Shaft: A Tragedy or a Comedy?
"Shaft" is a 1971 American action thriller film directed by Gordon Parks. The film stars Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, an African-American private detective hired by a Harlem mobster to rescue his daughter from a kidnapper.
The film was a commercial and critical success, grossing $13 million at the box office and winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Theme from Shaft". It has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
2. The definition of tragedy and comedy
To understand the genre of the movie one must recognize the definition of tragedy and comedy.
Aristotle defined tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude… in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play… in the form of action, not of narrative… with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions" In other words, for Aristotle, a tragedy is a story that imitates a serious and important historical event that has catastrophic consequences. The style is formal and elevated, designed to provoke pity and fear in the audience so that they can experience a catharsis or purging of these emotions.
On the other hand, comedy is "the imitation of characters of lower type… in ridicule or derision"; or, more formally, "the imitation of inferior people whose vices or follies are exposed either seriously or in jest with an object either to censure vice or folly by making it ridiculous, or to praise virtue by holding it up to ridicule". In other words, comedy is the story of characters who are not necessarily bad people but who are foolish or make foolish mistakes. The purpose of comedy is either to make fun of vice or folly so as to correct it, or to praise virtue by making it seem more attractive than vice.
3. Tragedy or comedy: what is "Shaft" about?
Now that we have seen the definitions of tragedy and comedy, let us return to the question at hand: is "Shaft" a tragedy or a comedy?
On one level, "Shaft" could be seen as a tragedy because it deals with some very serious topics such as racism and social conflict. The opening scene shows Shaft walking through Harlem and being harassed by a group of white men who call him "nigger"; later on, he is almost killed by one of them. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is full of scenes depicting racial tension and violence. In addition, the film also deals with other serious topics such as police corruption and organized crime. As such, "Shaft" could be seen as a tragic story about racism and social conflict in America.
On the other hand, "Shaft" could also be seen as a comedy because it is a story about a private detective who is hired to rescue a kidnapped girl. This plot is not particularly serious or important, and the film does not take itself too seriously either. The opening scene, for example, is played for laughs: Shaft is not really in danger, and the white men are more annoying than anything else. In addition, the film is full of humorous moments, such as when Shaft pretends to be a taxi driver in order to get information from a fare, or when he tells his girlfriend that he "likes black women because they don't talk back". As such, "Shaft" could be seen as a light-hearted comedy about a private detective who happens to be African American.
In conclusion, "Shaft" could be seen as either a tragedy or a comedy, depending on how one interprets the film. On one level, it is a story about racism and social conflict; on the other hand, it is also a story about a private detective who is hired to rescue a kidnapped girl. As such, "Shaft" can be seen as either a tragedy or a comedy, depending on one's perspective.
Cite this assignment
More Related papers
- The Persuasive Power of Talk in Participatory Politics
- The Pros and Cons of Globalization
- How Timothy Silver's Approach to the History of Brazil's South Atlantic Region Helps Us to Understand the Relationships between Human Beings and Their Environment
- The Importance of Practical Approaches in Nursing
- Huda Shaarawi: A Revolutionary Life