Longer Shot Affect in Bamboozled

I’m one of those people responsible for what you view on your idiot box.
The problem is not enough of you have been watching.
With the onslaught of the internet, video and interactive games, nine
hundred channels to choose from and whatnot, our valued audience has dramatically eroded.
[…] – Pierre Delacroix in “Bamboozled”

At 1:21, Pierre Delacroix tells us directly that he is “one of those people responsible for what you view on your idiot box.” It becomes confusing as to what role this type of opening sequence represents after Lee begins the body of the film plot. Were we as a viewer supposed to feel that Pierre’s opening monologue was directed at us?

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One of the most striking moments in the film for me was the sequence beginning at about 48 minutes where Mantan: The New Millennial Minstrel Show is having its first run. Up until that point, Lee has employed what seems like generally low quality type film and a rapid cut structure. At the beginning of the sequence, Lee cuts back and forth between the show and the audience member reactions, including Delacroix, Jade, and other production members behind the show. But as the show progresses, Lee employs cuts with less frequency.

These longer shots suddenly make Delacroix’s opening comment very relevant – as a viewer, I feel like I was complicit in viewing “Bamboozled” but not complicit in watching this new millennial minstrel show. The lower frequency of cuts produces the type of gaze associated with watching a live show. We feel like we are suddenly complicit in viewing this form of entertainment that from a plot perspective, Delacroix has controlled, but generally speaking, is Lee’s way of saying that we are most often complicit in viewing shows built on racist stereotypes of black Americans through our own idiot boxes. Some audience members clap enthusiastically after the dance number while others hesitantly join in, following in the cues of the others. Which type of viewer were you when viewing the film – that is, what type of unintentional behaviors did Lee bring out in us as we watched a “new millennial minstrel show?”

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