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Signifyin' Cinema: Rudy Ray Moore and the Quality of Badness.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2007
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Journal number3
Volume11
Number of pages17
Pages203-219
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article engages the limits of both film and race studies in their approach to heterogeneous and "low" forms of African American cultural production through an analysis of the films of Rudy Ray Moore. While Moore's films have been almost entirely overlooked in both film studies and black studies, they were extremely popular among black youth of the 1970s and have exerted a powerful influence on today's hardcore hip hop artists (and their understanding of how to turn black market entrepreneurship into global enterprise). The theory of "signifying", advanced most rigorously by black literary theorist Henry Louis Gates Jr, helps explain how and why Moore has slipped through various critical nets - and grounds a claim for why we should take "bad" black film seriously. Close film and context analysis illustrates how Moore's low-budget films "signify" on Hollywood and the system of expectancies that go with putatively "good" filmmaking and reveals the extent to which they constitute a hybrid cultural and multimedia practice. As vehicles designed to elaborate on the badman of black folklore, Moore's films contribute to the long history and rich language of "toasting" in African American oral culture and music. As such, far from being emblematic of black filmmaking's impoverished relationship to mainstream cinema (as a cinema manqué), these films constitute vital precursors to the hip hop music video.

Bibliographic note

Refining ideas first presented in papers delivered at the inaugural conference ('Making Use of Culture') for the Cultural Theory Institute at the University of Manchester and as guest speaker to the Institute for Film Studies, University of Nottingham in 2005, this article engages the limits of both film and race studies in their approach to heterogeneous and 'low' forms of African American cultural production through an analysis of the films of Rudy Ray Moore. While Moore's films have been almost entirely overlooked in both film studies and black studies, they were extremely popular among black youth of the 1970s and have exerted a powerful influence on today's hardcore hip hop artists (and their understanding of how to turn black market entrepreneurship into global enterprise). Borrowing from the theory of 'signifying' advanced most rigorously by black literary theorist Henry Louis Gates Jr., Munby analyses how and why Moore has slipped through various critical nets'making a claim for why we should take 'bad' black film seriously. He argues that Moore's low budget films 'signify' on Hollywood and the system of expectancies that go with putatively 'good' filmmaking and that they constitute a hybrid cultural and multi-media practice. As vehicles designed to elaborate on the badman of black folklore, Moore's films contribute to the long history and rich language of ""toasting"" in African American oral culture and music. As such, far from being emblematic of black filmmaking's impoverished relationship to mainstream cinema (as a cinema manque), these films constitute vital precursors to the hip hop music video. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : LICA