Friday, January 05, 2007

The Robe of Identity

“IDENTITY would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt and sometimes discerned. This trust in one’s nakedness is all that gives one the power to change robes.”

—James Baldwin
The Devil Finds Work

The Dial Press, 1976
© 1976 by James Baldwin

James Baldwin At The Movies... Provocative, timeless, brilliant.

Bette Davis’s eyes, Joan Crawford’s bitchy elegance, Stepin Fetchit’s stereotype, Sidney Poitier’s superhuman black man... These are the movie stars and the qualities that influenced James Baldwin... and now become part of his incisive look at racism in American movies.

Baldwin challenges the underlying assumptions in such films as In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Exorcist, offering us a vision of America’s self-delusions and deceptions. Here are our loves and hates, biases and cruelties, fears and ignorance reflected by the films that have entertained us and shaped our consciousness. And here, too, is the stunning prose of a writer whose passion never diminished his struggle for equality, justice, and social change.

From The Birth of a Nation to The Exorcist—one of America’s most important writers turns his critical eye to American film.

(Posted first in January 2007 in observance of film awards season.)


Peterson Toscano said...

Wow, I love that quote. Really says it so well. Thanks.

Craig Hickman said...

One of my all-time favorite writers/thinkers.