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Color Adjustment - Accurate Essays

Color Adjustment

Portrayal of Blacks in Color Adjustment

Color Adjustment was directed by Marlon Riggs and produced in 1992 to represent the socio-economic progress the African Americans have made from 1948 until 1988. The narrator, Ruby Dee, creates the impression that the African Americans have attained the American Dream and have made significant progress in integrating with the American culture by sampling the portrayal of African Americans in television programs. Using excerpts from programs such as “The Cosby Show”, “Julia”, “Sanford and Son”, and “Amos and Andy” among others, Riggs shows that the presentation of Africa-Americans on TV have transformed significantly from the submissive, subservient presentations rampant during the early times. Critics feel that Riggs’ portrayal of Africa Americans in Color Adjustment contradicts the reality on the ground where many Blacks have to struggle in a White-dominated society.

Color Adjustment shows how TV programs in the 1950s portrayed Black characters in a stereotypical and offensive manner, but Riggs illustrates how the depiction changed in the 1970s. The “Amos ‘n’ Andy” show that ran from 1943-1955, for example, was a popular TV sitcom that depicts racial components that may particularly tell why most white Americans were attracted to the program. Amos, one of the leading characters in the story comes out as being naïve having migrated from the rural area to the city to search for employment. The show presents Andy as being conniving, sluggish, and pretentious. The tribulations Amos and Andy go through to improve their lives made White audiences to empathize with them, which shows how Black characters assumed minor roles in the 1950s. Another film that depicts Black characters in an offensive way is “Beulah” that ran on ABC Television and CBS Radio in the early 1950s. Beulah describes the story of an African American family that strives to find employment, education, and equality in a society dominated by Whites. The two TV shows (“Amos ‘n’ Andy” and “Beulah”) represent a time when African Americans were just starting to feature in TV shows and films, yet racial discrimination was rampant. The perception against the Backs changed in the 1970s when more African Americans started to feature in better positions, thereby marking considerable change in black people’s portrayal. The American sitcom, Julia, that showed more than eighty episodes on NBC from 1968 to 1971, for example, is a TV series that give African American roles that are valued by the society. Julia, the main cast, serves as a nurse in a large aerospace firm where she helps with treating the sick. Her late husband, who succumbed to a gunshot while in Vietnam, served as a captain in the Army in charge of flying aircrafts. The two African Americans (Julia and Baker, her husband) assume roles that many often associate with the highly learned, an indication that the depiction of Blacks of on TV had changed, and possibly America was headed towards attaining the American Dream.

Riggs further illustrates his argument that the American society is headed towards achieving the American Dream of assimilation and consumerism by giving the example of “The Cosby Show” that featured Bill Cosby. The American sitcom that aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992 pays attention to the upper-middle class African American families residing in Brooklyn. The show addresses numerous issues that African Americans experienced in the society back then, and the casts talk about issues such as marriage, educating children, and achieving social integration. The show attracted a huge following during the late 1980s, particularly among African Americans who saw the program as presenting them being an ambitious part of the American society focused on attaining the American Dream.

The American Dream

Riggs’ program makes the audience believe that the U.S. is in the right track in attaining the American Dream. The American Belief is the perception that any person, regardless of where they come from or what social class they are born into, can achieve their own view of prosperity in a society where growth and development is possible to every person. The concept implies that it is possible to achieve the American Dream by working hard, taking risks, and sacrifice. Color Adjustment creates the impression that black people, based on their presentations in various TV shows, is an indication of attaining the American Dream of assimilation and consumerism. The films where Blacks take active roles suggest that the American society is becoming more assimilated, especially in the way black actors and producers are increasingly featuring in media productions.

The tensions that existed between racial integration in the U.S. and the idea of the American Dream is African Americans would take up the position of Whites yet they are inferior, and only came to the country as foreigners. The tension might have contributed to the production of TV shows that conflicted in their perception regarding the attainment of assimilation. Some producers came up with programs that present Blacks as assuming influential roles, while others still assigned inferior positions to black characters. The tensions were further heightened by the civil unrests in the 1960s and 1970s that created doubts as to whether what TV shows present about Blacks is what really happens in real life. African Americans advocates were trying to fight for equality and better treatment in various areas such as the workplace, health, and education, which escalated the tension between racial integration the idea of the American Dream. The tension would be lower if all TV shows presented Blacks in better roles, and if more black producers took charge to determine the content they want their audiences to receive.

“Grown-ish Point” of View

“Grown-ish” presents a similar viewpoint from that of “Color Adjustment” because the audience learns through the eldest daughter in Johnson’s family that African Americans are making significant strides in achieving the American Dream of Assimilation and consumerism. The story follows Zoey as she interacts with her fellow university students. The idea that Zoey studies at the university is an indication that more African Americans have equal chances of pursuing education up to the highest level possible. She interacts with both white and black students who do not seem to show much indifference. The pop culture seem to have considerable impact on Zoey and her mates, and they visit social places such as clubs where they have fun, while indulging in drugs and sexual affairs. The TV show further opens the audience’s eye to understand how racial differences cause the Blacks to keep groupings that mainly comprise of their fellow black people. Zoey interacts with Whites students while in school but mostly relate with Blacks because of her race. She also resides at a place that is largely dominated by Blacks, which indicates that America had not still achieved full integration at the time of producing “Grown-ish”.

Factors that Hindered Black Involvement in TV programs

Understanding the difficulties in bringing Black actors on television in the 1950s may help to understand why the programs depicted the population in offensive ways. The widespread perception that Blacks are second-class citizens, forcibly brought into the U.S. as slaves affected the inclusion of Blacks in TV programs and films in the mid-20th century. The belief denied many black people the chance to be treated as Whites. Misconceptions of Blacks as cowardly, uneducated, and violent were rampant, and the dehumanizing stereotypes are enhanced and instilled by be the adverse presentation of the community in the media. The stereotype was so strong such that Blacks were not recruited in early works to play black characters. Instead, the program developers hired white actors and actresses to portray the black characters. The characters on the original “Amos ‘n’ Andy” radio show, for example, were both White; however, the show depicted them as black actors who played the roles of policemen, magistrates, businesspeople, and attorneys. Demeaning beliefs and perceptions were formed as Blacks were depicted in unfavorable ways by refusing to recruit black actors and directors. The White’s perception on the Blacks as being inferior has had substantial impact on black actors’ inclusion in motion picture.  

Progress has been made in the recent history in the way Blacks are portrayed on TV, which may be attributed to the increased awareness that people may have superior qualities and talents regardless of their race. Substantial public awareness has developed over the matter of diversity in media, as it became to be acceptable that mass media has strong psychological and social impact on audiences. The public concern pushed program developers to adopt diversity in their presentation to attract more audiences. Others felt that a suitable way to pass a message to other races is to incorporate characters without considering their races, which offered the avenue for many black people to enter into film. The increased equality in education further offered more black people the chance to acquire knowledge on film production and acting. The transformations set a situation where TV made major strides in terms of applying diversity and the inclusion and depiction of minorities in more influential roles. From being scarcely visible and poorly presented in the 1950s, the substantial transformations that occurred over the years offered an opportunity for Blacks to take active roles in acting where they increasingly assumed better roles.


“Color Adjustment” creates the impression that the African Americans are increasingly taking better roles in media presentations, which implies that America is headed in the right direction in achieving its dream of assimilation and consumerism. The documentary makes the claim while several other features show that many African Americans still face considerable hardships meeting their wants due to the socioeconomic constraints the minority groups face in the U.S. The documentary’s claim that African Americans were poorly depicted in TV shows in the 1950s, but later picked up better roles as the society became more conscious on the importance of diversity is true based on the productions up to 1970s. The claim that the progress suggests America is headed towards attaining its Dream, however, casts doubt depending on the other tribulations the Black community faced at the time when more casts appeared in TV shows.

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