How do the men react to Granny asking them to stop filming in Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird"?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird," the two men react towards Granny's command to stop filming her house and family by treating her disrespectfully and behaving as if they were her superiors.

The first way in which the men treat her disrespectfully is by calling her aunty. After she coldly greets the camera man, he says, "Nice place you got here, aunty." While this sentence may look like a compliment, it has hidden meaning. The term aunty, when not used to speak of a relative, is actually a derogatory term in the South, dating back to the mid-20th century, used to speak of elderly black women; it is synonymous with the term prostitute and used to speak of black women being in positions of subordination, ready for exploitation ("Aunt," Green, J., 2005, Cassell's Dictionary of Slang). The term Aunt Jemima, trademark of the popular maple syrup brand, was used, starting in the 1920s, to speak of black women in subservient positions ("Aunt Jemima," Green). Hence, in calling Granny Cain aunty, the camera man is trying to put Granny Cain in a place of subservience and exploitation, which is exactly why Granny soon replies by saying, "Your mama and I are not related."

When his partner, who the narrator calls smilin man, joins camera man to defend their desires to film, smilin man continues to show disrespect by pointing out her vegetable garden and saying that if all people in Granny's social class kept vegetable gardens, there would be no need for the county to provide Granny's people with food stamps. The entire purpose of the men's filming mission is to try to prove to the county that the impoverished people of the county, especially African Americans, are getting by just fine on what they have; therefore, there is no need for the county to spend money on food stamps. Hence, not only are they being disrespectful, they are being blind, ignorant, and unempathetic. They continue to be disrespectful by refusing to leave. They only leave once they are unexpectedly attacked by a hawk and driven off by Granddaddy Cain, who destroys their camera film.

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Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

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