Beyond Racial Stereotypes: Subversive Subtexts in Cabin in the Sky
Weber, Kate Marie
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The 1943 film Cabin in the Sky holds an important place in cinematic history as one of the first "all-Negro" pictures produced by a major Hollywood studio. The movie musical reflects a transitional period in American racial politics and popular culture, when long-established stereotypes and themes associated with blackness were still prevalent, but were shifting to reflect more progressive attitudes. On the surface, Cabin seems to reinforce reductive and conventional notions. It presents a folkloric story of Southern blacks, the corrupting influence of modern urbanity, and the redemptive power of marital devotion and religious piety--replete with the entire pantheon of Negro caricatures. Upon careful analysis, however, the film's stereotypical topics are rendered superficial by subversive undercurrents. In addition, Ethel Waters' appearance as herself exposes the story and characters as fictional constructs, and paves the way for a more liberal image of blackness to emerge.