Cinematic Stereotypes - The Mammy/Maid in American Cinema
Pimps, prostitutes, mammy’s and maids are all racial stereotypes that have plagued Black folks
in film for decades. In fact, one of Hollywood’s favorite racist stereotypes is that of the
“mammy/maid” character, traditionally played by a dark skinned, African American actress,
usually somewhat overweight, loud and often pushy. Now this “mammy/maid” character goes
back as far as minstrel shows in the mid to late 1800’s where these characters were played by
White folks in Black face. At the end of the Civil war, Black folks began to engage in minstrel
shows as well, sadly taking on the negative stereotypes that these White minstrel shows had to
offer. In spite of the racist tropes such roles authenticated, they also allowed Black entertainers a platform to hone their skills and train for film opportunities waiting around the corner.
Fast forward to the late 1920’s, through the 1950’s and up pop the likes of Hattie McDaniel
and Louise Beavers, two African American actresses who would pave the way for other Black
actors, enduring racism in Hollywood both on and off the screen. Hattie McDaniel, the first
African American to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as her role of Mammy in
Gone with the Wind was at one point the go-to actress for the archetypical mammy/maid role.
character. Hattie played similar roles throughout her career but continually faced opposition
from those in Black America who criticized her for perpetuating racist stereotypes.
Louise Beavers also played her share of stereotypical roles but was most famous as Delilah in the 1934 film Imitation of Life. This film is regarded by some critics as representative of a new wave of liberal views in Depression-era America, as it would be the first time in American cinema that a Black woman’s problems were given notable consideration in a major motion picture.
From this point on, numerous Black actresses such as Juanita Moore, Ethel Waters,
Claudia McNeil, Beah Richards, Diahann Carroll, Esther Rolle, and Academy Award
winners Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have all undertaken the stereotypical role of
“mammy/maid” on screen. The progression of this role from subservient to humanized is still a
feat that some feel has yet to be achieved. As the film and television industry strive to
incorporate more people of color as writers, it should be our hope that their forward thinking will one day change this role into one that Black America will be proud to watch on the big screen.
Julie Robinson - Film Bio
Julie Robinson(Co-President Meet Mario Productions/Producer/Writer/Director) has been working in the arena of creativity since she was a kid, growing up to be a filmmaker through education and participation. Julie acquired her knowledge in film at Clark College, now Clark-Atlanta University (BA in Communications), Connecticut’s Film Industry training program, (Certificate in Script Supervision) and Sacred Heart University's FTMA graduate program (MA in Film and Television). Julie has worked on numerous feature films including "For Us The Living - The Story of Medger Evers," starring the late great Howard Rollins, ”Officer Down," which carried an enormous cast that included Stephen Dorff and James Woods, ”Hello, I Must Be Going," which starred Melanie Lynskey and veteran actress, Blythe Danner and finally ”The Volunteer," which starred the extremely talented Aunjanue Ellis. As a writer/director, Julie has made two short films, "The Talk” and “Moments In My Life”. Julie also co-wrote her first feature film entitled, “MEET MARIO” with her production company partner and dear friend, D.J. Higgins. Upon meeting D.J. in grad school the two started MEET MARIO PRODUCTIONS and have since collaborated & produced several short films. Recently, Julie has taken on the role of “Producer” within the Meet Mario organization helping to bring “PASQUALE’S MAGIC VEAL” (which starred Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos”) to the screen as well as “SMACK”, “SANTINO”, “SUPER-WOMAN”, “ARMED & DANGEROUS” and “IMMIGRANT” all short films written & directed by D.J. Higgins.
Creative collaboration is what Julie Robinson truly enjoys and together in her partnership with D.J. Higgins they strive to make movies with a meaningful message..