‘Subjects of Desire’ is a thought provoking documentary exploring the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing (or appropriating) Black aesthetics and features, deconstructing what we understand about race and the power behind beauty.
The film follows a group of young black women auditioning for beauty pageants, dance competitions, and singing contests, and examines how it is like for a black woman to be told she’s “Beautiful for a black girl” and the hidden bigotry in how we critique black women in general.
The ‘Mammy’ Image was not very common in slave history, but became popular afterwards and was pushed to sell a fantasy (think Aunt Jemima, or ‘The Help’). This brings up a lot of discussion about who and what black women are vs what society has pressured them to become, and whether that is wrong if that person loves who they are. The ‘Jezebel’ stereotype, ‘colorism’, ‘blackfishing’ are all focal points of the film.
Another concept explored is white women making the false equivalency that they endure as much struggle as black women. It’s no doubt that ‘Subjects of Desire’ does not shy away from the tough discussions and I like the way they were able to be open and inviting about the topics.
Overall, ‘Subjects of Desire’ invites you to contemplate appropriation and degradation of black culture in American history in an open and informative way. If you want to learn more I would strongly recommend checking it out!