Every film produced
in America, especially in modern day society, incorporates an intersectionality of gender, class and race. These intersectionality’s are always supported by stereotypes and can be found throughout the entirety
of a film, even in underlying forms. A film that can be especially noted in this category is the American comedy film, White Chicks (2004), that was directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Although funny and entertaining, the plot includes an intersection of genders
and races with subtle supporting factors of stereotypes on different class and sexualities. A couple of the main characters in the movie are two African American FBI agent brothers. The film is centered around these
two agents and their experiences working undercover in the Hamptons. After falling short in previous
FBI assignments that compromised the life of their jobs as secret agents, the two African American characters, Kevin and Marcus Copeland (played by Marlon and Shawn Wayans), are given a new assignment by their boss to protect heiresses of an upper-class family from a possible kidnapping. These ‘heiresses,’ Tiffany and Brittany
Wilson (played by Anne Dudek and Maitland Ward), are two spoiled, White, rich sisters.
As the agents are escorting
the two sisters to the Hamptons, they unfortunately get into a minor car accident leaving Tiffany and Brittany
with a few cuts and bruises. Since the sisters
refuse to be seen in the Hamptons
with the cuts on their faces in fear of being ridiculed for these minor injuries
by other upper-class members of society (especially by two other White,
spoiled, rich sisters), Kevin and Marcus undergo extreme makeovers to make themselves look like the two
girls and go out in the Hamptons in the hopes of avoiding
assignment which will cost their jobs. Throughout this story line, the intersection of race and
gender in the film is found within the roles of four main characters: Kevin,
Marcus, Tiffany and Brittany. The intersection of the black race and the male
gender, along with the intersection of the white race and the female gender,
are both analyzed separately and combined and are emphasized by the portrayal
of each character through the script, costuming, the setting and specifically three
different scenes of the film. The film White
Chicks (2004), contains an intersectionality on race and gender and are
supported by stereotypes that are written throughout its script.
Throughout the duration
of the film, there are many racial stereotypes and underlying themes of racism that coincide
that the film heavily relies on. One racial stereotype that crosses
over with gender is regarding
the Wilson sisters and their whiteness; the ‘white people’ stereotype can be supported by material
relations along with socio-economic status. Considering a great portion of the film is set in the Hamptons
which is well known for containing a social scene that consists of pretentious and rich white women, this reinforces the idea of White people being referred to as the top of the social system. The forms of racism provided are mainly
inferential. For example, the cast of Brittany and Tiffany’s group of friends
consists of three other white girls who are also depicted as shallow and only
have interests revolving around shopping, boys and appearance. It’s a subtle
example, but it’s a blatant derogatory representation of race. Many
women are generally known for only having interests in material items or sexual
relations, as opposed to having interests in working or becoming successful and
independent, but white women especially fall under this generalization. The Heineken Walk in Fridge (2009)
commercial also supports this generalization by comparing the wants of men to
the wants of women, and supports the idea that a man’s dream closet is filled
with beer and a woman’s dream closet is filled with shoes and clothes and other
material items. The costumes that these characters wear (as well as what the
secret agents wear when they are disguised as them) supports what the ‘desired’
woman in society should wear in not only today’s society, but for generations.
“Studies on sex-role stereotypes demonstrate that in fact little has changed in
the public’s perception of what constitutes masculine and feminine traits
(Broverman et al., 1972; Conway and Vartanian, 2000)” (Bertozzi, 2015, p. 493).
They are dressed in short skirts, tight shirts, high heels, and have their
make-up and hair done that oversexualizes them. This in turn has an effect on
the girls becoming “heterosexualized” (Rogers, 2015, p. 128) which then has
audience members (girls) paying more “attention to the size and shape of their
bodies, the range and contents of their wardrobes, the styling of their hair,
and the making up of their faces” (Rogers, 2015, p. 128). Because the women are
not the ones who are actually playing themselves throughout over half of the
film, this also gives the majority of the speaking roles to the men. Multiple
studies show that the percentage of females who have speaking roles is much
less than the percentage of males who have speaking roles. “Male characters
within each racial or ethnic group outnumbered females” (Smith, Choueiti
& Pieper, 2014) and this reinforces the dominance that men hold in today’s
society, and especially in the film industry.
Another stereotype supporting the intersectionality
on gender and race is regarding the main characters, Kevin and Marcus.
The black man in films can be portrayed as evil, lazy, wrong or other negative
adjectives and the two black characters’ white male boss threatens the life of
their jobs implying that they always do everything wrong. “In fact, research
has shown that when asked to list the traits defining the cultural stereotype
of Blacks, both high and low-prejudiced people come up with essentially the
same list (Devine & Elliot, 1995), including traits such as poor, hostile,
uneducated, athletic, and rhythmic” (Gorham, 2004). But continuing on, they play the roles of two African American, confident, strong men but the apparent stereotypes that are revealed are when they are costumed
as Tiffany and Brittany.
In one of the initial scenes where the two men are dressed as the two girls,
they are making an entrance into the Hamptons and a white male makes a sexual remark
to the girls. Brittany (who is really Kevin), immediately turns around and
aggressively yells in his normal, male voice while standing in a masculine
stance and threatens the man who made a comment to them. This supports the
aggressive and hostile stereotype that black men are perceived to act like. During another scene where all of the girls are having a sleepover, Marcus (who is really Tiffany), braids one of the friend’s hair and when he is finished braiding, she responded,
“You know something? I think you may have been black in a previous life,” which is a direct racial stereotype on Black culture. There’s even another scene where many of the characters are in one of the Hamptons clubs and there is a dance off between girls; Tiffany and Brittany’s group ‘wins’ after Marcus and Kevin include hip-hop and breakdancing in their performance implying another stereotype on Black culture in dance and rhythmic mannerisms. The positive that comes out of hip-hop
and breakdancing is understanding “how hip-hop disrupts racist, sexist,
classist and homophobic discourses that are par for the course in American
culture” (David, 2015, p. 189) and representing Black culture in a good light.
What’s ironic is that 2 white girls are getting the credit for it and it diminishes
the spotlight on African Americans.
Later, in one of the final scenes of the movie, there is a fashion show that Tiffany and Brittany
(which is really Marcus and Kevin) participate in. Although
everyone sees them as women, there is an underlying depiction of transgender people,
along with drag queens in drag shows, which reflects sexuality in society
today on how there are more openly transgender people in the community and also how transgender people are viewed as. Although this scene is more about the
combination of genders and stereotypes on sexualities, it’s just another
example of the script for this film and how offensive it can be to various
Although after its premiere in theaters, the 2004 Blockbuster hit received over $113.1 million worldwide against its initial budget of only $37 million, the film White
Chicks (2004) is significant due to the inclusion of intersections on race and gender that reflects today’s society. Among this intersection, there are multiple stereotypes on white women as well as black men that support each character’s role. Its plot reflects the current depiction of life in the 21st century by utilizing progressive ideas and hierarchal constructs of society. “The gag is
not so much that black men are playing white women as that men learn to
understand women by stepping into their shoes and dishing with their
girlfriends. Womanhood in this version involves not empowerment and liberation,
but shopping, trading makeup and perfume tips, and checking out the cute guys
at the party” (Ebert, 2004). Through the script, costuming and setting, White Chicks (2014) supports the
stereotypes of the intersection of race and gender Although it entertains an
audience, it can seem offensive to black men and white women.
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(Producer’s), & Wayans, K. I. (Director).
(June 23, 2004). White Chicks Motion
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Affects. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7sTJb5GgE8DbVdNanF6VUZ3Rzg/view.
Rogers, M. F.
(2015). Hetero Barbie?. In G. Dines & J. M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in the Media: A Critical Reader (pp. 128-131). (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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(Director). (2009). Heineken Walk In Fridge Commercial. Amstevleen,
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Pieper, K. (2014). Race/Ethnicity in 600
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3: Entertainment Media. PowerPoint slides. Retrieved from
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