Dersu Uzala Film and Cultural Diversity

The images of rape in the silent films idealized the power of respectable white men over the men and women of other classes and races and subordinated the women from their own social station. These movies constructed white men as heroes and guardians of morality and civilization, white women as frail but morally superior figures, and African-American and immigrant men and women as uncontrollable sexual deviants who threatened civilization. These films reflected the fears of the white middle class that massive immigration, waves of black migration to the North, and the increasingly public role of women were irrevocably changing American society and threatening the power of the traditional dominant group in the United States: white middle- and upper-class men.
In the 1910s and 1920s, the film industry was fascinated with rape in silent feature films. Out of a sample of fifteen of the most popular feature films from 1915 through 1927, eleven contained single or multiple scenes of attempted rape. (1) The attempted rape served as a transitional point for the films and indicated some momentous change in the storyline was about to occur. But more importantly, rape also acted as a metaphor for larger cultural concerns. Indeed, the action initiated by the sexual violence operated as a symbolic episode that legitimized the power and dominance of white men of the middle and upper classes, who were united through a common culture of respectability that emphasized etiquette and genteel values (Bushman, 1993). Attempted rape scenes in these popular films developed a triangular relationship between the white, manly hero saving his white, female love interest from the sexual violence of the African-American or immigrant rapist. Such plots were based upon a long tradition of melodramatic story-telling with clearly defined notions of good and evil, and&nbsp.many films followed the time-worn traditions of the past.