Spike Lee's satire on racism angers blacks

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The Independent US

Even before its release this weekend, Spike Lee's new film was making big waves. Now that it is showing in "selected" US cities, Bamboozled threatens to whip up a storm.

Even before its release this weekend, Spike Lee's new film was making big waves. Now that it is showing in "selected" US cities, Bamboozled threatens to whip up a storm.

A glance at the advance publicity helps to explain why. A cartoon stereotype of a black face munching on a giant slice of water melon; two black figures in top hats twirling canes from a black minstrel show - these are clichés that have long been taboo.

Rejected by a dozen studios before being taken on by New Line Cinema, Bamboozled deals head-on with that most sensitive of American topics: race. It has been described by one critic as "a Molotov cocktail of a satire" and dares to address continuing racism in the US through the prism of a successful black of the post-civil-rights generation.

It tells of a Harvard-educated television executive who achieves spectacular success by staging and screening black minstrel shows that pander to the crudest of racial stereotypes. It introduces characters such as Aunt Jemima and Little Black Sambo - clichés that have in effect been suppressed for a generation - and tackles not only white Americans' condescension towards blacks, but some current black icons as well, including Whoopi Goldberg and Rev Al Sharpton.

Internet chatrooms are seething with indignant criticism, including from many blacks, who object to the stirring of ghosts that many feel should have been laid to rest.

Lee is used to raising hackles, and is unrepentant about Bamboozled, and his criticism of the portrayal of blacks on US television. He said the film had been "brewing" in him for years. "When you have crackheads and cockroaches come out of toilets and you're making fun of the whole pathology of lower-income African-Americans living in the projects [housing estates], I don't see any humanity in that," he said.

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