This article situates Spike Lee's neglected collaboration with Suzan-Lori Parks, Girl 6 (US, 1996), as part of a broader shift in Lee's understandings of race in the neoliberal era. Its main character, simply called Girl 6 (Theresa Randle), aspires to be an actress, but after a director humiliates her at an audition by demanding the right to inspect her body, she begins disembodied phone sex work. Most critics of the film either emphasize the main character's growth or observe that her interiority remains unavailable to viewers despite the film's extensive use of close-ups. Taking those close-ups alongside Girl 6's interpolation of 1970s blaxploitation film and television, this article argues that the film is as concerned with the elision of public and private spaces for racially marked figures as it is with the reduction of positive black representation to commodified style. The article concludes by briefly tracing Girl 6's representational logics through Lee's controversial She Hate Me (US, 2004), which again uses the spectacle of sexual availability to underscore the creation of the private sphere as affective labor. Ultimately, this article argues that, in drawing on an intertextual network of allusions and on the spectacle of sex, Lee's recent films move beyond representation to the production and value of race in order to imagine new political and aesthetic strategies adequate to a new regime of black visuality.
Anthony Reed; The Only Way Out Is In: Girl 6, Sex Work, and the Color Line. Camera Obscura 1 September 2014; 29 (2 (86)): 1–33. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2704616
Download citation file: