Title

Turning a Blind Eye: Hollywood’s Colonialist Framing of Human Trafficking

Lead Author Major

English

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Jeffrey Becker

Faculty Mentor Department

Political Science

Abstract/Artist Statement

The purpose of this paper is to explore common themes in the way victims, villains, and heroes are depicted in Hollywood, and how those themes may reflect society’s both misinformed and discriminatory perception of others when it comes to human trafficking. For the purposes of examining these perceptions according to American society, this project will draw its support from American entertainment films. Specifically, (excluding documentaries) this paper will draw from fictive or biographical films on narratives about human trafficking that are directed or produced by American directors or screenwriters, or distributed by American film companies. By observing threads of commonality between these films, this paper endeavors to identify and critically analyze popular themes about human trafficking movies. Evidence drawn from this research supports that American movies about human trafficking often vilify those from the East and commend heroes from the West. Victims are either “regular” American girls kidnapped by barbaric foreigners who must be saved, or poor exotic aliens who are beyond rescue. Heroes are typically people from “civilized” societies like the U.S. or Europe; offenders are savages from the East or Eastern Europe. The result is the phenomenon of a cultural colonialism revolving around human trafficking. As stereotypes are reinforced and retold, society’s collective conscious marks Americans as wholesome heroes, and racial and cultural others as mysterious and dangerous. These types of narratives can bolster colonialist attitudes that marginalize the most vulnerable and exploited people of human trafficking. Such attitudes can direct policies and political approaches regarding the eradication of human trafficking that may leave some victims unrecognized or some offenders unidentified. Though wildly entertaining and lucrative, Hollywood films about human trafficking may have elements that prove detrimental to the fight against modern slavery.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Start Date

30-4-2016 3:00 PM

End Date

30-4-2016 5:00 PM

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Apr 30th, 3:00 PM Apr 30th, 5:00 PM

Turning a Blind Eye: Hollywood’s Colonialist Framing of Human Trafficking

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

The purpose of this paper is to explore common themes in the way victims, villains, and heroes are depicted in Hollywood, and how those themes may reflect society’s both misinformed and discriminatory perception of others when it comes to human trafficking. For the purposes of examining these perceptions according to American society, this project will draw its support from American entertainment films. Specifically, (excluding documentaries) this paper will draw from fictive or biographical films on narratives about human trafficking that are directed or produced by American directors or screenwriters, or distributed by American film companies. By observing threads of commonality between these films, this paper endeavors to identify and critically analyze popular themes about human trafficking movies. Evidence drawn from this research supports that American movies about human trafficking often vilify those from the East and commend heroes from the West. Victims are either “regular” American girls kidnapped by barbaric foreigners who must be saved, or poor exotic aliens who are beyond rescue. Heroes are typically people from “civilized” societies like the U.S. or Europe; offenders are savages from the East or Eastern Europe. The result is the phenomenon of a cultural colonialism revolving around human trafficking. As stereotypes are reinforced and retold, society’s collective conscious marks Americans as wholesome heroes, and racial and cultural others as mysterious and dangerous. These types of narratives can bolster colonialist attitudes that marginalize the most vulnerable and exploited people of human trafficking. Such attitudes can direct policies and political approaches regarding the eradication of human trafficking that may leave some victims unrecognized or some offenders unidentified. Though wildly entertaining and lucrative, Hollywood films about human trafficking may have elements that prove detrimental to the fight against modern slavery.