Business as Usual: Sex, Race, and Work in Spike Lee's Bamboozled

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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature


Christina Shouse Tourino, English


In the beginning of Spike Lee's 2000 film Bamboozled, lead female character Sloan Hopkins is an articulate and promising young professional. Throughout the narrative, Sloan stands out as what critic Ray Black has called the film's "historical consciousness," constantly reminding the male protagonists of the implications of their actions. By the end of the film, however, Sloan stumbles into her boss' office mumbling "Sloan, this is listen to Sloan day!" before losing control of her gun and shooting the film's narrator. How are we to understand a character shift that has baffled critics since the movie came out? A simple acceptance of Lee's inability to create believable female characters does not suffice; after all, Lee has acknowledged his past exclusion of women and stated that he intentionally made Sloan "the most sympathetic and the most intelligent" character in the film. Yet, as viewers, we are clueless as to why Sloan behaves as she does. Through careful historicizing, "Business as Usual: Sex, Race, and Work in Spike Lee's Bamboozled" unearths the underpinnings of the economic sexual exploitation that African American women face in Lee's cinematic workplace, and attempts to put Sloan in the historical context that Lee does not.