Torn Between Colors: Youth and the Media

Torn Between Colors: Youth and the Media

24 minutes

Torn Between Colors was made after two incidents fueled racial tensions in New York City in 1989. In April of that year a white woman jogger was beaten and raped in Central Park. Sensational news headlines told the city a gang “wilding” in Central Park had attacked the jogger. Police charged 5 African-American and Latino teens under the age of 16 with the crime. They were convicted in 1990, even though DNA evidence collected at the scene did not match any of the teens. Their cases were vacated in 2002 when the actual culprit confessed and his DNA was found to match.

In August, a 16 year-old black teen was beaten and killed by a group of 30 whites in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

The news frenzy that surrounded these cases offered the students at Satellite Academy in the Bronx the opportunity to do some critical media analysis and a deep investigation of the history of racism in the US.

Filmmaker and curator Chris Bratton wrote of the film:

“Torn Between Colors couples a careful semiotic reading of media images of the defendants in the Bensonhurst murder trial and the defendants in the Central Park rape trial with a broader historical and class analysis on the construction of racism. In this program one model for “media literacy” emerges. It would certainly be possible to use similar strategies in critically analyzing everything from cop shows to advertising. Perhaps by encouraging such analysis we could move “critical viewing” beyond the point of admonishing students to be better consumers to a critique of consumerism itself, and beyond, to the development of meaningful alternatives."

Download article by Chris Bratton, Teaching TV: Towards Media Literacy.