Claudine – Can the Welfare Queen be a Love Subject?

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Consider the conversations we’ve had about romantic heroines and love objects vs sex objects and write about how it relates to Claudine. Which one is she more, or is she both? Claudine was portrayed as a Welfare Queen and a Jezebel throughout the film, in your response to this post talk about how this stereotyped framed her as well. I would like you to read this article, “Six Annoying Women Character Tropes in Black Romantic Comedies,” there is a section that relates to Claudine. I also added an article about The Moynihan Report that created the concept of the Welfare Quees. As always, incorporate the readings assigned, plus our discussions about the above topic with the two articles into your post. Below is a link to the film for those of you who missed the first or second half.

Warning: Before posting, write your thoughts in a word document. Please check for spelling and grammar and read it out loud to make sure your points make sense. If possible have someone read them as well, to make sure your argument/thoughts are clear. Make sure you are presenting your ideas to the best of your ability.

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8 thoughts on “Claudine – Can the Welfare Queen be a Love Subject?

  1. I thought that Claudine was both the love object and the sex object. Initially when she met Mr. Marshall, he was intrigued by her beauty and her attractiveness more than anything. He didn’t know her well enough to know what kind of woman she was, therefore, the fact that he was attracted to her is what caused him to approach her. I would also think that she was a sex object because it was not very long into their dating process, before she and Mr. Marshall had sexual intercourse. Claudine was a love object because a major part of the storyline was her blossoming romance with Mr. Marshall. In the beginning of the movie, his love for he was unclear, but as the movie progressed, she showed real interest in Claudine; he also professed his love for her and her children. Mr. Marshall’s actions showed that he had developed romantic feelings for Claudine.
    Though Claudine is labeled as a jezebel, I am still a little confused on why. She did move really fast with Mr. Marshall in regards to sexual intimacy, but I thought repeated promiscuous behavior is what would have made her a jezebel. Indeed she did have six children, but how do we know they are not all by the same man? If they weren’t all fathered by the same man, then Claudine maybe more promiscuous than shown in the movie, identifying her as a jezebel.
    The stereotype “Welfare Queen” framed Claudine because she was a recipient of the government funded problem, she had six children who were also supported by welfare and she against the policy, worked a job. She was deemed as a welfare queen because to others, it was perceived as she was taking advantage of the system because she did have a job and later on, a man. The fact that she was knowingly wrong for working, also made her look as if she was purposely trying to beat the system. I don’t think that Claudine was taking advantage of the system because with six children, I am almost sure her paycheck from work probably wasn’t enough to take care of everyone. Welfare assistance was definitely needed for her family.

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    • Takiera, Claudine maybe more a sex object than Jezebel. Her action and behavior leds us to believe that Claudine gets into relationships very fast and falls hard for the men in her life. As she indicates, two marriages and two almost marriages. She doesnt make good decisions despite her best attempts to care for her family and be a good mother. Claudine lacks the femininity and respectability rewarded to white women in culture and in the media. As Manatu states, ” If they want to be valued and reap the rewards of the “feminine,” women work doubly hard to be good girls.” “Nice girls [don’t] express sexual interest, or wear provactive clothes.” Sleeping with Roop and having children out of wedlock places Claudine as a “sex object.” It is only when Roop finally decides to marry her and make a committment to her children that she earns respectability and becomes the love object. Although, you made some good observations, the readings and quotes help you to connect some of the concepts we discuss in class to the film. Always incorporate the readings in your postings.

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  2. In the film Claudine (1974), the protagonist, Claudine (Diahann Carrol) was portrayed as a both a Welfare Queen and Jezebel, but presents more qualities of a welfare queen as opposed to the jezebel. When considering the jezebel stereotype, according to Manatu’s studies, the jezebel was the replacement of the “‘mammy’s’ dominance on screen abated at the end of the 1960’s” (25). The jezebel is the “‘oversexed’ black female predator” (25), yet Claudine is not specifically over sexed on screen. In one of the earlier scenes of the film, Claudine rides the bus with other housekeepers en route to their jobs and one jokes with Claudine about not having her “cereal,” or “corn flakes,” as she complains about not being able to sleep well and going through her day with constant headaches. This joke alludes to Claudine’s sex life, which aside from her children, is non-existent until she meets Rupert (James Earl Jones). Rather than a one night stand, more common for the jezebel stereotype, Roop (Rupert), and Claudine become romantically involved. Though they sleep with each other on the first night together, they remain together throughout the film and Claudine is not involved with any other men. Though a bit aggressive in nature, Claudine expresses emotion and tenderness to Roop and only Roop, thus removing her from currently being portrayed as a jezebel in the film. When considering Claudine as a welfare queen, Claudine fits the stereotype exactly. According to Evette Brown’s article on black female tropes in romantic films, the welfare queen “Of course Claudines’s deceiving the government, just like the shiftless woman welfare queens are supposed to be. She’s painted as a woman incapable of raising her children without government intervention and support.” Claudine falls in love with Roop, even with an initial guard up that it was going to affect life with her children. She was obtaining money from the government to support her family and was concerned with Roop’s involvement. She believes she can only maintain her home (financially) with all the help she can get from the government in the film. Yet, Claudine remains the welfare Queen in love as in the film concludes with her acceptance of the circumstances that change with marriage.

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    • Cindy, you raise you good points but I think you could dig even a little deeper. We can all agree that Claudine is more of a Welfare Queen than Jezebel but she is definitely painted as a sex object or a symbolic whore. Despite the “progressive and liberal leanings of the film, Claudine still has to fulfill a stereotype of one or another. Even though she works, she still must rely on the government to support her and her children. Despite the progress women have made at the time of the film and the emerging black middle class, Claudine can only be seen as a housekeeper and welfare receipent. Despite her attempt to manage her home life, she is viewed only as a woman who can’t keep a man and is forced to raise her children without a father in the home. Her children are a mess and she is struggling to make ends meet. When Roop comes into her life he has no intention of having a relationship. He is attracted to her and wants her company. He even makes a run for it when the going gets rough. Despite the challenge that Roop has as a man and father it is through his love and decision to make a committment to her and her children that Claudine becomes a “love object.” Claudine in the end is rewarded with respectability and love when she marries Roop. As Manatu states “Women who conform to romantic love, on the other hand, are rewarded with heath and home (Rose, 1973), asocial responsibility, and protection from destitution and public condemnation.”

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  3. Claudine’s character seemed to be portrayed as a welfare queen but had more complexity to it. Although Claudine had a job, she relied on the government to support her family. This to me was the epitome of the “welfare queen.” I doubt that she would have been fully capable of taking care of her family on her own. Yet, the idea of welfare was designed to help families in need. Claudine wasn’t committing any type of fraud besides trying to make another form of income to help support her family.There was also ideas centered around the man which could be viewed as a “income” in a sense. Claudine was portrayed as a sex object to an extent due to her having many children and no husband, despite being married twice. She was painted in that light to me by Mr. Marshall who seemed to have more interest in laying with her than to find out more about her. From the beginning it was almost as if they laid out the terms of their relationship as purely sexual. However the turn in events occurred when Mr. Marshall seemed to develop real emotions toward her that was more than sexual. The thought of him wanting to marry Claudine gave the impression that she was no longer a sexual object but now more along the lines of a love interest. Yet, I’m not fully sold on this idea, could Mr. Marshall developed these feelings for her because he felt bad for her and wanted to help her detach herself from the need for welfare? Or could it be that she made him think about his own family and what he was missing? After all, he did leave without a trace. It was only until her son came looking for him that he decided to see her again.

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    • Latoya, you made some interesting points but not sure you amwered the question posed, “CAN THE WELFARE QUEEN BE A LOVE SUBJECT?” “The stereotype of the “welfare queen” is thoroughly raced — she’s an indolent black woman, living off the largesse of taxpayers, with her multiple children by different fathers. The way we are first introduced to Claudine, we can assume she fits the definition of the Welfare Queen, but she defies the stereotype. She works, she has hopes and dreams for her children beyond welfare and poverty. When she meets Roop, it was a causal relationship. The fact that she sleeps with him on the first date and has 6 children by 4 different fathers would suggest that Claudine was a jezebel or a sex object. As Manatu states, “Repetitive transmission of negative and false visual images of black female sexuality has it roots firmly fixed in a very old, cultural tradition.” But as you noted, they began to have feelings for each other which complicated their arrangment and the way we were expected to view her. She doesnt use sex to control or munipulate him. She became more than the traditional “welfare queen and sex onject.” As we talked about in class, love is both white and female, therefore we are not expected to see Claudine successfully in love. Roop is only able to make a committment to Claudine once he challenged by her son. She is only awarded love and marriage through her son fighting on her behalf. For future postings, also incorporate quotes from the readings.

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  4. Claudine is a mother of 6 who relies on welfare to support her family. Although this description of Claudine labels her as the “welfare queen”, she defies this stereotype as she actively seeks to support her family by working and using welfare as a supplementary income. I believe that the welfare queen is a term for women that rely solely on welfare and refuse to work hard for their family. Claudine is shown to have the superwoman traits as she does everything possible to take care of her children. Claudine can be viewed as a jezebel due to her numerous children from different fathers. Initially, Mr. Marshall had similar intentions to Claudine’s previous partners as he viewed her as a sexual object and did not want to have a serious relationship with her. Contrary to his initial efforts, Mr. Marshall develops feelings for her and attempts to get serious with Claudine despite her complicated situation. This shift of intentions on Mr. Marshall’s part proves that although Claudine was portrayed as a welfare queen and a jezebel, she can be a love subject. Accorrding to Manatu, women are frequently portrayed as relational, dependent, emotional. . . their sex is “passive-dependent- that it is men who take charge and make change happen in the real world” (p. 44). As the superwoman, Claudine is not portrayed in this feminine definition as she does not depend on a man to help her make a change happen in the real world due to her ability to raised her kids by herself.

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  5. Shimon, you made some really good points regarding whether Claudine can be viewed as a Love object and/or Welfare Queen. I think in terms of this story she is possible both. She is certainly not your typical Welfare Queen, solely depending on the gov’t to care for her and her children. She is smart enough to work the system but not enough to get off welfare. Claudine is a woman of many contradictions; she has 6 children by 4 different men but is angry when her daughter is pregnant outside of marriage and when her son drops out of school. Wanting her children to make better decisions than her. She dates Rup despite her reservations, knowing he has immediate plans to be with her. Becoming more a “sex object” than a Jezebel since she is not using sex for money or power. And only moves to a “love object” when Rup can no longer deny his feelings for her and is confronted by her son. You noted, “As the superwoman, Claudine is not portrayed in this feminine definition as she does not depend on a man to help her make a change happen in the real world due to her ability to raised her kids by herself. But ,her becoming a love object is by no effort of her own, she fails to demand or expect respect and love for herself. Her femininity and respectability only comes via Rup’s love and acceptance of her. So Claudine moves a step closer to being a love object, but falls short for being an ideal black female protagonist.

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