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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.

            

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
An Albanian-American Woman and NYC's Finest by Spike Lee (2006) 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.