Monday, January 07, 2008

Beverly Hills Cop and Framing Blackness

Ed Guerrero’s discussion of African American image in modern films I think is well displayed in Beverly Hills Cop. Guerrero points out that the image of African Americans in film has not always been very positive through out the history of film. In relation to Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy is playing an off duty cop doing investigation on a friend’s murder even though he is not supposed to be doing so. He plays Axel Foley, a detective who goes under cover attempting to bust a trade in the opening scene, taking on the vocabulary, look and attitude of the very people he is trying to bust. However, he pushes that identity onto himself through out the entire movie, even at one point making a joke to the only African American cop who is assigned to follow Foley about how he is beginning to sound like his white partner. In my opinion, it was a very racist comment as the character Foley takes on many of the “stereotyped personas” of the African American race; street slang, reckless driving, attitude, clothes, etc. The fact that Foley is one of two “token black guys” in the entire film may also been seen as racist in Guerrero’s eyes as well. Even the criminals in the film are all white or of Hispanic looking nature, but it is naturally assumed in the beginning that because Foley is African American, he is obviously a criminal. Other parts in the movie that I personally do not see as being “pro-African American” include the beat up car Foley drives, the scene of Foley signing into the hotel, and the ending scene where Foley admits to stealing three hotel robes and being escorted out of a hotel by cops.

I agree with everyone else on the fact that Eddie Murphy is given a chance to shine in this movie for the role of being the only black character in a predominately white environment. The fact that he goes out of his way to not conform to the white stereotype but to stick to the black stereotype seems rather forced throughout the entire movie though. My question is, was pushing the “black stereotype” that far really necessary to make the film work? Personally, I think it was hilarious, and at the time it was made (1984) it was the normal depiction of African Americans, but sadly, I feel that the same stereotype is still being seen in movies made today. If they had toned down the stereotype of Foley's character, would the movie be the same?


Blogger Hayden Cadwalader said...

I don't think that Foley is actually conforming to the white stereotype, but is keeping himself the same throughout most of the movie, aside from where he plays a character or pulls the "race card". He is a well spoken, but unorthodox, officer from Detroit, who is viewed differently by his BHPD officers. He is competient, and does what he has to do get the job done. I believe that Axel Foley is far from the stereotype of an average african american in the 1980's. Though he is one of the only black people in the film, he still is able to joke about his race, even with another black cop.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Vladigogo said...

And yet, Eddie Murphy became the 80s icon for African Americans--He represented them. He was the face of all of black America, much like Michael Jordan was the face of all African American athletes. He was not seen as a threat because of the roles he played and the fact that he never challenged the status quo through his films, at least not obviously.

9:25 PM  

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