Although I haven’t personally seen the movie, this article on the new film Spring Breakers argues that the film not only shows a very narrow representation of black people, but also that it values the lives of the white characters more than those of the black characters. The article argues that the main female characters and “Alien” (played by James Franco) are able to “swiftly modulate between white mainstream culture and aspirations of the black gangsta lifestyle”, however, “the black characters in Spring Breakers aren’t merely acting out the gangsta life—that’s just the way they are”. This is a fairly common controlling image of black people in Hollywood movies these days. Although obviously not all black people are a part of the “gangsta lifestyle”, when movies like Spring Breakers only portray them in this light, audience members of all races may internalize this message as true. It is also problematic that the film suggests that this is “just the way they are”, which is a very racist generalization.
The article goes on to argue that the film values the lives of white people much more than those of the black characters. The article references a scene where two of the white female protagonists get into a shootout with multiple black villains, stating that it is filmed “as if it were a video game with zero consequence”. There are no negative consequences for killing a room full of black people. The article explains that the way the events unfold is also racist “the black characters fall instantly and with little fanfare. The bikini-wearing duo emerges unscathed”. To me this scene shows very clearly the media racial hegemony that places white people as more important than people of other races. According to the article, every black character is a gangster criminal, who are so easy to kill that two white college girls wearing bikinis can easily wipe out an entire room of them. The article concludes by comparing this scene to Quentin Tarantino’s recent film Django Unchained, which treated the death of slave owners the same way as Spring Breakers treated the deaths of black gangsters, but then points out that the entire message of Django was that slave owners deserve to die. Was the point of Spring Breakers that all black people are gangster criminals who deserve to die? Probably not, but it is still very problematic in the way it represents black people.