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Passing as Social Strategy

Passing as Social Strategy

The Early Postwar “Message” Pics

(p.29) Chapter Two Passing as Social Strategy
Projections of Passing
N. Megan Kelley
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter focuses on representations of racial/ethnic passing in Hollywood films produced in the late 1940s. It examines how postwar filmmakers used their medium to frame passing as a viable social strategy, rather than a sign of an internalized confusion about identity, and to elevate the “social problem” or “message” movies to new levels of prestige and popularity. These films dealt with various themes, including alcoholism, female insanity, racism and racial prejudice, prison reform, death penalty, and anti-Semitism. The chapter analyzes how race and racial identities were constructed in Crossfire and Home of the Brave, not only as a counterpoint to discussions of racial passing in films, but as a way of showing the trajectory of pathological figures in Hollywood films, from twisted psychosis wrought by racial prejudice (late 1940s) to the twisted psychosis wrought by racial passing (late 1950s).

Keywords:   racial passing, ethnic passing, Hollywood films, racism, racial prejudice, Home of the Brave, anti-Semitism, Crossfire, psychosis, message movies

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