Blog 3: What’s the social and/or political context of your film?

Art isn’t made it a vacuum, so for the the Researched Essay about representations of Romani people in film, you’ll need to research the social and political context of the film you’ve selected in order to make a comprehensive analysis of the function of Romani characters within it. 

The example I used in class was Coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula: The Romani characters in Dracula have very minor roles, but primarily, they are Dracula’s helpers. They protect his body, and trick  anyone who may harm Dracula; voluptuous women dressed as Gypsies (though not named as such) are his undead lovers, and the brawny Gypsy men do his bidding, like digging up enormous amounts of dirt to house his coffin. The film is set in 1462 in Romania, and at that time and place, Gypsies were forced into slavery and were brutalized, raped, and beaten by their masters. Vlad the Impaler, Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula, persecuted the Gypsies with particular violence and passion. Considering this, what does this suggest about Romanies in this film? How does the social and political context of the work inform the depiction of Romanies? And what about the social and political backdrop of America in 1992? Does that have any bearing on the representation of Romanies in the film?

I think it’s safe to say that Romanies in Dracula are pretty-one dimensional. They are, what Hancock would call, necessarily Gypsies in this story: they are magical, lusty, and aligned with darkness and the occult. But does the historical context further malign an already gruesomely mistreated people? Or does it suggest that a dark, powerful ruler forced Dracula’s Romani helpers into a kind of enchanted slavery?  Also, how might the film’s representation of the Romani helpers reflect 1992 America’s view of Gypsies?

For the film that you pick, you’ll need to do some digging and write 300 words about the social/political context for Romanies and some ideas you have about how that might inform their representation. Find out when and where the story is set and use the FSU library website, RADOC, resources on our course site, and our course books to find out what was going on then for Romanies. Pay attention to when the film itself was made and who made it– for example Guy Ritchie has talked in interviews about his representation of Romani people in Sherlock Holes Game of Shadows and of Travelers in Snatch.

Have fun researching!

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Image from: http://bridesofdracula.wikia.com/

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