Orson Welles Doesn't See Color In Othello

Orson Welles Doesn't See Color In Othello

How have film perspectives on race changed over time?
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Othello is a tragic story of love twisted into an all-consuming revenge. The titular character, Othello, is a decorated war hero from the Moors. Even though he is highly accomplished, he is still isolated from the rest of society, mainly due to his race and foreign background. Othello is led falsely to believe his newfound wife Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio by the less than honest Iago, a man under Othello’s command hell-bent on bringing him down. He spirals into a jealous rage, further ostracizing himself from the rest of society.

Throughout all of this, Othello’s ethnicity, the not so quiet elephant in the room, influences the course of action of the play and the way that the characters, including Othello in the end, view him. Orson Welles’s 1951 version of Othello almost completely erased the theme of race that is so prevalent in the play and as a result warps the original meaning.

Othello’s race precedes him. It is one of the first things that the audience learns about him before he physically enters the story. Iago awakens Brabantio, a Venetian nobleman, to tell him his young daughter Desdemona has eloped with Othello. Iago refers to Othello as an “old black ram…tupping [Brabantio’s] white ewe” . Even though he is well-decorated with accomplishments, Othello is reduced to an animal. He is portrayed as a ram, an aggressive horned male sheep, while Desdemona is a white ewe, the pure, more docile sheep counterpart.

He openly discusses their sexual relationship in a disgusting way, dehumanizing their love and marriage. Iago then further threatens Brabantio with Othello’s race, saying “the devil will make a grandsire of you” . In accordance with the previous horned accusation, Othello is directly portrayed as the devil, something that shows society’s fear of foreigners at the time. Iago insinuates that this black stain on Brabantio’s family will continue indefinitely through the children that Othello will sire. Iago is aware of the racist undertones of Venetian society and uses it to his advantage.

By the end of the play, Othello fully accepts the racist ideas of society, showing his internalized racism. When he first suspects Desdemona of cheating on him he refers to her name as now “begrimed and black as mine own face" when it was fresh before. Othello associates blackness and his own face as something stained and grimy, echoing the previous racist statements of Brabantio, Iago, and the Duke of Venice. By associating Desdemona’s white visage with freshness, Othello starts to show his obsession with white purity and his internalized self-loathing.

He again shows his fixation on whiteness when he prepares to murder Desdemona and refuses to “shed [Desdemona’s] blood, nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow”. Othello further shows his negative association of blackness when he says “arise, black vengeance, from the hollow hell”. His internal self-loathing becomes external after he kills Desdemona and realizes that she was innocent of cheating all along. He describes himself as a “base Judean [who] threw a pearl away”. This account shows that he sees himself as a base savage ignorant of the true value of the pristine white woman in front of him. By the end of the play it is obvious that race plays a key role in Othello, something that Orson Welles completely ignores in his film.

The film is shot in black and white, which is the first decision that Orson Welles makes to eliminate color from Othello. Welles plays Othello himself, showing his blatant disregard to staying true to the racial nature of the play because simply: Welles is not black. Welles appears to be slightly bronzed, something that is not exactly blackface, but still is offensive.

The most that the film does to address Othello’s origin is to repeatedly call him “the Moor”. In fact, the racial remarks said in the play by Brabantio, Iago, and Othello are omitted or not focused on. Brabantio alludes to Othello using witchcraft to enchant his daughter, but this is never tied directly into ethnicity. Welles portrays Othello in an entirely self-confident way, ignoring the internal struggle Othello has over his blackness that appears in the text. In creating the film version of Othello Welles must have decided that the prevalent issue of race in Othello was something not important enough to focus on, which is derogatory and inaccurate.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Who IS Allowed To Talk About Gun Control?

I have more questions than there are answers but I hope that we are on the way to a country with far less gun violence.
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Who is allowed to talk about gun control?

I see a lot of stuff on social media saying that teenagers don’t know enough to talk about gun control. Why? If a teenager dies of cancer, their friends talk about cancer. If a teenager dies because they were hit by a drunk driver on Prom night, the high school scares their students into not drinking and driving. Guess what, 17 teenagers were killed last week. Why are their friends not allowed to have an opinion on that? They have been going to funerals every day since Friday. I can’t imagine having to go to the funeral of the guy I sat next in math class. People my age aren’t supposed to die, we are supposed to graduate and get our dream job. A high school student should be thinking about homework and what movie they're seeing this weekend, not if that noise in the hallway was a man with a gun.

In media, we project images of strong teenagers. The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, they are all books and movies depicting kids in situations they don’t like. The main characters fight the system causing an uproar from the adults. But, in the end the teenagers are victorious, their prize is happiness and spending their adult lives in peace. Why would adults feed their children these novels and not expect the message to be taken to heart.

Ou president is a 71 year old white man, there were approximately 14 incidents where shots were fired in a school. That is about as many as there have been in 2018. I have no idea what changed, what has made this number dramatically increase. But obviously something needs to change. Why does President Trump feel threatened by the idea of making the ability to purchase a gun less accessible?

Personally, I don’t think that we need to make all guns illegal. There are many people, several of which I’m related to, who legally own guns that have only ever been used to shoot animals during their designated hunting seasons. But, last week I watched in horror as the news story of a guy that I graduated with was shot and killed. He had recently bought a pump action shotgun and was showing friends when it accidentally went off and shot him in the chest.In our society, guns are not going to disappear, but they are far too prevalent and easily accessible to those who clearly do not need to be in possession them.

The students of Douglas High School do not want to do away with guns. They want to make sure that no one ever has to worry about their friends, children, siblings or any one else while they are trying to get an education. I have more questions than there are answers but I hope that we are on the way to a country with far less gun violence.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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I Hate To Say It, But Social Media Is Ruining Us

Why post everything on Facebook?
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I'm guilty of it myself. I post photos on my social media accounts of a fun vacation I went on, or of my friends and I looking good and having a fun time. I strive for that perfect candid that was so unplanned but was still so cute. Events that I am proud of I share with my friends. I write articles just as I am writing this one, to share my ideas on the media.

But why do we have a tendency to share all this online?

There is nothing wrong with posting pictures that you want to expose to others. However, when it becomes a comparison, it becomes a problem. Often times, social media portrays people's lives onscreen different from their reality. Instagram can make it seem that someone is living their best life when in reality there is a failure to show the pure, raw and difficult insight or emotion your follower is actually experiencing. It can be a fake, false distortion that has the ability to put others down and reconsider their own lives. It essentially this "Barbie doll" misconception. Unfortunately, no one's life is as easy and perfect as we think it is.

Another issue faced by social media is Facebook's "What's on your mind?" question bar. I feel like this question is almost rhetorical, as if we all answered this question honestly with details, is it really what is appropriate for all audiences? Telling information face to face in our inner circle is one thing, but there is certainly a distinction between Facebook friends and true friends. People don't always have everyone's best interest at heart. Most of us are not close with half of these friends we have added. So why do we need to share our every movement of every day with them?

Sharing pictures of your own, your child's or a loved one's graduation or milestone is completely justifiable and in fact, encouraged. But when media is used to brag or showcase something that you would not normally discuss in real life, it may be time to reconsider.

We are told numerous times by our elders that we are overly absorbed in what is in our hands. We are not making as many everyday connections outside the realm of the device in our fingertips. I never thought that I would agree as much, and I hate to say that it is something I've become more and more aware of is true.

To conquer this general trend and harmful trend found in modern times, enjoy the moment and be present. Who knows if you'll have the same opportunity to be in the same place with the same people twice.

Stop recording the concert, and enjoy the fact that you're seeing one of your favorite artists live. Enjoy your beach day without making the entire day that is supposed to be about relaxation, about taking a good pic.

Social media is a blessing that we are all grateful for, but let's not let its curse get the best of us. Since when was this supposed to be a stressful thing?

So go on a cleanse. Put the device down, and go see the world for yourself, not for anyone else.

Cover Image Credit: pexels.com

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