Film and Reading Reaction


The movie is “Guess Who”, which was a 2005 production by directorKevin Rodney Sullivan. The academic article is “Guess Who’s BeenComing to Dinner? Trends in Interracial Marriage over the 20thCentury” (Fryer, 2007).

Summary and Analysis

Guess Who features a black female, Theresa and a white male,Simon as the central characters. As the female’s parents celebratetheir wedding anniversary, she plans to surprise them by attendingthe event in the company of Simon. Theresa also plans to make publictheir engagement. Percy and Marilyn, Theresa’s parents are excitedabout the news, but are unaware that Simon is white. Upon meeting,Percy’s disappointment is obvious and so is his determination toseparate the lovers. He is successful in separating them, but laterre-unites them after realizing that Simon sacrificed his job to marryTheresa. The movie is a remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,1967”. The disparity is merely in the reverse of characters. The1967 film features a white female introducing a black male as thelover.

Although the film is about love, it intends at depicting the themesof interracial marriage and racial affairs. Year 2005 is a periodwhen most individuals have become open to accepting interracialmarriages. However, it is apparent that though families may raisetheir children to avoid racial discrimination, few parents are opento the idea of their children getting married to someone of anotherrace. Percy, as a domineering father is a perfect illustration ofracial relations between blacks and whites. He also brings out thetheme of interracial marriage and challenges interracial couplesface, by refusing to accept Theresa’s choice of Simon just becausehe is white. Simon’s employer further enhances the intricacies ininterracial marriage, by compelling him to quit his job because heopts to marry a black woman.

The historical era in Guess Who is one where black-whiteequality is a long way from being realized in America. Althoughstrides towards equality in sectors like politics and economics areobvious, minimal integration is notable in interracial marriages(Fryer, 2007). It is a historical depiction of the anti-miscegenationapparent in American community. Blacks and whites interracial unionsare a founded forbidden act dating back to the slavery period. In the60s, race was used to separate civilians thus, marrying a black wastaboo, as all blacks were regarded as slaves. Over the years,progress has been achieved apparent in the ban on laws likemiscegenation and acceptance of black-white marriages. However, alot still needs to be achieved in altering people’s attitudesconcerning racial relations, which can be blamed on the history ofracial prejudice in America.

Semiotics develops the film’s themes. They also enhanceunderstanding of major issues that the director intends tocommunicate. The message in Guess Who is that racial relationsare still a sensitive issue. People may suppose that strides havebeen made towards eliminating racial prejudice. Sullivan intends todemonstrate that when directly confronted by the issue inherentracial views become public. White male love towards a black female isthe archetype. It dates back to when white slave masters loved theirblack female slaves. The interracial relationship symbolizes thehistorical and current depiction of undesirable bonds. Percysymbolizes an older generation, which still thinks people should notmarry outside their races. The motifs are race associations andromance. Romance is a central idea bringing out the issue of race.

American Cultural Anxieties

American cultural anxieties as depicted in the film arise from race.In Guess Who, Sullivan focuses on the love narrative betweenTheresa and Simon. Although the main message is on the intricacyindividuals in interracial marriage or sex face, the director doesnot make it apparent as a theme. Instead, he employs characters toindirectly bring out the issue. Such a measure highlights culturalanxieties, whereby, Americans suppose to have made strides ineliminating racism. However, civilians are still afraid of marryingfrom a different race, parents are apprehensive of their childrenengaging in interracial sex. This is apparent when Percy tries to geta hotel room for Simon, and eventually having to sleep on the couch,after finding him in a compromising setting with Theresa.

Fryer (2007) argues, “Marrying across racial lines is a rare event,even today”. The author’s argument is that, though at this era,people may suppose racial prejudice is a historical issue, it stillraises cultural anxieties. The argument supports the film’scontent. As a rework, the movie demonstrates the still widespreadbiased views of individuals from different races. The contemporaryfilm seems to escape historic depictions of race relations. GuessWho features a couple that is free to marry regardless of theirdifferent races. They are not socially restricted by law tointermarry, as would have been the case in the 60s. However, thecultural anxiety of Percy does impede the happiness in the couple.Percy is determined to demonstrate to Theresa that a black male is abetter partner. He lacks any valid claim to dispute Simon, other thanhim being white. Percy’s cultural beliefs and worries concerningwhites influence his reaction towards Simon.

Currently, American cultural anxieties lie in the endeavors to refutethat racism is deeper than color disparities. Guess Who issuch an illustration depicting an interracial marriage arising fromaltered social status. “The types of individuals who choose tointermarry have changed as the social and economic statuses of racialgroups have shifted over time” (Fryer, 2007). Theresa’s parentsare from an upper class, implying that they have not been subjectedto any form of racial discrimination or faced racial obstacles. Theyhave attained the social status that allows them to associate withAmericans of all races. However, they still view Simon as animperfect match because of his skin color. Nevertheless, skin coloris not to blame here, as the viewer may think. It is the intrinsicprejudice for interracial marriage. Despite teaching their daughterthe values of equality, it is merely intended on a social level andnothing deeper like marriage. It becomes apparent that Americans areopen to the idea of socially interacting and associating with blacks,but when it further generates to romantic relationships, then racebecomes an issue.

Depiction of Interracial Sex and Marriage, Gender and Race

The controversies surrounding interracial sex and marriage arehistorical. The film tackles the disparities amid the older people’straditional refutation and the young population’s liberal approvalof miscegenation. Percy is from an older generation and probablywitnessed interracial marriage challenges in the 60s. He may havewitnessed a period when interracial sex and unions were viewed astaboo. This has shaped his view on interracial unions, which he wouldnot desire for the daughter. Such an ideology is difficult to change,as Percy will always view whites through his historical experiences.Contrary, Theresa has been raised in a more accepting society whereshe has been treated as an equal to individuals of all races. Thus,her choice of partner is not restricted by race.

Guess Who is additionally a depiction of issues concerninggender and race as perceived by society. The film attempts to reduceobservations on race. However, it highlights the intricacies peopleof different races encounter on a daily basis. Fryer (2007) in hisanalysis of the film’s content depicts a society that supposes tohave progressed from race related prejudice, yet race progresses tobe central in social endeavors. He employs illustrations of religionwhere people congregate based on race. In churches, it is more likelythat the churchgoers are from the same area and race. Anotherillustration is apparent in neighborhoods, where people are morelikely to live in the same environment as those from their ethnicity.

The issue of gender is apparent in the downgrading of Theresa to asupporting character. It is common in many films, which seem todisregard the relevance of female characters, rather placingrelevance to males. The central relationship in Guess Who isamid Percy and Simon. Their disagreement over marrying Theresa iscentral and solved via differences between the actors and thefemales. Marilyn and Theresa merely support the roles of Percy andSimon respectively. This raises the issue of gender, as women aredepicted as less important in their roles in many Hollywood movies.


Fryer, R. G. (2007). Trends in Interracial Marriage over the 20thCentury. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 71-90.