Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir
- Copyright: 2008
- Dimensions: 6 x 9
- Page Count: 368 pages
- Illustrations: 35 b&w illustrations
- Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03344-0
- Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03345-7
“The darkness of film noir was always meant to illuminate as well as reflect the shadows of the mean streets of Gangland USA. Now, in this fascinating synthesis of philosophy, film studies, and critical race theory, Dan Flory reveals to us the significance of the deeper blackness of African American noir—a light ‘doubly’ black aimed at exposing the larger crimes of White America itself.”
“Flory argues that while some examples of film noir articulate reactionary perspectives on social order, the genre can also promote perspectives critical of social inequality and offer insights into the racialized structures of American culture.”
“Flory’s book opens up many new lines of inquiry for philosophers interested in examining how films can philosophize and the role that the emotions play in prompting such reflection. Because of Flory’s extensive knowledge of contemporary film aesthetics and critical race theory, there is much we can learn about these areas from reading his book. It is a work suitable for use in mid-level and advanced undergraduate classes as well as graduate classes on aesthetics, philosophy of film, and critical race theory.”
In the past two decades, African American filmmakers like Spike Lee have made significant contributions to the dialogue about race in the United States by adapting techniques from classic film noir to black American cinema. This book is the first to examine these artistic innovations in detail from a philosophical perspective informed by both cognitive film theory and critical race theory.
Dan Flory explores the techniques and themes that are used in black film noir to orchestrate the audience’s emotions of sympathy and empathy felt toward morally complex characters whom people might not typically find appealing in real life, such as thugs, drug dealers, or murderers. Using an approach that combines the cognitive insights of theorists like David Bordwell, Noël Carroll, and Murray Smith with the reflective Wittgensteinian methods for considering film employed by Stanley Cavell, Stephen Mulhall, and William Rothman, Flory shows how these films scrutinize the state of race in America, induce their viewers to do so as well, and illuminate the ways in which categories of race have defined and continue to direct much of our vision of the moral self and what counts as appropriate moral sensibility.
Introduction: Philosophy and the Blackness of Film Noir
Recent Philosophical Theories of Race
Philosophy, Cognition, and Film Theory
What Is Black Film?
What Is Film Noir?
Film Noir's Subversive Possibilities
What Is Black Noir?
1. Spike Lee and the Sympathetic Racist
Whoand WhatIs Sal?
Critical Reflection and Sympathetic Racists
Spike Lee and Institutional Racism
2. Noir Protagonists and Empathy in Do the Right Thing
Moral Ambiguity, Suspense, and Noir Characterization
Hitchcockian "Subjective Suspense" and the Spectrum of Noir Characters
Do the Right Thing and Noir Characterization
Empathy for Radio Raheem?
Da Mayor and Moral Orientation
Critical Reflection and the Role of Empathy in Do the Right Thing
3. Race and Tragedy in One False Move
A Hurricane of Sympathy and Racism
Racism, Tragedy, and Empathy
Alignment, Point of View, and Empathetic Response to Lila
Sympathetic Racists and Audience Allegiance in Black and White
4. Nihilism and Knowledge in Clockers
Cultivating Empathy for a Clocker
Internalized Racism in Teaching and Explanation
Oppression and Alternative Possibilities
Rocco Klein as Sympathetic Racist Cop
Sympathy and How to Do the Right Thing
Aesthetic Response, Race, and Black Noir
5. "Guilty of Blackness"
Flawed Noir Narratives: New Jack City and Boyz 'N the Hood
Racial Oppression and Personal Psychology: Juice
Menace II Society and the Meaning of Life
Black Noir, Nihilism, and Film as Philosophy
6. Beyond the Gangsta
Working for "the Man": Deep Cover
Narrative Voice and Epistemic Authority
Learning from the Logic of White Power
Jerry Carver, Pimp for White Power
Making a Difference Epistemologically
Against Self-Interest: The Glass Shield
Race and the Noir Lessons of History: Devil in a Blue Dress
Black Noir Moves Beyond the Gangsta
7. Other Forms of Blackness
Eve's Bayou and Its Critical Reception
Film Noir and Female Gothic Melodrama
Eve's Gothic Noir World
Noir, Empathy, and African-American Female Characters
What Is It Like To Be a Caveman?
The Injustice of the Everyday: Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Training Day, Empathy, and Moral Corruption
8. Noir and Beyond
White Fears of the Other: Summer of Sam
Transcending Human Differences in 8 Mile
The Evolving Racial Contract: Out of Time and Never Die Alone
Bamboozled by Blackface
A Noir Atlantic: From Hell, Empire, City of God, Dirty Pretty Things, The Constant Gardener, Catch A Fire, and Children of Men
Conclusion: Race, Film Noir, and Philosophical Reflection
Cavellian Individualities and Film as Philosophy
A Taxonomy of Empathy and Expanding Moral Imagination