Offscreen Notes

bell hooks (1952-Dec 15. 2021)

December 16th, 2021

The film The Shape of Water (2017), a fantasy directed by Guillermo del Toro, was embraced by many people, but not by me—and not by Bell Hooks (1952 – 2021), who said, “Given the cultural focus on male sexual predation and violence it is strange that audiences are so enumerate of The Shape of Water – a film that embodies every aspect of dominator culture, imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” posted on her Twitter account The Real bell books (@bellhooks) on February 18, 2018. I thought the minority figures in the film (Eliza, as played by the lead actress Sally Hawkins, as well as the characters played by Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins) were walking clichés. Hooks often went against the predictable—and inspired the courage and honesty of others. Hooks wrote about history and theory, about the social structures of patriarchy and white supremacy, as well as the arts and culture, including film and photography, literature, and music in her books, from Ain’t I A Woman (1981), Black Looks: Race and Representation (1992), Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies (1996) to Writing Beyond Race (2012). She, in Writing Beyond Race, saw the Paul Haggis’s movie Crash (2004) for the false liberalism it was, in which a black woman is harassed, two charming and witty young black men are shown to be criminals, and a racist white man becomes a savior. Bell Hooks was a contrarian, an iconoclast. Yet, Hooks championed collaboration and discourse, and affirmed friendship and love. She was an activist and a poet. She became one of the most significant thinkers of her generation. She was surrounded by her family at the time of her death from kidney failure, a death that came as a shock to those awaiting her illuminating words. Hooks, who was born in Kentucky, and educated at Stanford, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California-Santa Cruz, taught at Yale, Oberlin, City College of New York, and the University of Southern California, before returning to Kentucky, where she taught at Berea College, and established the Bell Hooks Institute. (Daniel Garrett)

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