Race, privilege, and gender are three key issues addressed in Lee Mun Wah’s “The Color of Fear”. Different characters in the film bring out these issues and discuss how they have come about and how they are apparent in our society today. Lee Mun Wah uses different variations of visual language and compositions to show certain perspectives on the different characters. Also there is a theme of interlocking hierarchies presented in the film.
Certain characters in the film bring out the idea of white privilege. These privileges and advantages of whites in our society often go ignored and unasserted. Victor states how white men “stand on the heads of their women”, meaning that men degrade women in our society. The interlocking hierarchies in our society show that whites see people of other races as being at a disadvantage, rather than seeing themselves at an advantage. David Chistensen represents the typical white society when he says that he sees everyone as having equal opportunities and as long as people of color just work hard like everyone else than they will get somewhere in life. Victor tells him that everyone does not have equal opportunities, and that whites are born with unearned advantages. White people have an invisible package of unearned assets. Invisible in the way that they can’t be seen or touched, but can be cashed in everyday at colored peoples expense. White people have these unearned advantages and privileges just for being white, and in our society this leads to a systematic tendency to over empowerment, where denial of these advantages occurs leading to no changes in society.
In the film we see issues of race and racism as being a “white” problem, contrary to what we see in society as race and racism as being a “colored” problem. Victor and David Lee both make the statement that to be “American” is to be white. In society we usually see racism as individual acts of violence or discrimination towards others, but as David Lee points out, racism is an invisible system conferring unsought racial dominance by am oppressive group, mainly whites. “White power secures its dominance by seeming not to be anything in particular” (Lipsitz, 135). Victor says how he could get things his mother couldn’t get just because his skin was a lighter black than hers. Lee then brings in a picture of Victor and his mother where the difference in skin color can be seen. Lee often brings in pictures of the participants of when they were young, and when they are with their families. This helps the viewers to draw more of identification with the characters.
Often in between scenes Lee Min Wah has close-ups of the participants or shows two participants face to face. All of the close-up shots of individuals are taken at eye-level which humanizes them rather than objectifying them. A close-up of an individual, such as Loren, would suggest an identification with the character rather than objectifying him as just another black man. The shots of the men face to face often suggest a tension between the two. The shot is from the shoulders up. The men appear to have no shirts on implying that they are naked. This shows that they have nothing to hide from each other. A face-to-face shot of Victor and David would imply that there is a tension between them and that they are disagreeing on things in the discussion.
Different characters in the film bring out these issues of race, gender, and privilege and discuss how they have come about and how they are apparent in our society today. Lee Mun Wah uses different variations of visual language and compositions to show certain perspectives on the different characters. Race, privilege, and gender are three main issues addressed in Lee Mun Wah’s “The Color of Fear”, and are important issues that occur in our society.