Zebrahead – Love object vs Sex object

zebrahead

In the film Zebrahead, Zach a white Jewish teenager in Detroit falls for Nikki, a young Black woman from East New York. Nikki is an average teenager, “the girl next door,” but she is coded differently depending on who is looking at her. Incorporate the reading and our discussion about the film, what verbal and non-verbal messages/codes are used to define Nikki? Is she a love object or a sex object and how or when does it change? And how is hip hop music used in this film?

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20 thoughts on “Zebrahead – Love object vs Sex object

  1. In the movie zebrahead, you see the love dynamic that develops between Zach and Nikki. Quickly you see that Zach begins to crush on Nikki. In spite of Zach ironically being friends with Nikki’s cousin, he makes a move on her. Not long after, they begin dating. Nikki is the new face in town, young, attractive and out spoken. Zach recently left a relationship, an inspiring dj, white but hangs majority with black guys. Not sure if that could be a cause of the attraction that soon Nikki develops for Zach. He doesn’t treat Nikki as if she were the typical “sex object”. He picks her up, drops her off home, takes her out on dates, respects her, etc. Though, they slept together in what seemed in a short matter of time. It’s hard to judge if it would be considered a characteristic of the sex object since they continued a monogamist relationship. Nikki may have been portrayed as a sex object since according to her mothers comment, Zach was not the first guy she has brought home or dated. Also, she came off to be aggressive and defensive at times because she had other guys that liked her as well. However, the sex objects motivate will ultimately be sexual satisfaction. The love objects will want the aspects of affection, intimacy and caring. These which seem to have the qualities of Zach and Nikki. I feel that they both felt equally the same for each other. Nikki may have been the first black girl Zach has been with but I don’t believe it defined his true feelings for her. Nikki can be the love object that Zach fell for.

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    • Tercy, that was a great overview but as always its important to incorporate quotes from the reading. I think Nikki falls somewhere between both the love object and sex object with some elements of a Sapphie. She is definitely has an opinion about a lot of things but isnt loud and obnoxious like most traditional Sapphire stereotyoes. Zach’s attraction to Nikki demonstrates that he has feelings for her and cares for her but he doesnt hesitates to have sex with her either. Also, both his friends and Nut also see Nikki purely as a sexual being although Nut does show he has feelings for Nikki as well.

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  2. Within Zebra Head we meet two characters who are from opposite sides of the world but they fall for one another not at first but they do. NiKKi is looked upon different by her friends for even liking someone who is different then she is. Zach is looked upon in the same manner from his friends for wanting to date someone of color. In my opinion I feel that Nikki is viewed more as a sex object because since she is the new girl on the block she is seen as the prize everyone wants her but she in facts only wants Zach. Within the relationship you could technically argue that she is the love object because all she wants is to fall in love and be accepted. All Nikki wanted was to be respected and Zach gave her just that respect in everyway possible. This movie reminded me that no matter what your skin color is love is love and is nothing to played with. Hip Hop is used in this movie as a way of expressing what each character felt within that particular moment. It was a way of connecting the two without having to speak to one another. I think this movie was really good and within our class we are always talking about stereotypes but I feel that neither of these stereotypes don’t really fit in. overall I like the movie and how it played out.

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    • Good obeservations about how both Nikki and Zach are both viewed. I also like your observations about Nikki wanting respect although, I disagree that Zach provided it in every possible way. I think that was one of the points of the film was that it was challenging for all the characters to see/hear each at times because of their differences. This would have been a great opportunity to use readings from the book to defend your argurment.

      In regards to the music, I would have to disagree that Hip Hop was used to display each character’s feeling but more to look at how music, Hip Hop and Black music in particular, in how it was used to demonstrate cultural appropiation. Zach is viewed as this white guy “wigger” who adopts a culture, from the music to the women that his not from his own (jewish/white). As we watch the film, we realize its who he is versus someone like Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber who acts black as part of an image they are selling. They use of hip hop also was important in showing the displacement of Blacks in Detroit in the 90’s and the urban plight but also they developing urban culture built on black music.

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  3. In the film Zebrahead, Some verbal messages that are used to define Nikki are different from Zach and black males in the film. The black males’ verbal messages defining Nikki are whore, sexy, catcalled, messages in regards to sex. Zach’s verbal messages defining Nikki are beautiful, pretty, with love, heartfelt, and a sense of value towards Nikki. The nonverbal messages from black males defining Nikki are trying to kiss her and touch her, and the want to have sex. Nikki actually kissed Nut. The nonverbal messages from Zach defining Nikki are loving and caressing her body, a time alone at Zach’s house on their first date and they made “love”. I believe Nikki is a sex object but it changes to love object when she’s with Zach because he treats her with respect and love. Zach is the only person that has showed Nikki love, others just want to have sex with her. The hip-hop music was a way to show the culture during the 90s in Detroit.

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    • Good observation in regards to the non-verbal messages. Although, the non-verbal messages should be more connected to the women in the film and how their clothes, body movements and actions convey messages about how they should be viewed in the film. But, I like how you expanded beyond the women in the film. Whether you did this on purpose or not, I think we should also consider how the non-verbal messages of men are related to how we, as audience members, should view key characters.

      In terms of how Nikki is viewed as a love object or sex will be different by each of you. I’m not going to really disagree with any of your positions assuming you use the readings to justify your point. You made a good argument about Nikki being a love object when with Zach but you didn’t back up your argument. Think of this as a debate or a law case. What evidence are you using to defend your point. Same goes regarding your comments about hip hop music.

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  4. In the film, Nikki is coded differently depending on which character in the film point of view. In Zach’s father eyes Nikki is viewed as a sex object for the simple fact that it seems the dad doesn’t value women at all and thinks they’re only good for sex. He doesn’t care what kind of girl his son dates, just as long as he is having sex. Nut views Nikki as a sex object. Zach views Nikki as a love object. And Zach’s white friends views Nikki as a fetish/sex object. Nikki is viewed as a love object from her friend’s point of view who feels dating a white guy may cause trouble for her and they don’t want her to be used by him.

    According to Chapter 2, under nonverbal communication theory, decoders of a message are said to receive 65 percent of the meaning of the message from senders’ nonverbal cues (Birdwhistle, 1970). Nonverbal cues include body movements, use of touch, facial expressions, eye-contact, vocal tone, environment, and so on, all of which are vital in film’s dramatic formatting (Norma Manatu. African American Women and Sexuality in the Cinema (Kindle Locations 671-672) Kindle Edition). The verbal messages used to define Nikki are her mom assuming Zach is only using her for a sexual experiment (deeming Nikki as a sex object), Zach’s friends asking him “what is it like fuckin’ a black chick?” (deeming Nikki as a sex object) and a student at the school calling her a “white man’s whore” (deeming Nikki as a sex object). The non-verbal messages used to define Nikki are her sleeping with Zach on their first date in Zach’s dad house and making out with the neighborhood loser Nut.

    I think Nikki is a love object in Zach’s eyes even though she slept with him on the first date. He started out very interested in her; calling her beautiful and asking her out on a date. Even after their very fast sexual encounter he dated and was very fond of her. They were a couple. Nikki changed to a sex object after the altercation she had with Zach at his ex-girlfriend’s party after overhearing his friends talking about her in a disrespectful manner. She felt embarrassed and distanced herself from Zach. During this time she started hanging out with Nut (a guy who views her as a sex object) and he tries to have sex with her outside in some forest type area after he shows her some newborn kittens. She portrays herself as a sex object when she comes home from her cousin’s Dee funeral and told her mom “I was dancing with a bunch of boys” the night Dee was killed at the skating ring.

    Hip hop music is used in the film to bring every one (people of different races) together and break racial boundaries. Hip hop music helped progress Nikki and Zach’s relationship because they bonded over it. On the night of their first date they stopped by at Zach’s dad music shop. And that is where they shared a kiss.

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    • Good job Jasmine! You made great points in how Nikki is viewed by the different characters in the film. She is really not one or the other but both depending on who is looking at her.

      But to go a little deeper in terms of the non-verbal messages, I think you overlooked. Nikki’s non-verbal messages are based on how she is dressed, how she looks at the men in her life. She wears classic hip hop gear of the 90’s, tight tops and pants. She has swagger and just enough attitude that shows she is a confident black girl but not ghetto. She seductively touches Zach at times and even sleeps with him. Her tenderness towards Nut gets interrupted as being sexually. These are codes or messages used to visually describe women, especially women of color.

      In terms, of how black music, specifically Hip Hop, was used in the film. I think you started to touch on some interesting perspectives but would like to have seen you expand on it.

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  5. The character Nikki from Zebra head is seen as a love or sex object in the movie depending on who is viewing her in the movie. Zach, a Jewish boy from Detroit, is best friends with Nikki’s cousin and tells him that he thinks Nikki is beautiful and was planning on asking her on a date. On the date Zach takes Nikki to his fathers record shop because they bond over music and music is a big part of his life. Before the date Zach ask his father about love and sex, and the father compares the difference to different genres of music. He related sex to upbeat Jazz and love to slow love songs. Shortly after Zach takes Nikki to the record shop they go to Zach’s house and have sex, and a love song is playing in the background. However when his father comes home and sees Nikki he offers her food and plays up tempo jazz which can signal to Zach to not fall in love with Nikki. Also at a party Nikki overhears Zach’s white friends ask about how it is to be intimate with a Black girl and was offended by his remarks. Zach in that scene seemed as if he only wanted Nikki for sex, but later he tells her sorry. It seems as if Zach was interested in Nikki more than a sex object. Nut is another character that was interested in Nikki. Nut was always trying to get Nikki’s attention and would make eye contact and lick his lips around her. When Nikki was mad at Zach she ended up hanging out with Nut and Nut told her to follow him which she did and he showed her kittens that he found and they ended up kissing. Nikki leaves but Nut seemed to want to control Nikki because at the skating rink he kept trying to grab her hand and say your with me now as if it was not her choice. Therefore Nut most likely seen her as a sex object. Hip hop music was used in the film to show that music to a common thread to people throughout race, also it could relate to the setting of the film in Detroit. In addition the music set the mood for each scene like when Zach is driving in his car listening to rap, or playing music at school. In school he mixed old music with new it seemed as an attempt to gain Nikki’s attention.

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    • Excellent points Sierra, would have loved to see some of the readings qouted to back up your comments. I think you and Jasmine are the first one to show how black music was used to break racial barriers as well as play a major role in the film. What are non-verbal messages, how did Nikki’s clothing or behavior play a role in how she was viewed??? Whether conscious or not, the filmmaker incorporated those non-verbal messages about Nikki for a reason.

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  6. “Hooks (1981) suggests that media exploitation of black female sexuality is a “psychological weapon [used] to limit and restrain the freedom dom of black females” (p. 67).” I start off with this quote because black women are placed in this bubble where they are seen as sexual in films rather than a love object. Hooks is saying that the media basically is brainwashing the consumers to see black women as soley sexual and not a love object. Instead of the black women who do not fit into any of the main stereotypes such as, the superwoman, mammy, etc., society has decided to placed them in the catergory of, the “Other”.
    The “other”, in my opinion is described as a black woman who does not meet the sterotype criteria thats created for black women in film. Instead of black women being in the same group as the dominant ( white women), once again are given their own category, this in which once again separating them from the norm and being accepted by society.
    One example of a non-verbal coding that nikki does is when she and Zach are on in the record store and puts her hand on his head while he kisses her. That can be seen as being a sexual object to some viewers, but when emotions are reciprocated this can place her as a love object.
    In the beggining i feel that Nikki can be seen as a sex object by the guy who shot her cousin i forgot his name, but him and Zach both viewed her as a sex object in the beggining. Throughout the movie Zach beginss to like Nikki and start seeing her as a love object, and i honestly think its after they had sex. I feel like after they did it, the emotions started to become stronger. Zach really did seem to like her more than just a hit and run. Attraction was mutual with Zach and Nikki and Nikki was kind of playing hard to get at first, eliminating her from the Jezebel stereotype and the other stereotypes there are for black women in film. Since she can not be seen as any of the stereotypes, she is placed into the category of, the “other”.
    As for Hip-Hop music in the film, i feel that it was used sort of for a connection for this interacial couple. Even though once again this is a sterotype that only blacks listen to hip-hop, but thats a whole nother argument. The music connected this white boy, (Zach), to Nikki, a black women from east new york. I feel that as a white boy, if he was to have been listen to, BACH, or something of that nature, Nikki would of probably not have had the same emotional attraction with him. The music defitnialy played a big role when it comes to the whole relationship between the two.
    In all Nikki is not your typical black female actresss. She is defined as the “other” for reasons stated above, and unfortunaley even though she didnt fall into the sterotypical catergories for black women in film, consumers still found a way to place her into a separate category, pushing her away from being a norm in the film.

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    • Great observations Theora, especially like your bell hooks quote. Its makes an excellent connection to the film. You made good points as to how Nikki is both a love and sex object based on who is viewing her. Zach does have feeling for her and it deepens as the film progresses but like any high school student, he is not always good at showing it. I think, even Nut had feelings for Nikki but because of how the character is depicted it only comes out as aggressive and violent.

      I agree with some of your comments regarding the use of hip hop. I definitely think hip hop music played a role in their relationship and how it evolved but it also played a role in how segerated the different commuities of that school and Detroit were.

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  7. Nikki, from the movie Zebrahead, is viewed differently depending on the eyes of the character from the movie. Zach sees Nikki as a love object because he treats her with respect and shows how much he appreciates her by being with her whenever he gets the opportunity. Zach’s white friends view Nikki as a sex object. In the eyes of Zach’s father, Nikki is viewed as a sex object for the reason being that he doesn’t seem to value women for nothing in the world. In his eyes, a woman is only good for sex and he doesn’t seem to care what type of girl Zach dates just as long as he (Zach) gets to sleep with her. Nikki’s friends view her as a love object but feel that by dating a white guy it could cause trouble for her and they do not want her to be mistreated by him. In the eyes of Nut, he views Nikki as a sex object because she was easy to make out with when they were together. Some of the verbal messages that are used to define Nikki are when her mom assumed that Zach is only dating her for sex only or when Zach’s friends ask him what it was like being with a black girl; both messages making Nikki being seen as a sex object. The non-verbal messages used to define Nikki are when she ends up sleeping with Zach on their first date and when she makes out with Nut. Hip hop music in the film was used in a way to show that music is a common pleasure throughout race. It could also relate to the setting of the film being in Detroit Michigan. The music, in many ways, set the atmosphere for each scene in the movie like for instance, when Zach is in his car listening to hip hop as he drives or when he has to be the DJ for a party.

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    • Welcome Ralph, good observations in regards to how different individuals and communities view Nikki. When you are one of the last people posting, its hard to provide a different or interesting view. So, unfortunately you are not offering anything new. In terms of the non-verbal messages, Nikki doesnt actually make out with Nut. Same goes for your analysis of the music

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  8. Nikki is a character that starts to show at least at the surface some of the real life complexities that exist. Playing off the Madonna/whore dichotomy that Manatu discusses as well as the idea of a love or sex object this is a stereotype that this character fluctuates and flirts (no pun intended) with the both. Some characters use really demeaning language to discuss Nikki, for example ‘white man’s whore’. Men’s vocabulary almost becomes conflicting. On one hand she’s discussed in very sexual terms (and also exerts her sexuality to whatever extent) but Zach courts her, this again hinting at the idea of her worthiness & respectability. They also have sex again, again, in contradiction with this false dichotomy that is assumed.
    In regards to music there’s a weird relationship to both their romantic relationships and to larger social issues. These 2 bond over music. They build a connection of their similar/overlapping tastes. There’s also a larger social contexts that needs to be discussed.
    “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” – Amandla Stenberg. We see a ‘white’ boy listening to black music (hip-hop/rap) and appropriating this subculture. The racial tensions that existed could be discussed by looking at how even though music facilitated their coming together as an interracial couple, there’s still something to be said about his cultural appropriation and again systematic love for black culture but hatred of black bodies.

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    • Monica, you presented a good but brief analysis of Zebrahead. There is again a dichotomy in how Nikki is presented as well as viewed by other characters in the film. You pulled some good quotes for your argument in terms of her being considered ‘white man’s whore” but she is pursued by Zach as some form of a love object, maybe not as strong as a romantic heroine. The quote you used from Amanda Stenberg is very timely and has been noted before by others. The issue of cultural appropriation is not a new thing. Things like music, dance and sports makes it easy to love and appreciate what we want about a person or culture without having any real knowledge or understanding about who they really are. Zebrahead, attempts to address this issue but doesnt succeed at really examining some of the real tough questions about being an interacial couple.

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  9. The movie Zebrahead is a great movie that helps represent the issue of mixed race dating in modern society. in the movie the main character Zach goes out with his best friends cousin,Nikki , who happens to be black. Through out the movie white people make comments as to her being black and her sexuality. Nikki is seen as a love object by Zach but seen as a sex object by the rest of the world. She is sought out by her neighbor but there is no direct correlation to his intentions towards her either through loving or sexual desire. But Zach sees her as a love object she is loved by him even though all his white friends think he is sleeping with her because he has a fetish for black girls. they say things like ” the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice” amongst other comments that are offensive. At the same time people dont truly believe in his love for her because his father owns a record store. i think that people see his attraction as a way to further commit to a “hiphop” lifestyle.

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    • Again Angel, your comments are providing overviews of the film as oppose to really addressing the question in the post. Unfortunately, you havent really added anything new or different to the discussion.

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  10. In the film Zebrahead, the audience views a love story unfold between two different races. The two main characters, Zack and Nikki, form a relationship that they each find perfectly normal but their peers and family members do not find as normal. Zack is a white, Jewish boy, from Detroit and Nikki is an African American female. Nikki was depicted as both a love object and a sex object throughout the movie depending on the viewer. Within her relationship with Zack, he views her as a love interest, even when sex is involved. On the other hand, we see Zack’s friends and father viewing Nikki instead as a sex object for Zack. Zack’s friends made remarks at a party that Nikki overheard that discussed their opinions that Zack was only with Nikki for sex. In Zack’s eyes, this is not true. But his friend’s use this excuse as the only way for them to make sense of why Zack would want to be with an African American female. I believe the view of Nikki being a sex object gets completely cast away towards the end of the movie when Zack and Nikki get back together and we see that they truly do love each other. Hip-hop music is used in this film at parties and ay time Zack is around his African American Friends. We also see that they way Zack grabs Nikki’s attention in the beginning of the movie is when he mixed old school hip hop music to get Nikki’s attention. Seeing Zack heavily invested in this music was an act of breaking racial barriers in the beginning of this film. Zack always seemed to fit in with an African American crowd because his best friend was African American, and even when he didn’t fit in, he didn’t care.

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  11. Brittany
    You post is almost perfect, the only thing you are missing are quotes from the readings. You made some good points about Nikki being both the love and sex object as well as making good connections to the music and the role hip hop played in their relationship and within the film. Always remember that the reading helps to connect your comments to the film.

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