Contemporary Parallel

The film Passing (2021) is a live adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1926 novel of the same name. The novel, which deals with themes of colorism and sexuality, shows the different perspectives on the act of “passing”; or pretending to white. In the novel, Larsen includes a character named Gertrude, who is in the room when Irene first meets Claire’s husband. Claire’s husband Jack, who is a staunch racist, refers to Claire as “nig” and although he does not know she is Black, Irene and Gertrude become uncomfortable. Although Gertrude and Irene “pass” when necessary, they both do not condone Claire’s double life with her husband. Irene believes it to be a shallow act for personal gain. In my video I discuss how Claire’s marriage reveals her subconscious desire to be discovered. She enjoys the pleasures of passing however she feels trapped by her new identity. She cannot enjoy her Blackness or the beauty of her culture because she is stuck being “white”

Alternatively, the walking tour really confirmed the practice of passing for me. Even though we studied it in class, I didn’t realize how common it was. The fact that Adam Clayton Powell was able to achieve so much partly due to his complexion really made me see the lengths that Black people had to go to to accomplish anything. It was hard to come to terms with many of our heroes still enjoying light skinned privilege. But much like Irene, Adam married a dark skinned woman to blatantly declare his love for Black people. This tour, oddly, really brought to life the topics that Passing was discussing and the mindset of Irene. In the same vein, it further explains how Claire’s actions could be deemed immature and self destructive.



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