of Michael Jackson’s songs and hip hop performed by “L.T.B.” Two primary music elements that draw the listener’s attention are Michael Jackson’s vocals central to the composition and Bill Bottrell’s guitar riff. The time signature of a song is 4/4 beat, with a BPM of 117 (Jackson, 2016). The arrangement of the song comprises the use of guitars, drums, bass guitar, and synthesizers, with the guitar being a major instrument that contributes the most value to the sound. The sound volume is forte, providing the overall vocal performance with an upbeat mood throughout the whole song.

In order to define the sense behind the song, it is vital to dwell on the artist’s background, as the concept of race and its interpretation in the context of Michael Jackson’s lifestyle had been one of the most controversial topics both before and during the “Dangerous” release. Originally a Black performer, Michael Jackson was globally famous not only because of his artistic success but also due to his gradual transformation from dark to light skin (Smallcombe, 2016).

The truth behind the so-called “bleaching” process concerned the fact that Jackson struggled with a severe skin condition known as vitiligo (Allard & Lecocq, 2018). Thus, the singer preferred to use skin-whitening medications and creams in order to eliminate an uneven allocation of light skin areas on his body. While the situation was eventually explained, by the time of the “Black or White” release, there was not much information on the topic, and the audience required answers considering Jackson’s attitude to his race and ethnicity.

The true meaning behind the lyrics is easier to understand with the help of music video as a primary supporting material. In the video, Michael Jackson celebrates diversity by dancing with representatives of various ethnic and racial minorities, and the final refrain is supported by playback of close-ups of people of different nationalities (Jackson, 2016). The song itself was highly appraised by the general public and eventually became one of the symbols of pop culture in the 1990s and 2000s.

Analyzing Lyrics

The primary theme of the song concerns the notion of social equality and racial equality, in particular. Being notoriously called a song describing racial harmony (Vogel, 2019), “Black or White” opens with the following stanza:

I took my baby on a Saturday bang

Boy is that girl with you?

Yes we’re one and the same

Now I believe in miracles

And a miracle has happened tonight.

These lines may be interpreted either as a dialogue or Michael Jackson quoting his previous interactions. Either way, the hero refers to an event of going out with a girlfriend on a Saturday night, whereas somebody is baffled by the fact that they are together. It would be reasonable to assume that the “baby” here stands for a woman of different racial and ethnic affiliation, presumably, white.

Although the 1990s were a pivotal moment in Black American history in terms of minority representation in pop culture, the implicit segregation between the white and black communities still existed, and Black people were not used to interracial dating due to trauma and communication gap surrounding the relationship (Willis, 2020). Moreover, the same issue exists even nowadays, with Black people being scared of embracing interracial relationships (Zaloom, 2020). For this reason, these lines may aim at bridging the racial gap and focusing on the similarity of being human, which is enough to identify people as “one and the same.”

The second stanza is a chorus with the following lines:

But if you’re thinkin’ about my baby

It don’t matter if you’re black or white.

The hero refers to the question asked in the previous stanza, as he claims that he does not think about the person’s racial or ethnic affiliation even when others find it difficult to believe to see an interracial couple having a good time. The primary message of the song may be conveyed with the help of the phrase “It don’t matter if you’re black or white,” as it serves as a manifestation of racial harmony and equality.

The third stanza has the following lyrics:

They print my message in the Saturday Sun

I had to tell them I ain’t second to none

And I told about equality

And it’s true either you’re wrong or you’re right.

The first two lines manifest Jackson’s intention to prove everybody wrong by being a Black singer who is published in a Saturday delivery of the Sun Newspaper, as he wants to reassure everybody he is not “second to none,” as he tends to be equal. Such a message may be regarded as Jackson’s willingness to show that his skin color does not by any chance make him better than any Black person, as he later mentions how proud he is of his roots in an interview with Oprah Winfrey (Knopper, 2016). The lines about equality may be interpreted as Jackson’s claim that in a discussion about equality, there are no rights and wrongs because rating one’s opinion higher than others ruins the overall essence of equality.

The next stanza may be rightfully interpreted as a manifesto of the Black community:

I’m tired of this devil

I’m tired of this stuff

I’m tired of this business

So when the going gets rough

I ain’t scared of your brother

I ain’t scared of no sheets

I ain’t scared of nobody

Girl, when the goin’ gets mean

The hero claims that even when everything goes down, the exhaustion caused by inequality and oppression will eradicate the traces of fear for “brother,” which may be a collective image of the people reinforcing inequality, “sheets,” which may refer to the clothes of KKK, and, eventually, nobody.

The notorious hip-hop part of the lyrics comprises many insights into the meaning:

Protection for gangs, clubs, and nations

Causing grief in human relations

It’s a turf war on a global scale

I’d rather hear both sides of the tale

See, it’s not about races just places, faces

Where your blood comes from

Is where your space is

I’ve seen the bright get duller

I’m not gonna spend my life being a color.

The phenomenon of protection in the first line may refer to people’s eagerness to isolate their communities from minorities and, eventually, lead the world into a chaos of rivalry and mistrust. The rapper encourages people to hear “both sides of the tale” and pay attention to what racial minorities have to say because skin color is not a major attribute of one’s personality. Eventually, L.T.B. states that he has seen the bright get duller, and this line may as well be an allusion to the skin transformation that happened to Michael Jackson, who tries to cherish his heritage without labeling it with color.

The next stanza states:

Don’t tell me you agree with me

When I saw you kicking dirt in my eye.

These lines are somehow self-explanatory, as the hero voices his concerns over people who seemingly celebrate equality while implicitly judging people by their skin color and racial affiliation. The final stanza includes the following refrain:

It’s black, it’s white

It’s tough for you to get by

Yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The phrase “it’s tough for you to get by” here may refer to people who cannot find a reasonable explanation of why they have to stop labeling people in terms of their differences and celebrate that they are “one and the same” instead. Indeed, it may be challenging for some people to think beyond the prejudice and stigma that exists for decades. However, the tone of this line probably makes it more appropriate when addressing people who willingly refuse to embrace equality.

Thus, having considered the historical context of the 1990s characterized by the emergence of Black culture as a rightful part of the American community and ongoing prevalence of racial discrimination in the social context, it may be concluded that Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” is a personal contribution to the eliminating racial inequality and manifesting universal love and respect.

Allard, F., & Lecocq, R. (2018). Mickael Jackson: All the songs: The story behind every track. Hachette UK.

Jackson, M. (2016). Michael Jackson – Black or White (Official video) [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Knopper, S. (2016). MJ: The genius of Michael Jackson. Simon and Schuster.

Smallcombe, M. (2016). Making Mickael: Inside the career of Michael Jackson . Clink Street Publishing.

Vogel, J. (2019). Man in the music. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Willis, K. (2020). How ‘90s TV transformed black representation. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Web.

Zaloom. S. (2020). Black teens talk about dating in White communities . The Washington Post . Web.

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The Film “Black Panther” Analysis Research Paper

Introduction, impact on the society, women power, works cited.

Black Panther is a Marvel Studio film; the scene is laid in the fictional African state of Wakanda, a technological utopia hidden from the rest of the world. The movie shows Africa, which was not touched by the colonialists. Black Panther is wildly based on the emphasis of African culture and beautifully expressed throughout the whole film; it focuses on costumes, make-up, and language. Moreover, the film and distribution of a motion picture allow the audience to consider such important issues as diversity and range, the importance of social media, and its impact on society, and women’s power. Overall, the film Black Panther celebrates the African Culture and the Black community.

The film presents deep insights and critical social issues; Black Panther reveals many important social problems, including racial discrimination, and questions about what is more important: duty or to protect what you love. There is the opposition between the old and the new world (Mcintyre). Authentic culture collides with technology and modern realities, somewhere complementing each other and, at the same time, causing misunderstandings and problems.

In almost all colors and patterns in the film, the audience can see the reflection of the cultures of various African tribes (Chutel). It encourages the younger generation to know about cultures and how to respect and embrace them. This is a new way to show that Africa has a voice and a highly recognizable culture (Long). Thus, it gives opportunities, confidence, and courage to the other African people living under the shadows to be proud of their culture, countries, and themselves.

For the film, its creators created the gesture Wakanda salute, shown as arms crossed on the chest. It is used according to the plot as a greeting in the protagonist’s homeland (Gander). However, after the release of Black Panther , the fictional greeting gained such widespread popularity that it even became a new symbol of solidarity and the movement supporting black rights (Gander). Furthermore, the film Black Panther has affected fashion; elements of African culture have inspired designers to create clothes. This resulted in a show as part of New York Fashion Week, where designers of the brands Cushnie et Ochs, Ikiré Jones, Tome, Sophie Theallet, Fear of God, Chromat, and Laquan Smith presented a themed collection inspired by images from the film (Maloney). Therefore, the movie inspired fashion, music, and popular culture, which became an overnight sensation.

The movie shows strong feminist characters; T’Challa has his own army called Dora Milaje, composed entirely of women. From century to century, they guard all members of the family of the king of Wakanda. Moreover, Wakanda is also a country of victorious feminism, in which women play no less important roles than men. T’Challa’s sister Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) is engaged in the technological development of Wakanda (Lee). The power of the female character is also presented by Black Panther’s beloved Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, and the leader of the royal female protection squad Okoye (Danai Gurira) (Lee). The female characters, albeit not the main ones, clearly demonstrate a powerful and positive image.

The women are shown as strong and loyal; they stick together and fight together. It is worth highlighting the inventive and cheerful sister of TʼChalla Shuri, who slightly dilutes the general seriousness and pretentiousness with her jokes. Shuri carries a critical semantic load; she supports Black Panther, placing on her fragile shoulders the burden men usually carry. Moreover, Okoye embodies concepts such as honor, duty, and loyalty. According to Lee, the film eliminates sexist prejudices; women’s personalities and skills attract attention first instead of their sex appeal. For instance, their qualities are shown through effective battle strategies and saving the life of T’Challa (Lee).

The film emphasizes that women play a crucial role in protecting the nation, not needing to be rescued by males. The movie focuses on the idea that women can be powerful without men or regardless of their skin color. Strength comes from within and not the outer appearance.

The relationship between Nakia and T’Challa also focuses on the character’s missions. Nakia fights for oppressed people, planning to resume her activity after the T’Challa ceremony; there is the mutual respect in their relationship. They are role models to many women throughout the world, teaching women to be strong and confident. It also inspires young black women to achieve their ambitions and goals. Thus, the movie demonstrates that women can follow their passion and determine their life themselves.

The movie Black Panther has become one of the most successful films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the film’s box office worldwide has exceeded billion dollars. The influence of the film extends both to the film industry and beyond. In the case of Black Panther, this story can encourage people to study the history of the African continent. For a long time, Africa has existed in Western culture as a myth, a tale of a wild and untamed continent. People do not imagine a technologically advanced Africa as the Western world for centuries considered this continent backward and primitive, a place where there is nothing but resources for mining.

The idea of ​​African heritage and its return and reinterpretation is vital to African Americans. The ideas embodied in the film appeal to the inhabitants of Africa and the Americans of African descent, who feel their connection with the continent, but were cut off from their traditions several hundred years ago. Thus, the film Black Panther glorifies the African Culture and the Black community. By changing the future of Africa, it is transforming the attitude toward its past.

Chutel, Lynsey. “ Marvel’s Black Panther will speak this real African language. ” Quartz Media . 2018. Web.

Gander, Kashmira. “ Is the Black Panther ‘Wakanda Salute’ Becoming a Symbol of Black Pride ? ” Newsweek . 2018. Web.

Lee, Shanon. “ The women of ‘Black Panther’ are empowered not just in politics and war, but also in love. ” The Washington Post . 2018. Web.

Long, Kelle. “ The Amazing & Unconventional Creations of the Black Panther Make-up Designer. ” The Credits . 2018. Web.

Maloney, Nora. “ Backstage at the Black Panther New York Fashion Week Presentation. ” Vanity Fair . 2018. Web.

Mcintyre, Gina. “ The bold costumes of ‘Black Panther’ join tradition and technology. ” Los Angeles Time . 2018. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2023, October 31). The Film "Black Panther" Analysis. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-film-black-panther-analysis/

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IvyPanda . "The Film "Black Panther" Analysis." October 31, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-film-black-panther-analysis/.

  • King T’Challa’s Leadership in “Black Panther”
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Opinion Fact or ‘American Fiction’? 3 columnists on the best picture nominee.

“ American Fiction ” is up for five Oscars on Sunday, including best picture, best adapted screenplay (by the movie’s director, Cord Jefferson, from Percival Everett’s novel “ Erasure ”) and best actor, for the performance by D.C. native Jeffrey Wright . Post Opinions asked three columnists to watch the movie and then email each other about it — and the issues it raises. An edited transcript of their conversation is below. And if you’re wondering, yes, there are spoilers.

Who decides what is a Black book?

Perry Bacon: What does it mean to do public work (art, film, music, book writing, journalism) as a Black person in “woke America”? That’s a question I think about a lot. “American Fiction” is very explicitly about that question.

I should define my terms, because they are important. In my view, a lot of the racial discourse in the 1980s and 1990s was about “multiculturalism.” The 2000s were about “diversity.” Post-Black Lives Matter, the discourse became more explicitly about Black people, as opposed to “people of color.” And there is more focus on racism, as opposed to “race relations” or “race” broadly. Those are good shifts. (We should also talk about women, Muslims, Jewish Americans and other groups. What’s good is more specificity, as opposed to lumping everyone into a category of “minorities.”)

The complicated part is that powerful White people run America. They are the funders, the donors, the bosses in most cases. So by “woke,” I mean that powerful White people have become more awakened and willing to discuss anti-blackness/Black-White racial disparities than before, but still often are not ready to actually address these issues through policies and actions.

black or white movie analysis essay

America is also capitalist, of course. So art, music, journalism, etc., must usually connect with (or at least appease) the market and White managers/bosses. When Monk, the main character played by Jeffrey Wright in “American Fiction,” says something along the lines of, “My book is a Black book because I’m Black and I wrote it,” he’s getting at a really important issue. I would like to live in a world where Black people decide what counts as a Black book. I think most White power brokers would say they agree.

But in reality, if you want your book/article/play/movie to be heavily promoted by your company (usually run by White people), it will need to fit their definition of what counts as a Black book and one they want to promote. (Your company might agree, for example, that a documentary about reparations is a Black product and also feel it is too radical for them to promote heavily.)

We all work at an institution where most of the bosses and the owner (Jeff Bezos) are White. So sometimes, when I get praise for my work by our managers, I have two questions. Am I producing work that an institution dominated by Black people would also appreciate? Second, does a Black person doing good work at The Washington Post mean they are kowtowing to the institution’s definition of Blackness? (I suspect the answer to both questions is yes. They are not totally contradictory.)

What did you guys think of the movie? Did it raise similar questions for you — or different ones?

Ted Johnson: You’re right, Perry — what it’s like to be Black in a woke America is the central question of the movie. Being able to get a third-party perspective on something you’ve been through makes for a good movie.

Yet I kept waiting for the moment when all the talent on the screen would hit me with an insight or different view about being Black in today’s America that I hadn’t yet seen. That may be too big of an ask, but the promise was there.

A new book and the literary world’s reaction to it drive the movie’s plotline, which plays with the complicated business of profiting from performative racial stereotypes. The folks with the most power get an outsize voice in which stories and frameworks get a platform. The most prevalent ones can become the defining ones. And many times, the decisions in this regard are made without consideration of the people who, in this instance, are Black.

What’s it like to be one of them? A writer who’s so disgusted with literary blackface that he’s going to mock them all by wearing it, just to show them how ridiculous it all is? But then they love it. And it’s profitable. And he needs the money. Now what?

Again, that’s a good movie. But I wanted the cultural commentary to poke me in the chest a little more with Monk’s personal dilemma as a Black writer.

It’s a particular experience to balance wisdom about how the world works — and needing to make a way in it — with a responsibility to guard your culture from undue external influence. It can be a real quandary. Monk, and the movie, kind of tap dance around that question, unfortunately.

But the cast and the look and feel of the film made that small letdown better. I love how Black and Gen X it is, too, tackling issues lots of us are facing for the first time: making a way in a professional world different from the one that raised us, aging parents and their well-being and care, financial pressures to help family or friends outside your household, loved ones and classmates passing away.

The absurdities of White “woke liberals”

Karen Attiah: I agree that this movie is brilliant and multilayered. It hits a little close to home on many levels, both professionally in journalism and publishing and also personally, navigating changing family relationships as age sets in with my elders.

This movie is about the absurdities of White “woke liberals,” for whom the language of inclusion and allyship masks patronizing behavior, stereotyping, etc., which maintains White power over the types of Blackness that get platformed.

Ten or 20 years ago, we heard a lot about Black people having to “code-switch” in White spaces — be relatable and non-threatening to White people.

Monk represents a new and extreme form of code-switching according to the sensibilities of “woke” White people, who represent a certain type of racial capitalism that is only interested in Black trauma, violence and broken homes.

Part of what makes this movie so compelling and so uncomfortable to watch are the contradictions and tensions that Monk exposes and experiences, but also embodies as a flawed character himself. In more ways than one, we see that Monk is judgmental of others, including his own family, girlfriend and, of course, successful black author Sintara Golden (played by Issa Rae). He believes Golden doesn’t deserve her success because of her education and her privilege — meanwhile he doesn’t even bother to read her book. He claims that White America isn’t interested in the nuances of Black experiences that don’t have to do with trauma, but we see that he is distant from his family, doesn’t know what is going on with them and looks down on his gay, plastic surgeon brother who is struggling after a divorce.

Perry Bacon: Two scenes from the movie will stick with me. The first is when there are five judges (three White, two Black) who are deciding which book will win an award. The three White judges choose the Black-authored book full of cringy stereotypes about Black people, over the objections of the two Black judges. One of the White judges, justifying her decision, says, “It’s time to listen to Black voices,” as the two Black judges look down.

That perfectly captured the dynamics of today. “Listen to Black voices,” “Trust Black women,” all of these mantras that became popular in 2020 are, of course, overly simplistic. But even if an organization decides to listen more to its Black staffers, the obvious question is, “Which Black voices are we listening to?” After the 2020 protests, it became clear that Democratic Party leadership (mostly White) was going to listen to some Black voices (Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and other Black folk in the political establishment) and not others (the activists who called for defunding the police).

There is a second scene that I will remember — because it fell flat. The two Black authors, played by Rae and Wright, are debating the merits of the book written by Rae’s character.

I was hoping for a really forceful debate about Black art and how much it should try to appease the market and White power brokers. But the film seemed unwilling to go there. The scene implies that Wright’s character might just be depressed or snobby or envious of Rae’s character’s success. I agree that people’s motives are often complicated. But I wanted the film to lean more into “Black art is suffering from wokeness,” or “Black art is not really suffering from wokeness” or an alternative position. I wanted the film to say something, and it felt like punches were pulled there.

How do we talk of the Black elite?

Karen Attiah: The scene with Monk and Golden did stick out to me. What I find interesting about it is its ambiguity. Monk assumes Golden’s book is bad and pandering without having even read it. She tells him that her book is based on actual research and interviews with Black people. Meanwhile, he just made up characters out of thin air. Both Monk and Golden are highly educated, privileged Black people, also themselves gatekeepers in a way. How do we talk of the “Black elite,” the “ Talented Tenth ” who are chosen to speak for and about the Black experience? Did Golden handle that task more responsibly by basing her work on interviews? I wish we got more insight into her. She knows how the system works, and instead of fighting it, she uses it to her advantage.

Ted Johnson: I love that we’re lingering on this moment in the movie. The Monk-Golden exchange was one of the film’s flashes of brilliance. It uses a little story twist to shock the audience out of its preconceived notions. When Golden tells Monk her characters are based in pavement-pounding qualitative research, my jaw slipped just like Monk’s. And Issa Rae as Golden perfectly delivered the blow in her eyes and tone, never having to say it: Of course I did the work — what serious person doesn’t ?

It’s meant to hit the audience in the gut, asking, “Oh, you thought she was doing racist vaudeville when she was really just sharing her findings?” Dialect is culture. If something about it bothers you, there’s a judgment in there about how you see the people who use it. This gets to the intraracial phenomena that Karen raised: The “ Talented Tenth ”. Respectability politics. Which Black is beautiful — the Evans family in the sitcom “ Good Times ,” or the Huxtables of “ The Cosby Show ”? Isn’t the 1970s’ Blaxploitation film genre a distinct art form because it does social commentary and parable and parody all in one?

How important is this cultural conflict?

Perry Bacon: To bridge a bit away from the movie itself, I think it’s worth asking two questions.

How big and important of a problem is the issue that the movie is grappling with — the challenge of being a Black “creative” in a time when there is an appetite for more content produced by Black people but deep disagreement about what that content should be? This is obviously less important than police shootings of unarmed Black people. Does this conflict matter?

And how do you personally grapple with this issue?

Let me start with the first question. Culture matters. Policy matters more, but culture matters. I want more people watching “ The 1619 Project ” documentary series on Hulu and perhaps fewer watching Tyler Perry movies. The Republicans who are trying to ban books and classes that center systemic racism understand this. I think it’s critical in mainstream and left-wing media and cultural spaces to move beyond “diversity” (we have a movie starring a Black woman) and “wokeness” (the characters in our movie say “Black Lives Matter”) to “anti-racism” (our documentary series explains how police departments reject reforms that will make their policies less discriminatory).

Black creators need to be willing to fight for products that challenge the power structure of the country. Managers (usually White) need to stop blocking or softening content created by Black people that challenges power structures.

To put this very directly, I love that Karen’s s columns often challenge the beliefs of both major parties. Her pieces are not, “Here is my life, as a Black woman,” but, “Here is why America should change, informed by my perspective, which includes being a Black woman.”

I reached out to Karen early in my tenure as a columnist. I was complaining about the feedback I had gotten from a piece I had written, from someone I knew from my days in political reporting. Karen said something to the effect of, “You’re free now.” I don’t want to overstate this. I was never not free — I was born in 1980. The Black people in my generation and those who have followed are the freest ever.

But I took Karen’s comment to mean that you can write what you think without the hypothetical political operative/moderate voter/elected official/editor (read: centrist White man) in your head, shadow-editing your columns.

The movie reminded me how obsessed I was with appeasing White power brokers for most of my career, before I became a columnist. Because those power brokers could make or break your career. And I was sad thinking about how I assume most Black people in journalism and other creative fields still have to appease them.

Ted Johnson: Similar to y’all, my background is in a profession where objectivity was a watchword. In my previous military life, opinions about the world around you were best kept out of your work. But as a writer, a moment arrives when you have to give yourself permission to say what you think and how you feel. Out loud and in public. This means letting the world into your thoughts and ideas, giving the audience access to your beliefs and values. There’s a vulnerability required that’s hard to prepare for; you kind of have to experience it.

And then there’s the big question of where your work can do the most public good. For example, if, because of my résumé, White conservatives are willing to hear me out on structural racism or Blackness — do I have a responsibility to lean into a space that isn’t as accessible to lots of Black writers? If I just do me instead, have I become a free rider by refusing to do my part, so to speak, in the pursuit of pro-democracy reforms or modeling dialogue across differences?

There may be financial or professional incentives for choosing a different path, but I do think we have a responsibility — especially as Black opinion writers at The Post — to say what the younger versions of us could not, and what Black folks in lots of places cannot. Not as race representatives, but to exercise rights long denied to folks like us.

Karen Attiah: *Smiles mischievously*

Is this the point where we can grapple with the fact that our White editor wants us, among the few Black WaPo columnists, in a virtual room so that we can be observed and studied in how we think and navigate this world? Are we the subject of a Black Studies inquiry? Haha.

For me, my whole raison d'être of doing this type of work stems from knowing from a pretty early age that Black and African issues, perspectives and, well, humanity were erased and distorted in the West more generally. I have heard trepidation from White colleagues and bosses who say I shouldn’t feel pressure to cover only race or Black things. But frankly, I don’t feel pressured. No one says people who cover, say, politics or economics or foreign policy are being “boxed in” in some negative way. I do have varied interests, yes, but I find it a privilege and an honorable responsibility to dive into the Black world’s past, present and future.

If other audiences find these topics interesting, then that is nice. But it is not my main goal to educate or center non-Black people on Black people. Nor do I think the main goal is to champion every single thing a Black person does (see: my critical pieces on Beyoncé and Kamala Harris ). I think a lot about interviews with novelist Toni Morrison , or Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène , when they were asked whether they worried about appearing to marginalize Whites or Europe in their work. Morrison rebuts, saying basically, Black people and our stories are the mainstream. Sembène says, “Europe is not my center. … Why be a sunflower and turn toward the sun? I myself am the sun.”

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black or white movie analysis essay


Biden's State of the Union address, annotated and fact-checked

By Zachary B. Wolf and Sean O’Key, CNN

Published March 8, 2024

It may have been President Joe Biden’s final State of the Union address. Or possibly the last of his first term. As Biden and former President Donald Trump prepare for a 2024 general election rematch, a vigorous Biden went off script at times, directly addressing Republicans and making the case that his administration has improved the country and people’s lives.

Here’s what he said and key ad-libs, along with context and fact checks from CNN’s fact check team.

Good evening.

Mr. Speaker. Madam Vice President. Members of Congress. My Fellow Americans.

In January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt came to this chamber to speak to the nation.

He said, “I address you at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union."

Hitler was on the march. War was raging in Europe.

President Roosevelt’s purpose was to wake up the Congress and alert the American people that this was no ordinary moment.

Freedom and democracy were under assault in the world.

Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech closed with a vision of spreading American democracy to the world. That’s a very Biden sentiment .

Tonight I come to the same chamber to address the nation.

Now it is we who face an unprecedented moment in the history of the Union.

And yes, my purpose tonight is to both wake up this Congress, and alert the American people that this is no ordinary moment either.

It’s notable that Biden was essentially comparing the threat against democracy today, both here and abroad, to the threat posed by Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1941.

Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today.

What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time.

Biden’s challenge in this election is to make Americans believe his quest to save democracy is an urgent matter. The rise of Trump from the political desert suggests many Americans are tiring of the message.

Overseas, Putin of Russia is on the march, invading Ukraine and sowing chaos throughout Europe and beyond.

If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not.

But Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons it needs to defend itself. That is all Ukraine is asking. They are not asking for American soldiers.

In fact, there are no American soldiers at war in Ukraine. And I am determined to keep it that way.

This was an important pledge for Americans to hear. French President Emmanuel Macron recently suggested European troops could be called to Ukraine .

But now assistance for Ukraine is being blocked by those who want us to walk away from our leadership in the world.

The Senate passed a bill to give Ukraine an additional $60 billion in US aid, but Speaker Mike Johnson, who sat over Biden’s left shoulder during the speech, has not schedule d a vote in the House .

It wasn’t that long ago when a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, thundered, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Now, my predecessor, a former Republican President, tells Putin, “Do whatever the hell you want."

Reagan’s words were an important moment in US history. Watch it here. Trump, he who shall not be named in this speech, said recently that he told a European leader that Russia should be able to “ do whatever the hell they want ” to European countries that don’t spend enough on defense.

A former American President actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader.

It’s outrageous. It’s dangerous. It’s unacceptable.

This “bowing down” line has become a staple of Biden’s speeches.

America is a founding member of NATO the military alliance of democratic nations created after World War II to prevent war and keep the peace.

Today, we’ve made NATO stronger than ever.

We welcomed Finland to the Alliance last year, and just this morning, Sweden officially joined NATO, and their Prime Minister is here tonight.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to NATO, the strongest military alliance the world has ever known.

Sweden was able to join NATO after Turkey and Hungary dropped objections. Coincidentally, Trump is set to meet with Hungary’s Putin-friendly prime minister, Viktor Orban, at Mar-a-Lago on Friday.

I say this to Congress: we must stand up to Putin. Send me the Bipartisan National Security Bill.

History is watching.

If the United States walks away now, it will put Ukraine at risk.

Europe at risk. The free world at risk, emboldening others who wish to do us harm.

My message to President Putin is simple.

We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.

History is watching, just like history watched three years ago on January 6th.

This was an important turn, from standing up to Putin to the threat of insurrectionists at home. Trump’s affinity for Putin is no secret. Trump argues he would be able to contain Putin better than Biden.

Insurrectionists stormed this very Capitol and placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy.

Many of you were here on that darkest of days.

We all saw with our own eyes these insurrectionists were not patriots.

They had come to stop the peaceful transfer of power and to overturn the will of the people.

Everyone saw it, but many Republican lawmakers now downplay the threat posed by the January 6, 2021, insurrection. Johnson was among the lawmakers who objected to the counting of electoral votes in key states Biden won in 2020.

January 6th and the lies about the 2020 election, and the plots to steal the election, posed the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War.

But they failed. America stood strong and democracy prevailed.

But we must be honest the threat remains and democracy must be defended.

My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth of January 6th.

I will not do that.

A lot of Americans might want to move on from 2020, but Biden will try to remind them at every turn. He’ll get help from Trump, who is also still very focused on 2020. Trump has fashioned his campaign as a weapon of “retribution.”

This is a moment to speak the truth and bury the lies.

And here’s the simplest truth. You can’t love your country only when you win.

As I’ve done ever since being elected to office, I ask you all, without regard to party, to join together and defend our democracy!

Remember your oath of office to defend against all threats foreign and domestic.

Respect free and fair elections! Restore trust in our institutions! And make clear –political violence has absolutely no place in America!

Biden frequently uses this line about having to love your country when you lose too. The erosion of faith in US institutions is a troubling development reflected in multiple polls .

And history is watching another assault on freedom.

Joining us tonight is Latorya Beasley, a social worker from Birmingham, Alabama . 14 months ago tonight, she and her husband welcomed a baby girl thanks to the miracle of IVF.

She scheduled treatments to have a second child, but t he Alabama Supreme Court shut down IVF treatments across the state , unleashed by the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

She was told her dream would have to wait.

Here’s a list of all of the people who sat with first lady Jill Biden.

Notably, some Alabama clinics have resumed treatment under a bipartisan law hastily passed in that state. But Democrats will continue to make this argument about abortion restrictions being an assault on freedom.

What her family has gone through should never have happened. And unless Congress acts, it could happen again.

So tonight, let’s stand up for families like hers!

To my friends across the aisle, don’t keep families waiting any longer. Guarantee the right to IVF nationwide!

This will be an interesting request to monitor, since it could theoretically gain bipartisan support.

Like most Americans, I believe Roe v. Wade got it right. And I thank Vice President Harris for being an incredible leader, defending reproductive freedom and so much more.

But my predecessor came to office determined to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

He’s the reason it was overturned. In fact, he brags about it.

Look at the chaos that has resulted.

Most Americans support abortion rights in some form, but the parties are hopelessly split. It will help Trump with his base to brag about overturning Roe v. Wade. It will help Biden with his base to blame Trump.

Joining us tonight is Kate Cox, a wife and mother from Dallas.

When she became pregnant again, the fetus had a fatal condition.

Her doctors told Kate that her own life and her ability to have children in the future were at risk if she didn’t act.

Because Texas law banned abortion, Kate and her husband had to leave the state to get the care she needed.

What her family has gone through should never have happened as well. But it is happening to so many others.

CNN’s Betsy Klein notes that Biden leaned on the personal stories of two of the guests in the first lady’s box: Latorya Beasley, an Alabama mother who had to pause in vitro fertilization treatment, and Kate Cox , the Texas mother of two who had to leave her state for access to a lifesaving abortion. And he pointed to a patchwork of abortion rights laws around the country.

But Republicans would have as much trouble passing a nationwide abortion ban as Democrats would have passing a bill to codify Roe v. Wade.

There are state laws banning the right to choose, criminalizing doctors, and forcing survivors of rape and incest to leave their states as well to get the care they need.

Many of you in this Chamber and my predecessor are promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom.

My God, what freedoms will you take away next?

In its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court majority wrote, “Women are not without – electoral or political power.”

No kidding.

Clearly, those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women in America.

They found out though when reproductive freedom was on the ballot and won in 2022, 2023, and they will find out again, in 2024.

Democratic candidates will do everything they can to raise the abortion rights issue during the general election. Even voters in red states have chosen to support abortion rights when given the chance. There could be abortion-related ballot questions in key states, including Florida .

If Americans send me a Congress that supports the right to choose , I promise you, I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again!

This math doesn’t work. Passing legislation to protect abortion rights nationwide and restore Roe would surely require 60 votes in the Senate. Democrats currently have 51 seats, and there are few opportunities for pickups in 2024. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, publicly support a national abortion rights law. That’s not nearly enough.

America cannot go back. I am here tonight to show the way forward. Because I know how far we’ve come.

Four years ago next week, before I came to office, our country was hit by the worst pandemic and the worst economic crisis in a century.

Remember the fear. Record job losses. Remember the spike in crime. And the murder rate.

A raging virus that would take more than 1 million American lives and leave millions of loved ones behind.

Biden’s figure needs context. Many lives were lost to Covid-19 during the Trump administration, but the US didn’t reach its millionth death until May 2022 when Biden was in office.

A mental health crisis of isolation and loneliness.

A president, my predecessor, who failed the most basic duty. Any President owes the American people the duty to care.

That is unforgivable.

I came to office determined to get us through one of the toughest periods in our nation’s history .

It is sometimes hard to remember that the Covid-19 pandemic started during the Trump administration and dominated the start of the Biden administration.

And we have. It doesn’t make the news but in thousands of cities and towns the American people are writing the greatest comeback story never told.

So let’s tell that story here and now.

America’s comeback is building a future of American possibilities, building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up , not the top down, investing in all of America, in all Americans to make sure everyone has a fair shot and we leave no one behind!

Republicans frequently try to label Biden as a socialist for spending taxpayer money. But Democrats and Biden argue the public has an interest in trying to make sure opportunities are accessible to everyone.

The pandemic no longer controls our lives. The vaccines that saved us from COVID are now being used to help beat cancer.

Turning setback into comeback.

That's America!

I inherited an economy that was on the brink. Now our economy is the envy of the world!

15 million new jobs in just three years - that's a record!

Biden’s claim is correct: the US economy added about 14.8 million jobs between Biden’s first full month in office, February 2021, and January 2024, more jobs than were added in any previous four-year presidential term. However, it’s important to note that Biden took office in an unusual pandemic context that makes meaningful comparison to other periods very difficult.

Unemployment at 50-year lows.

This needs context. The unemployment rate did hit a five-decade low during two months of early 2023 , 3.4%, and it has since remained close to that level — but the latest available unemployment rate, 3.7% for January, is higher than the rate was during nine months under President Donald Trump in 2019 and pre-pandemic 2020. (The rate then skyrocketed on account of the pandemic, and it was 6.4% the month Biden took office in January 2021.)

A record 16 million Americans are starting small businesses and each one is an act of hope.

With historic job growth and small business growth for Black, Hispanic, and Asian-Americans.

800,000 new manufacturing jobs in America and counting.

Biden’s figure is correct. The US economy added 791,000 manufacturing jobs from Biden’s first full month in office, February 2021, through January 2024, the last month for which Bureau of Labor Statistics data is available — though it’s worth noting that the growth largely occurred in 2021 and 2022 (with 746,000 manufacturing jobs added starting in February 2021) before a relatively flat 2023.

More people have health insurance today than ever before.

The racial wealth gap is the smallest it’s been in 20 years.

Wages keep going up and inflation keeps coming down!

Inflation has dropped from 9% to 3% – the lowest in the world!

Convincing Americans that their economy is good and improving may be Biden’s most important task in his reelection campaign. Because despite all of that data he rattled off, people are having trouble making ends meet. He’ll have more work to do to convince them .

And trending lower.

And now instead of importing foreign products and exporting American jobs, we’re exporting American products and creating American jobs – right here in America where they belong!

And the American people are beginning to feel it.

Consumer studies show consumer confidence is soaring.

Buy American has been the law of the land since the 1930s.

Past administrations including my predecessor failed to Buy American.

Not any more.

On my watch, federal projects like helping to build American roads bridges and highways will be made with American products built by American workers creating good-paying American jobs!

Thanks to my Chips and Science Act the United States is investing more in research and development than ever before.

Biden did oversee the passage of multiple, bipartisan bills to improve the country. The bipartisan infrastructure law is meant to improve things across the country. Propping up a semiconductor chip industry is also meant to make the US more independent from China.

During the pandemic a shortage of semiconductor chips drove up prices for everything from cell phones to automobiles.

Well instead of having to import semiconductor chips, which America invented I might add, private companies are now investing billions of dollars to build new chip factories here in America!

Creating tens of thousands of jobs many of them paying over $100,000 a year and don’t require a college degree.

In fact my policies have attracted $650 Billion of private sector investments in clean energy and advanced manufacturing creating tens of thousands of jobs here in America!

Thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, 46,000 new projects have been announced across your communities – modernizing our roads and bridges, ports and airports, and public transit systems.

A futuristic airport terminal, a fish passage and ski town bus lanes: Here are some of the projects being built through the infrastructure law.

Removing poisonous lead pipes so every child can drink clean water without risk of getting brain damage.

Providing affordable high speed internet for every American no matter where you live.

Urban, suburban, and rural communities — in red states and blue.

Record investments in tribal communities.

Because of my investments, family farms are better be able to stay in the family and children and grandchildren won’t have to leave home to make a living.

It’s transformative.

A great comeback story is Belvidere, Illinois. Home to an auto plant for nearly 60 years.

Before I came to office the plant was on its way to shutting down.

Thousands of workers feared for their livelihoods. Hope was fading.

Then I was elected to office and we raised Belvidere repeatedly with the auto company knowing unions make all the difference.

The UAW worked like hell to keep the plant open and get those jobs back. And together, we succeeded!

Instead of an auto factory shutting down an auto factory is re-opening and a new state-of-the art battery factory is being built to power those cars.

Instead of a town being left behind it’s a community moving forward again!

Because instead of watching auto jobs of the future go overseas 4,000 union workers with higher wages will be building that future, in Belvidere, here in America!

Here tonight is UAW President, Shawn Fain, a great friend, and a great labor leader.

And Dawn Simms, a third generation UAW worker in Belvidere.

Shawn, I was proud to be the first President in American history to walk a picket line.

Biden attended a U nited A uto W orkers rally in Belvidere with UAW President Shawn Fain last year. He also became the first president to join a picket line when he stood with workers in Michigan.

And today Dawn has a job in her hometown providing stability for her family and pride and dignity.

Showing once again, Wall Street didn’t build this country!

The middle class built this country! And unions built the middle class!

Both Biden and Trump will try to argue they are looking out for the middle class. The turn of White voters without college degrees away from Democrats and toward Republicans has been a major shift in politics that drove the rise of Trump.

When Americans get knocked down, we get back up!

We keep going!

That’s America! That’s you, the American people!

It’s because of you America is coming back!

It’s because of you, our future is brighter!

Never has a State of the Union transcript included so many exclamations. Biden presented as a vigorous and energized leader here, far from the doddering old man he has been portrayed as by Republicans.

And it’s because of you that tonight we can proudly say the State of our Union is strong and getting stronger!

Tonight I want to talk about the future of possibilities that we can build together.

A future where the days of trickle-down economics are over and the wealthy and biggest corporations no longer get all the breaks.

I grew up in a home where not a lot trickled down on my Dad’s kitchen table.

That’s why I’m determined to turn things around so the middle class does well the poor have a way up and the wealthy still does well.

After earlier praising Reagan’s foreign policy, here Biden trashed the guiding principle of Reagan’s economic policy (and Republicans who have worked tirelessly to cut taxes for a generation).

We all do well.

And there’s more to do to make sure you’re feeling the benefits of all we’re doing.

Americans pay more for prescription drugs than anywhere else.

It’s wrong and I’m ending it.

With a law I proposed and signed and not one Republican voted for we finally beat Big Pharma!

This is the Inflation Reduction Act , a post-Covid-19 recovery plan that Democrats loaded up with other policy priorities and were able to pass without Republican votes by bending budget rules.

Democrats had been trying for years to pass a law that would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices . This is a first step.

Instead of paying $400 a month for insulin seniors with diabetes only have to pay $35 a month!

And now I want to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it!

For years people have talked about it but I finally got it done and gave Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs just like the VA does for our veterans.

That’s not just saving seniors money.

It’s saving taxpayers money cutting the federal deficit by $160 billion because Medicare will no longer have to pay exorbitant prices to Big Pharma.

It’s true that two of the main drug price provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, which Democrats pushed through Congress in 2022, are expected to reduce the deficit by $160 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In total, the law’s drug measures are expected to reduce the deficit by $237 billion, though delaying the implementation of a Trump administration drug rebate rule accounts for the difference.

This year Medicare is negotiating lower prices for some of the costliest drugs on the market that treat everything from heart disease to arthritis.

Now it’s time to go further and give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for 500 drugs over the next decade.

That will not only save lives it will save taxpayers another $200 Billion!

Starting next year that same law caps total prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare at $2,000 a year even for expensive cancer drugs that can cost $10,000, $12,000, $15,000 a year.

Now I want to cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 a year for everyone!

Another major contrast between Trump and Biden. Trump still wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act . Biden seemed to be veering toward “Medicare for All” here.

Folks Obamacare, known as the Affordable Care Act is still a very big deal.

Over one hundred million of you can no longer be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

But my predecessor and many in this chamber want to take that protection away by repealing the Affordable Care Act I won’t let that happen!

We stopped you 50 times before and we will stop you again!

In fact I am protecting it and expanding it.

I enacted tax credits that save $800 per person per year reducing health care premiums for millions of working families.

Those tax credits expire next year.

I want to make those savings permanent!

Women are more than half of our population but research on women’s health has always been underfunded.

That’s why we’re launching the first-ever White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, led by Jill who is doing an incredible job as First Lady.

Creating a commission or new office is a classic State of the Union maneuver. That this speech focused on women’s health is not surprising since Democrats are so focused on the issue.

Pass my plan for $12 Billion to transform women’s health research and benefit millions of lives across America!

I know the cost of housing is so important to you .

If inflation keeps coming down mortgage rates will come down as well.

But I’m not waiting.

I want to provide an annual tax credit that will give Americans $400 a month for the next two years as mortgage rates come down to put toward their mortgage when they buy a first home or trade up for a little more space.

My Administration is also eliminating title insurance fees for federally backed mortgages.

When you refinance your home this can save you $1,000 or more.

These are all very specific ideas to put people at ease about the cost of buying and renting, major issues that are affecting how people view the economy . But Biden can’t accomplish all of this. He will need Congress to enact tax credits. He will need inflation to continue to come down to bring down mortgage rates .

For millions of renters, we’re cracking down on big landlords who break antitrust laws by price-fixing and driving up rents.

I’ve cut red tape so more builders can get federal financing, which is already helping build a record 1.7 million housing units nationwide.

Now pass my plan to build and renovate 2 million affordable homes and bring those rents down!

To remain the strongest economy in the world we need the best education system in the world.

I want to give every child a good start by providing access to pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds.

He’s actually wanted to enact universal pre-K for some time. But Democrats could not come up with the votes to include that program in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Studies show that children who go to pre-school are nearly 50% more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a 2- or 4-year degree no matter their background.

I want to expand high-quality tutoring and summer learning time and see to it that every child learns to read by third grade.

I’m also connecting businesses and high schools so students get hands-on experience and a path to a good-paying job whether or not they go to college.

And I want to make college more affordable.

Let’s continue increasing Pell Grants for working- and middle-class families and increase our record investments in HBCUs and Hispanic and Minority-serving Institutions

I fixed student loan programs to reduce the burden of student debt for nearly 4 Million Americans including nurses firefighters and others in public service like Keenan Jones a public-school educator in Minnesota who’s here with us tonight.

Biden has done quite a bit to forgive federal student loan debt, canceling about $138 billion so far. Here’s a good visualization of that . But his most expansive plan, which he hoped to do through executive action and would have canceled up to $20,000 for borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year, was rejected by the Supreme Court.

He’s educated hundreds of students so they can go to college now he can help his own daughter pay for college.

Such relief is good for the economy because folks are now able to buy a home start a business even start a family.

While we’re at it I want to give public school teachers a raise!

Now let me speak to a question of fundamental fairness for all Americans.

I’ve been delivering real results in a fiscally responsible way.

I’ve already cut the federal deficit by over one trillion dollars.

Biden’s claim leaves out such critical context that it is misleading. While the annual federal budget deficit was more than $1 trillion lower in the 2023 fiscal year than it was in both the 2020 fiscal year (under President Donald Trump) and the 2021 fiscal year (partially under Trump and partially under Biden), analysts have repeatedly noted that Biden’s own actions, including laws he has signed and executive orders he has issued, have had the overall effect of worsening annual deficits, not reducing them. As in past remarks , Biden didn’t explain that the primary reason the deficit fell by a record amount during his tenure was that it had skyrocketed to a record high at the end of Trump’s term because of bipartisan emergency pandemic relief spending, then fell as expected when that spending expired as planned.

I signed a bipartisan budget deal that will cut another trillion dollars over the next decade.

And now it’s my goal to cut the federal deficit $3 trillion more by making big corporations and the very wealthy finally pay their fair share.

Look, I’m a capitalist.

If you want to make a million bucks – great!

Just pay your fair share in taxes.

A fair tax code is how we invest in the things –

that make a country great, health care, education, defense, and more.

But here’s the deal.

The last administration enacted a $2 Trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits the very wealthy and the biggest corporations and exploded the federal deficit.

They added more to the national debt than in any presidential term in American history.

Biden’s numbers are correct; the national debt rose from about $19.9 trillion to about $27.8 trillion during Trump’s tenure, an increase of about 39% and more than in any other four-year presidential term, in part because of Trump’s major tax cuts. But it is an oversimplification to blame presidents alone for debt incurred during their tenures. Some of the Trump-era increase in the debt was due to the trillions of dollars in emergency Covid-19 pandemic relief spending that passed with bipartisan support and because of spending required by safety-net programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, that were created by previous presidents.

For folks at home does anybody really think the tax code is fair?

Do you really think the wealthy and big corporations need another $2 trillion in tax breaks?

I sure don’t. I’m going to keep fighting like hell to make it fair!

Under my plan nobody earning less than $400,000 will pay an additional penny in federal taxes.

Nobody. Not one penny.

In fact the Child Tax Credit I passed during the pandemic cut taxes for millions of working families and cut child poverty in HALF.

Restore the Child Tax Credit because no child should go hungry in this country!

The way to make the tax code fair is to make big corporations and the very wealthy finally pay their share.

In 2020 55 of the biggest companies in America made $40 billion in profits and paid zero in federal income taxes.

Not any more!

Thanks to the law I wrote and signed big companies now have to pay a minimum of 15%.

Biden’s “not anymore” claim is false, an exaggeration. While his 15% corporate minimum tax will reduce the number of big companies that don’t pay any federal taxes, it’s not true that “not anymore” will any big company — such as the ones on the list of 55 companies Biden mentioned — ever do so. That’s because the minimum tax, on the “book income” companies report to investors, only applies to companies with at least $1 billion in average annual income. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, only 14 of the companies on its list of 55 non-payers reported having US pre-tax income of at least $1 billion.

But that’s still less than working people pay in federal taxes.

It’s time to raise the corporate minimum tax to at least 21% so every big corporation finally begins to pay their fair share.

I also want to end the tax breaks for Big Pharma, Big Oil, private jets, and massive executive pay!

End it now!

There are 1,000 billionaires in America.

You know what the average federal tax rate for these billionaires is? 8.2 percent!

That’s far less than the vast majority of Americans pay.

No billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a teacher, a sanitation worker, a nurse!

That’s why I’ve proposed a minimum tax of 25% for billionaires. Just 25%.

That would raise $500 Billion over the next 10 years.

Imagine what that could do for America. Imagine a future with affordable child care so millions of families can get the care they need and still go to work and help grow the economy.

Imagine a future with paid leave because no one should have to choose between working and taking care of yourself or a sick family member.

Imagine a future with home care and elder care so seniors and people living with disabilities can stay in their homes and family caregivers get paid what they deserve!

Tonight, let’s all agree once again to stand up for seniors!

Many of my Republican friends want to put Social Security on the chopping block.

If anyone here tries to cut Social Security or Medicare or raise the retirement age I will stop them!

Working people who built this country pay more into Social Security than millionaires and billionaires do. It’s not fair.

We have two ways to go on Social Security.

Republicans will cut Social Security and give more tax cuts to the wealthy.

Biden went off script here, engaging in a back-and-forth with Republicans on the House floor. Republicans jeered when he said they would cut Social Security . Many in their party say they will do no such thing.

“That’s the proposal — oh no? You guys don’t want another $2 trillion tax cut?” Biden said. “I kind of thought that’s what your plan was. Well, that's good to hear.”

I will protect and strengthen Social Security and make the wealthy pay their fair share!

Too many corporations raise their prices to pad their profits charging you more and more for less and less.

That’s why we’re cracking down on corporations that engage in price gouging or deceptive pricing from food to health care to housing.

In fact, snack companies think you won’t notice when they charge you just as much for the same size bag but with fewer chips in it.

Pass Senator Bob Casey’s bill to put a stop to shrinkflation !

While a lot of people seem to blame Biden for inflation and cite government spending, he’d like to blame corporations.

CNN’s Bryan Mena notes while there is evidence that companies have reduced the size of their products, according to Labor Department data, the reason is usually to cut costs during times of high inflation and is a widespread practice. Companies do this because consumers are more sensitive to price changes than the size of a product becoming smaller, according to research. “Shrinkflation” due to corporate greed is a hasty generalization.

I’m also getting rid of junk fees those hidden fees added at the end of your bills without your knowledge. My administration just announced we’re cutting credit card late fees from $32 to just $8.

The banks and credit card companies don’t like it.

I’m saving American families $20 billion a year with all of the junk fees I’m eliminating .

And I’m not stopping there.

If this sounded familiar, that’s because he talked about junk fees at last year’s State of the Union .

My Administration has proposed rules to make cable, travel, utilities and online ticket sellers tell you the total price upfront so there are no surprises.

It matters.

This was his chance to say the words “ Taylor Swift .” Fail.

And so does this.

In November, my team began serious negotiations with a bipartisan group of Senators.

The result was a bipartisan bill with the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen in this country .

He went off script again here. CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez notes that Biden baited Republicans with praise for the bipartisan Senate border bill .

“Oh, you don’t like that bill, huh? That conservatives got together and said it was a good bill. I’ll be darned. That’s amazing,” Biden said, as some Republicans grumbled in the crowd.

Republican Sen. James Lankford, a key negotiator on the bipartisan border deal who faced pushback from members of his own party, stared ahead, appearing to nod as Biden ticked through elements of the bill -- including how it would shore up federal resources and include an emergency authority that would allow him to shut down the border if certain triggers are met.

That bipartisan deal would hire 1,500 more border security agents and officers.

100 more immigration judges to help tackle a backload of 2 million cases.

4,300 more asylum officers and new policies so they can resolve cases in 6 months instead of 6 years.

100 more high-tech drug detection machines to significantly increase the ability to screen and stop vehicles from smuggling fentanyl into America.

This bill would save lives and bring order to the border.

It would also give me as President new emergency authority to temporarily shut down the border when the number of migrants at the border is overwhelming.

The Border Patrol Union endorsed the bill.

The Chamber of Commerce endorsed the bill.

I believe that given the opportunity a majority of the House and Senate would endorse it as well.

But unfortunately, politics have derailed it so far.

I’m told my predecessor called Republicans in Congress and demanded they block the bill . He feels it would be a political win for me and a political loser for him.

It’s not about him or me.

Biden was interrupted here by GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who shouted at him about Laken Riley , the Georgia nursing student killed, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant. It’s an incident that has driven claims that migrants are criminals.

Biden picked up a pin that read “Say Her Name Laken Riley” and directly addressed the parents of Laken Riley, who had been invited to the speech by a congressman.

“Lincoln (sic) Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal. That's right. But how many of the thousands of people being killed by illegals - to her parents, I say my heart goes out to you. Having lost children myself, I understand.”

It is interesting that Biden also referred to the undocumented migrant who is suspected in Riley’s killing with the derogatory term “illegal.” Read more.

It’d be a winner for America!

My Republican friends you owe it to the American people to get this bill done.

We need to act.

And if my predecessor is watching instead of playing politics and pressuring members of Congress to block this bill, join me in telling Congress to pass it!

We can do it together. But here’s what I will not do.

I will not demonize immigrants saying they “poison the blood of our country” as he said in his own words.

I will not separate families.

I will not ban people from America because of their faith.

Trump’s rhetoric on immigration has gotten increasingly heated. He frequently refers to people crossing the border as “murderers,” for instance. The “poisoning the blood” line Trump uses is similar to a passage in Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf.”

Unlike my predecessor, on my first day in office I introduced a comprehensive plan to fix our immigration system, secure the border, and provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and so much more.

Because unlike my predecessor, I know who we are as Americans.

We are the only nation in the world with a heart and soul that draws from old and new.

Home to Native Americans whose ancestors have been here for thousands of years. Home to people from every place on Earth.

Some came freely.

Some chained by force.

Some when famine struck, like my ancestral family in Ireland.

Some to flee persecution.

Some to chase dreams that are impossible anywhere but here in America.

That’s America, where we all come from somewhere, but we are all Americans.

We can fight about the border, or we can fix it. I’m ready to fix it.

Send me the border bill now!

Biden both eloquently talked about how the US is a nation of immigrants and also called on Congress to give him the power to close the border. His shift on the issue has been remarkable.

A transformational moment in our history happened 59 years ago today in Selma, Alabama.

Hundreds of foot soldiers for justice marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after a Grand Dragon of the KKK, to claim their fundamental right to vote.

They were beaten bloodied and left for dead.

Our late friend and former colleague John Lewis was at the march.

We miss him.

Joining us tonight are other marchers who were there including Betty May Fikes, known as the "Voice of Selma”.

A daughter of gospel singers and preachers, she sang songs of prayer and protest on that Bloody Sunday,

to help shake the nation’s conscience. Five months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.

But 59 years later, there are forces taking us back in time.

Voter suppression. Election subversion. Unlimited dark money. Extreme gerrymandering.

John Lewis was a great friend to many of us here. But if you truly want to honor him and all the heroes who marched with him, then it’s time for more than just talk.

Pass and send me the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act!

If Democrats could not pass a new national voting standard when they controlled the House during Biden’s first two years in office, they will not be able to do it now, while Republicans control the chamber.

And stop denying another core value of America our diversity across American life.

Banning books.

It’s wrong!

Instead of erasing history, let’s make history!

I want to protect other fundamental rights!

Pass the Equality Act, and my message to transgender Americans: I have your back!

Pass the PRO Act for workers rights! And raise the federal minimum wage because every worker has the right to earn a decent living!

We are also making history by confronting the climate crisis, not denying it.

I’m taking the most significant action on climate ever in the history of the world.

I am cutting our carbon emissions in half by 2030.

The climate crisis may be an existential problem for humanity, but it did not rate mention in the first half of this State of the Union address. That said, Biden, with help from the Inflation Reduction Act, has done more than previous presidents to address the issue. But n ot enough to satisfy activists . Trump, meanwhile, likes to poke fun at climate efforts.

Creating tens of thousands of clean-energy jobs, like the IBEW workers building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations.

Conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.

Taking historic action on environmental justice for fence-line communities smothered by the legacy of pollution.

And patterned after the Peace Corps and Ameri Corps, I’ve launched a Climate Corps to put 20,000 young people to work at the forefront of our clean energy future.

I’ll triple that number this decade.

All Americans deserve the freedom to be safe, and America is safer today than when I took office.

The year before I took office, murders went up 30% nationwide the biggest increase in history.

That was then.

Now, through my American Rescue Plan, which every Republican voted against, I’ve made the largest investment in public safety ever.

Last year, the murder rate saw the sharpest decrease in history, and violent crime fell to one of the lowest levels in more than 50 years.

This is true, at least based on preliminary 2023 data that should be treated with caution. The preliminary 2023 data published by the FBI, running through the third quarter of the year, showed that violent crime was down 8.2% compared to the same period in 2022 — a decline that would be “historically large” for a year, crime data expert Jeff Asher wrote in a December article. The data generally confirms Biden’s description of violent crime falling across the nation, though some communities have seen increases. Asher wrote: “The quarterly data shows violent crime down in big cities, small cities, suburban counties, and rural counties, pretty much across the board.”

But we have more to do.

Help cities and towns invest in more community police officers, more mental health workers, and more community violence intervention.

Give communities the tools to crack down on gun crime, retail crime, and carjacking.

Keep building public trust, as I’ve been doing by taking executive action on police reform, and calling for it to be the law of the land, directing my Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana, and expunging thousands of convictions for mere possession , because no one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana!

Biden’s mass clemency for federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, announced before the m idterm elections in 2022 , was seen as a first step to national decriminalization.

To take on crimes of domestic violence, I am ramping up federal enforcement of the Violence Against Women Act, that I proudly wrote, so we can finally end the scourge of violence against women in America!

And there’s another kind of violence I want to stop.

With us tonight is Jasmine, whose 9-year-old sister Jackie was murdered with 21 classmates and teachers at her elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Soon after it happened, Jill and I went to Uvalde and spent hours with the families.

We heard their message, and so should everyone in this chamber do something.

I did do something by establishing the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House that Vice President Harris is leading.

Meanwhile, my predecessor told the NRA he’s proud he did nothing on guns when he was President.

After another school shooting in Iowa he said we should just “get over it.”

I say we must stop it.

I’m proud we beat the NRA when I signed the most significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years!

Now we must beat the NRA again!

I’m demanding a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines!

Pass universal background checks!

Again, none of this will happen without a major change in Congress.

None of this violates the Second Amendment or vilifies responsible gun owners.

As we manage challenges at home, we’re also managing crises abroad including in the Middle East.

I know the last five months have been gut-wrenching for so many people, for the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and so many here in America.

This crisis began on October 7th with a massacre by the terrorist group Hamas.

1,200 innocent people women and girls men and boys slaughtered, many enduring sexual violence.

The deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

250 hostages taken.

Here in the chamber tonight are American families whose loved ones are still being held by Hamas.

I pledge to all the families that we will not rest until we bring their loved ones home.

We will also work around the clock to bring home Evan and Paul, Americans being unjustly detained all around the world.

Israel has a right to go after Hamas.

This is an incredibly important issue for Biden. Nothing else splits Democrats at the moment like Israel. Biden is a self-proclaimed Zionist. While he has increasingly called out the conservative government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it’s not nearly enough to satisfy the large portion of Democrats who are motivated by the plight of Palestinians who are stuck and starving in Gaza .

Hamas could end this conflict today by releasing the hostages, laying down arms, and surrendering those responsible for October 7th.

Israel has an added burden because Hamas hides and operates among the civilian population. But Israel also has a fundamental responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Gaza.

This war has taken a greater toll on innocent civilians than all previous wars in Gaza combined.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Most of whom are not Hamas.

Thousands and thousands are innocent women and children.

Girls and boys also orphaned.

Nearly 2 million more Palestinians under bombardment or displaced.

Homes destroyed, neighborhoods in rubble, cities in ruin.

Families without food, water, medicine.

It’s heartbreaking.

We’ve been working non-stop to establish an immediate ceasefire that would last for at least six weeks.

It is notable that while Biden said the US is working for an immediate ceasefire, he did not say permanent. Israel wants the ability to revisit any ceasefire after six weeks.

Biden’s optimism for a ceasefire seems to have cooled. He had previously predicted there would be a ceasefire by this past Monday. In the meantime, the world was horrified by the killing of more than 100 Palestinians trying to get food from an Israeli aid truck.

As Biden spoke, House Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib — the sole Palestinian American member of Congress — held a sign reading “Ceasefire Now.”

It would get the hostages home, ease the intolerable humanitarian crisis, and build toward something more enduring.

The United States has been leading international efforts to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Tonight, I’m directing the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters.

No U.S. boots will be on the ground.

This temporary pier would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day.

This pier sounds like an incredible engineering feat. It’s not clear how soon it can be achieved. Also, this was the second time in the speech where Biden pledged that US troops will not get involved in an international conflict.

But Israel must also do its part.

Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the cross fire.

To the leadership of Israel I say this.

Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.

Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority.

As we look to the future, the only real solution is a two-state solution.

I say this as a lifelong supporter of Israel and the only American president to visit Israel in wartime.

This is a public warning to Israel and an insistence that Israel must allow a Palestinian state. But it is not particularly stern considering the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died .

There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and democracy.

There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live with peace and dignity.

There is no other path that guarantees peace between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

Creating stability in the Middle East also means containing the threat posed by Iran.

That’s why I built a coalition of more than a dozen countries to defend international shipping and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.

I’ve ordered strikes to degrade Houthi capabilities and defend U.S. Forces in the region.

As Commander in Chief, I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and military personnel.

The strikes have not so far had a deterrent effect.

For years, all I’ve heard from my Republican friends and so many others is China’s on the rise and America is falling behind.

They’ve got it backward.

America is rising.

We have the best economy in the world.

Since I’ve come to office, our GDP is up.

He is welcome to say this. Most Americans do not currently seem to believe it.

And our trade deficit with China is down to the lowest point in over a decade.

We’re standing up against China’s unfair economic practices.

And standing up for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

I’ve revitalized our partnerships and alliances in the Pacific.

I’ve made sure that the most advanced American technologies can’t be used in China’s weapons.

Frankly for all his tough talk on China, it never occurred to my predecessor to do that.

We want competition with China, but not conflict.

And we’re in a stronger position to win the competition for the 21st Century against China or anyone else for that matter.

Here at home I’ve signed over 400 bipartisan bills.

But there’s more to do to pass my Unity Agenda.

Strengthen penalties on fentanyl trafficking.

Pass bipartisan privacy legislation to protect our children online.

CNN's Brian Fung notes that this call for a bill to regulate social media platforms is the third time in as many years that Biden has criticized the social media industry in his State of the Union speech.

Notably, however, Biden’s call specifically highlighted legislation to protect children’s privacy — not any of the myriad bills circulating that would impose targeted restrictions on social media companies .

The House could vote soon on a separate bill meant to pressure TikTok’s China-linked parent company to spin off the app used by 170 million Americans.

Harness the promise of A.I. and protect us from its peril.

Ban A.I. voice impersonation and more!

Fung also notes that Biden knows personally about this. A fake robocall campaign cloned his voice and targeted thousands of New Hampshire primary voters in what authorities have described as an AI-enabled election meddling attempt.

But US lawmakers have struggled to advance any meaningful AI legislation in the roughly one year since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made a rare and personal effort to put AI at the top of the congressional agenda.

Even as disinformation experts warn of AI’s threats to elections and public discourse, few expect Congress to pass legislation reining in the AI industry during a divisive election year.

And keep our one truly sacred obligation, to train and equip those we send into harm’s way and care for them and their families when they come home, and when they don’t.

That’s why I signed the PACT Act, one of the most significant laws ever, helping millions of veterans who were exposed to toxins and who now are battling more than 100 cancers.

Many of them didn’t come home.

We owe them and their families.

And we owe it to ourselves to keep supporting our new health research agency called ARPA-H and remind us that we can do big things like end cancer as we know it!

Let me close with this.

I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while.

And when you get to my age certain things become clearer than ever before.

I know the American story.

Again and again I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation.

Between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America into the future.

My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy.

A future based on the core values that have defined America.

Honesty. Decency. Dignity. Equality.

To respect everyone. To give everyone a fair shot. To give hate no safe harbor.

Now some other people my age see a different story.

An American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution.

That’s not me.

Biden put forward an energetic persona in this speech. And he pointed out that Trump is his age. Actually, Trump is four years younger.

The name “Trump” did not appear in the speech. But he was clearly top of mind. Trump has promised to be his supporters’ “retribution” and still does not admit to losing the 2020 election. Biden’s burden will be to convince voters who are wavering that trying to upend democracy should disqualify Trump.

I was born amid World War II when America stood for freedom in the world.

I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware among working people who built this country.

I watched in horror as two of my heroes, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, were assassinated and their legacies inspired me to pursue a career in service.

A public defender, county councilman, elected United States Senator at 29, then Vice President, to our first Black President, now President, with our first woman Vice President.

In my career I’ve been told I’m too young and I’m too old.

Whether young or old, I’ve always known what endures.

Our North Star.

The very idea of America, that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.

We’ve never fully lived up to that idea, but we’ve never walked away from it either.

And I won’t walk away from it now.

My fellow Americans the issue facing our nation isn’t how old we are it’s how old our ideas are?

Hate, anger, revenge, retribution are among the oldest of ideas.

But you can’t lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back.

To lead America, the land of possibilities, you need a vision for the future of what America can and should be.

Tonight you’ve heard mine.

I see a future where we defend democracy not diminish it.

I see a future where we restore the right to choose and protect other freedoms not take them away.

I see a future where the middle class finally has a fair shot and the wealthy finally have to pay their fair share in taxes.

I see a future where we save the planet from the climate crisis and our country from gun violence.

Above all, I see a future for all Americans!

I see a country for all Americans!

And I will always be a president for all Americans!

Because I believe in America!

I believe in you the American people.

You’re the reason I’ve never been more optimistic about our future!

The speech ended with many more exclamations and a vigorous Biden pumping people up.

So let’s build that future together!

Let’s remember who we are!

We are the United States of America.

There is nothing beyond our capacity when we act together!

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.


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