Fronteras: Black male teachers on film — inspiration, hero, father figure, or stereotype?
Teachers in film are often framed as role models or savior figures. They’re redeeming characters who often spur the development of other characters.
Racial stereotypes — created out of racism, propaganda, or ignorance — have also existed in movies since the beginning of Hollywood.
A study published in 2022 highlights the disturbing tropes in the portrayal of Black male teachers in film.
“(Un)Natural Saviors and Motivators, Analyzing the Pathological Scripting of Black Male Teachers in Hollywood Films,” examines 11 Hollywood films that feature Black male teachers.
Marcus Johnson, an assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University, is one of the study’s authors.
He said the portrayal of Black male teachers as “father figures” is rooted in false stereotypes built on flawed science about Black men and boys.
“In a lot of ways, the reason is because the children, especially the Black boys or the Black male students, are positioned in the need of control,” he said. “So, who's best to do that? Let's bring in this Black male teacher.”
As an educator, Johnson said representation matters since these on-screen portrayals can have real life consequences.
“Movies are often the impetus to how we see,” he said. “How we not only digest and consume and process the information, but what product and what result comes out of our process.”