Let’s Talk About… Race & Body in Loving (2017)

Loving tells the true story of an interracial couple battling to change the laws of Virginia, the existence of race and the body can be explored.

Film Discussion

Loving is a true life dramatic feature depicting the lives of interracial couple Mildred and Richard Loving who battled against the Virginian law in order to spend their lives together.   Their marriage, taking place in 1958, soon sparked attention from the unrelenting law enforcers of Virginia state and putting them in a difficult position of having to remove themselves from the state entirely for the next 25 years to receive a suspended sentence.

source: Focus Features

The representation of  mid 1900’s America truly feels to be an accurate account. With the slave trade abolished and more and more African Americans hired in the industrially developed country, it was more frequent to see coloured individuals around the community. Our protagonist Richard is seen frequently with people such as his wife’s family, his father was also known to be employed by a man with a African American ancestry. In the screenshot above, it is clear that these individuals can easily get along. Mildred (middle-right) is seen with a loving and concerned expression, one that confirms a connection that is possible between the two races, despite how the interracial duo were rejected from law.

During times like these, the ideology of Foucault (quoted in Hall 1997, p.49) can be applied in terms of the ‘power/knowledge’ principle; which fortifies the belief that the exercise of power is what can reinforce the ‘truth’. In terms of Loving, it is evident in the police enforcers, who are white. The characters enforce their authority over the coloured people, and even favour fellow white people (this is shown when they leave Mildred behind bars while Richard is given bail the day after). The ‘truth’ of the scenario is that it would be common for white people with power – such as law enforcement – to easily push others around when they see fit. In this kind of structure the African Americans would take this as everyday daily life, who just want to live their lives peacefully without causing any trouble.

The couple married in Washington D.C. to get away from the laws that were in place in their home state, yet when they returned shortly after the two were seized during the night to be then taken into custody for violating the interracial laws. The officers do put forward some signs towards the belief that coloured persons are ‘different’ and are not thought of as totally equal to the white people around them. The lawyers that represent the beliefs of Virginia use the views of God to support their case, stating:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The case Loving v. Virginia became a historical landmark for civil rights in America, and was taken to the supreme court in Washington D.C. where the appeal was accepted. They may not have intended on being revolutionaries – Richard was even reluctant to open up to any media or photographic coverage of their family  – the pair simply wanted to lead a regular married life together, without bothering people around them. Initially, they do seem to come across as a very regular couple, their only difference is their differing skin colours/races.

Mildred Loving was dismissed at first when she tried to speak up about their case, authorities didn’t want to take any notice of her opinion due to her race, colour and even because of her gender; this fortifies the power that the authorities had over Black Americans. The couple needed the help of male, white lawyers to support the case and then take it to the Supreme Court to then get them noticed by the media and the law.


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