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Film / Bamboozled

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Bamboozled (2000) is a satirical mockumentary film written and directed by Spike Lee.

Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) is a Harvard-educated African American man, working for a television network known as CNS ("Continental Network System"), who's feeling a bit pissed. His boss, Thomas Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport), is a wigger who insists he is more black than Delacroix is, and who dismisses all the intelligent shows about African-Americans that Delacroix proposes as knockoffs of The Cosby Show. Delacroix believes that all Dunwitty wants are shows portraying African-Americans as buffoons.

Frankly, Delacroix would just like to leave, but he's contractually bound to the network. In order to get himself fired, and to satirize the network's desire for buffoonish black people, Delacroix concocts a brilliant plan: He comes up with a televised minstrel show called Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show, in which two black street performers portray goofballs named "Mantan" and "Sleep 'N Eat" on a watermelon plantation in blackface makeup. Dunwitty, sure enough, greenlights the show.


To Delacroix's horror, the show is a huge success!

This film provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: Racial caricatures in entertainment are bad, m'kay? Particularly when enacted by members of one's own race.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Perhaps unintentional, but the whole premise mirrors The Black and White Minstrel Show, which ran to high ratings from 1958 to 1978 on BBC television and continued doing live performances until 1989. It had high production values, excellent writing and performances, and was both popular and hugely entertaining. Nonetheless, it died in the late 70's on television and in the late 80's on-stage.
    • Black people in blackface was also a real thing.
  • Angry Black Man: Every member of the Mau-Maus. Yes, including the white guy.
  • Awesome McCoolname:
    • "Pierre Delacroix"'s real name is Peerless Dunphy.
    • Sloan's brother (and Mau-Mau's member) Big Blak Afrika, played by Mos Def. Lampshaded:
      Sloan: I hope you don't think I'm going to call you "Big Blak Afrika."
  • Advertisement:
  • Bad Boss: Thomas C. Dunwitty, the tyrannical vice president of the Continental Network System, or CNS.
  • Black Guy Dies First: Taken to extreme. Every black member of the Mau-Maus is shot dead by the police, except the white guy, who protests loudly about it.
  • Bullet Dancing: After he refuses to do his routine, the Mau-Maus force Manray (the guy who plays Mantan) to tapdance by shooting at the floor around him one last time before shooting him dead.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': The whole point of the racist show, was for Delacroix's to offend people and get fired from his job, which he hated.
  • Cringe Comedy: The "Mantan" sketches. In an effort to make all of the blackface even more uncomfortable, Spike Lee insisted that all of their jokes be unironically funny.
  • Downer Ending: Delacroix, Manray and most of the Mau-Maus are all dead. Sloan will have to live with the guilt that she killed Delacroix. It's implied that Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show will continue on with another "dime a dozen nigger", proving that no one has learned from this experience.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Delacroix assumes the idea for the show will get him fired, but his boss greenlights it. He then banks on it being a controversial flop, but it becomes wildly successful.
  • Haunted Technology: At the end of the movie, Delacroix's Jolly Nigger Bank spontaneously starts operating, repeatedly, with increasing frequency.
  • I Know Your True Name: Sloan invokes it to try and bring "Pierre" back down to earth.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe as what was intended to be the most horribly racist show imaginable is instead seen by black viewers as sharp satire to the point they openly quote lines that would normally be horrifying to say in public.
  • Modern Minstrelsy: The whole point.
  • My Nayme Is: The Mau-Maus insist on spelling the word black as "blak", since "nobody be pronouncin' that shit.".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Much as Mr. Lee would probably like to harm Quentin Tarantino, he is much less enthusiastic about libel suits.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • Dunwitty argues he can use the N-word because he grew up among black people and has a black wife, and is thus effectively black himself.
    • Thanks to the phenomenal success of Delacroix's show, everyone in America winds up having these. It gets to the point where audience members (ultimately including Dunwitty himself) are showing up for tapings in black makeup. So we have a blonde girl in blackface, an Italian-American in blackface (he calls himself "a Sicilian nigger," which is an actual slur), and... a black girl in blackface.
  • Parody Commercial: A few, advertising Tha Bomb soda.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Womack goes from this to Only Sane Man throughout the film.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Dunwitty. Also, one of the members of the Mau-Mausnote .
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Sloan is only seen wearing glasses while at work and is shown having no difficulty seeing without them in sequences where she is not wearing them.
  • Shout-Out: Mantan and Sleep-N-Eat are names of classic minstrel characters.
    • "Two Real Coons" was the tagline of George Walker and Bert Williams, two historic African-American blackface performers. (Sic.)
    • A lot of historic black caricature material is referenced, including Delacroix's Jolly Nigger Bank, a caricatured black head and hand that eats coins.
    • In his rebellious final appearance on the Show Within a Show, Manray speaks pointedly at the audience, and recites an amended version of Howard Beale's "Mad As Hell" rant.
  • Shown Their Work: The movie (or at least the characters producing the minstrel show) takes pride in replicating the same blackface makeup — mostly burnt cork mixed with cocoa butter — used by the blackface performers of old.
  • Show Within a Show: "Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show", a television show.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Delacroix intentionally made Mantan as offensive as he could in the expectation that it would fail. Unfortunately for him it succeeds.
  • Stunned Silence: The audience in the first taping, after:
    Mantan: ...And we are two reeeeal cooooons.
  • Take That!: Early in the film, Lee uses the absurdly buffoonish and offensive character of Dunwitty to take a jab at his much-publicized spat with Quentin Tarantino over the issue of N-Word Privileges.
  • Truth in Television: Spike Lee did not make up the minstrel names Mantan or Sleep n' Eat.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: A central theme of the film.
  • Verbed Title: Bamboozled
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Dunwitty disappears from the movie after he fires Manray, only appearing once more when filming a PSA regarding Manray's kidnapping.
  • The Whitest Black Guy: Protagonist Pierre Delacroix (real name Peerless Dothan) is an uptight, Harvard-educated African man in the employment of a television network. He's tormented endlessly by his boss Thomas Dunwitty, a crass, boorish white man who speaks with a stereotypical African-American accent, drops N-bombs like there's not tomorrow and claims to be more Black than Delacroix because he married a black woman and has two mixed-race children.


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