UPDATE : 2021.4.14 수 13:42
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Green Book
by Woo Hyuk Byun | 승인 2021.02.27 12:56|(267호)

Green Book, released in 2018, was inspired by a true story in the United States in the 1960s. It is about the black pianist Dr. Donald Shirley and his manager Frank Tony Vallelonga. In the 1960s, racism was prevalent in American society and some places segregated black people from white people. The title of the movie, Green Book, also highlights racism at the time because the book was a guidebook telling black Americans which accommodation and restaurants they could enter.
In the movie, there is a scene where Dr. Shirley is reading the Green Book. At that time, Dr. Shirley decides to go on tour in the southern states of the US, the purpose of which is to break the stereotype of black people. However, at that time, there was a lot of racial discrimination in that part of the country. For this reason, Shirley hires Tony Vallelonga, an Italian American, as his manager and bodyguard to drive him around and manage his schedule.
Tony and Dr, Shirley are quite different from each other. Dr. Shirley is an African American man of high class. He is a brilliant, rich pianist and always speaks in a cultivated voice. He only wears classic suits and never has a meal without using dishes and cutlery. On the contrary, Tony is wild and straightforward. He fought in WW2 as a soldier when he was young. He acts aggressively and uses language coarsely. When conflicts arise, Tony refuses to back down and sometimes uses violence. In contrast, Dr. Shirley tries to avoid conflict through his sophisticated and indirect speech. These two people have opposite tendencies. While on tour in the southern part of the U.S, however, they recognize each other’s strengths, becoming a great help to one another. One example is when Dr. Shirley provides Tony with financial support and helps him to write a letter to his wife. In the movie, the letter that Tony writes to his wife is grammatically incorrect and childish. Dr. Shirley transforms his letter into poetry. As another example, there is a concert employee who looks down on Dr. Shirley and aims racial slurs at him. That employee also does not prepare an appropriate piano for a concert. Tony slaps him across the face right away and demands that he prepare the piano which Dr. Shirley was supposed to play. After this incident, Tony does his job well by protecting Dr. Shirley from bullies and stopping thieves who try to steal their car.
I found these two characters appealing. Tony, a racist Italian immigrant, acts and speaks like a bully. But he never steps back from difficult situations. Viggo Mortensen, who plays the role of Tony Vallelonga, is a Danish actor, but he acts like an Italian American perfectly in this movie. Mahershala Ali, who plays Dr. Shirley, expresses delicate sentiment as a black pianist being racially discriminated against.
As I watched the movie, I began to think about racial discrimination. In the movie, Dr. Shirley is the victim of racial discrimination, but the ending is happy for him. Though the characters in the movie seem happy, the reality is different. Furthermore, besides black people, Asians are racially discriminated against, especially since Covid-19 emerged, and the COVID-19 era has seen Sinophobia spread around the world. However, race is just a notion that distinguishes people by the color of their skin. Some Caucasians are actually dark-skinned, whereas some Asians are light-skinned. As the movie shows, it is nonsense to say that every African American loves to eat fried chicken and every Caucasian speaks elegantly. According to scientific studies, all people belong to one species called Homo sapiens and the genetic diversity of the human is less than the diversity of the chimpanzee. Because of the pandemic, we know that not only can Asians be infected with Covid-19, but also Caucasians and black people.
Race is part of our diversity, but from before the time that Dr. Shirley and Tony lived their lives in the early 60s, racism has existed, and it continues to plague society today. Unfortunately, many people are racially discriminated against in the present. In addition to the theme of racial discrimination, this movie is highly recommended for those interested in American culture in the 60s or jazz and classical music. The movie Green Book won awards in four categories at the 91st Academy Awards. For Chungnam National University students who love to watch great movies, Green Book is a perfect choice .


by Woo Hyuk Byun  news@cnu.ac.kr

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