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The Albanian caricature in Inside Man

by Julia Christina Englen

In the film Inside Man director Spike Lee uses different stereotypes to underline some of his arguments about NYC as a multicultural city with diversity and therefore he pokes fun of other people’s prejudices. However, Spike Lee still falls into the same trap when he uses stereotypes and caricatures. One of his caricatures is the sexual objectification of the Albanian woman in Inside Man. The Albanian woman is a stereotype of eastern European women. She is chain smoking, wears sexual clothes and has parking tickets. In this scene, a policeman invites her to come in and translate a tape from the robbers. She cracks up listening to the recording, explaining that the “band” is an audio recording of the communist president. It is even stereotypical when she tells them that she had to listen to the president in school. She is a woman, an eastern European woman, a working class immigrant from Europe, and she is supposed to be funny. When she enters the room all the characters attention is on her. The camera is set low so that the audience can see her push-up bra. Spike Lee makes sure that the audience knows that she is supposed to be sexual and “dangerous”. Even before they contact her for assistance, moreover, they have met her ex-husband who is scared of her due to her wild temperament. The rhythm of the film is not changing. She just walks in and walks out. Even if she is asked to come, no one really takes her seriously. The question is if she actually has any purpose in the film, more than that she is a comic relief? The policemen are cracking up when she leaves the room and tossing her parking tickets around. Her parking tickets are typical in a paper bag. The paper bag and the amount of parking tickets are just another sign of her “craziness”. The Albanian woman drives “like a woman” and talks herself out from paying them “like a woman”. Bloggers with Albanian heritage have reacted to this caricature of the Albanian woman. It is humiliating, according to them, that eastern Europeans are always represented as “trashy” in both European and Hollywood films. They also discuss whether Lee’s representation implies she is a prostitute. The film never explicitly comments on what her profession is. If she is a prostitute it would have fulfilled most of the prejudices towards eastern European women according to the bloggers. Why is Spike Lee using this caricature of the Albanian woman? The function in the film is to have a comic relief when the policemen’s attempts to deal with a hostage situation are not moving forward. She is a comic contrast to the policemen. They needed something to bring their work forward and they managed to find her in NYC. She is one small success for them, even if they do not take her seriously.

Comparison of Caricatures

by Danielle Balderas

Spike Lee and Wayne Wang both employ caricatures in their films—primarily concerned with women to fill these roles.  This scene involving the Albanian woman is an intensely sexualized caricature of a woman.  Although it is a marginal role, it serves its purpose as a caricature of an extremely sexual female.

            A comparison of the caricatures of female roles created by Spike Lee and Wayne Wang provides insight into differences in female caricatures (see “Caricature of Generational Differences”). Both the Albanian woman’s role and the role of the American blonde woman in Wang’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayer are extremely gender centered—with the bikini clad American blonde in Wang’s film, and the sultry and sexy caricature of the Albanian in Lee’s film.  However, the impact of Lee’s caricature is much more sexualized than Wang’s.  The Albanian woman walks in the trailer with a revealing and skin-tight dress, daring makeup, and a sultry and alluring attitude.   She immediately asks for a favor—suggesting that Lee’s caricature is also playing on the stereotype that women are always asking men to take care of something in return for their services.  Whereas Wang’s caricature of the American blonde is much more lighthearted and intending to show the embarrassment suffered by Mr. Shi as a result of a younger generation’s aversion to modesty. In light of this comparison Lee’s appears purely of sexual intention.

            Lee’s caricature also plays on the perception of women from the opposite gender. Lee is much more outright with his sexualized caricature of his character--the Albanian woman appears in every frame in company with the men, and her stark differences in appearance to those characters heightens her sexuality.  The effect of creating a stark and intense caricature of her sexuality leads to Denzel’s character being skeptical of her translation.  This attitude is reinforced by Lee’s camera work in which when a man is speaking in the frame; Lee only shows the back of the Albanian woman’s head—physically marginalizing her caricature.  Furthermore, the policewoman is seemingly absent in this scene—an intentional move by Lee so as not to create a competition or comparison between female types.  His purpose was to contrast the Albanian woman against the male roles so as to emphasize her sexuality in a male dominant arena. Additionally, the shared point of view camera angle implies that Lee is utilizing the angles’ mixed objective and subjective characteristic to cause the audience to question the subjectivity of the scene—further expanding unto the subjectivity that women experience through sexuality.

             Lee’s film style reveals a sexual caricature of the Albanian woman to emphasize the power hierarchy of a male dominated police force in this scene.  The intensity with which her sexuality is presented emphasizes Lee’s theme concerning the relationship between appearance and power in Inside Man.


The Female Caricatures of Wayne Wang and Spike Lee: Inside Man

by Michelle Robinson

This clip from director Spike Lee's Inside Man(along with clips from Lee's Bamboozled and director Wayne Wang’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayer) will be used to explore how the two directors, who have created both Hollywood and independent films, negotiate and employ stereotypes in their films, particularly in their representations of women. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2012)

An Albanian-American Woman and NYC's Finest

In this scene from director Spike Lee's Inside Man, an Albania-American woman (Florina Petcu) assists the New York City police, including Detective Frazier (Denzel Washington) with the hostage crisis.

from Inside Man (2006)
Creator: Spike Lee
Distributor: Universal
Posted by Michelle Robinson