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This powerful and thought-provoking documentary examines the dramatic story of one-time white supremacist leader Gregory Withrow, and in so doing explores the underlying themes of violence, racism. and domination in American life and culture. At the height of his involvement in the movement in 1988, Withrow fell in love with a woman whose parents had fled Nazi Germany. His own subsequent flight from the militant White Aryan Resistance captured the imagination of the national media when Withrow was found beaten and "crucified," his hands nailed to a board.
Now, more than a decade later, Withrow is married to Maria, a Mexican-American woman, and lives a low-key, semi-isolated rural existence. Unlike simplistic stories about "evil racists turned model-citizens," "Blink" explores the complex middle ground where Withrow still battles his demons, at times questioning the possibility of fundamental personal change. The painful irony of his predicament is that when he renounced the world of racial hatred he was left with the same enraged, alienated masculine self that once propelled him into the movement. A stereotyped enemy no longer provides an easy target for his gnawing anger. And the mythic power he once enjoyed has been replaced by a silent, uneasy emptiness.
"Blink" also examines the mass media's role in creating a caricatured persona for Withrow as a "white trash racist." The film illustrates how the media could demonize a racist such as Withrow and avoid confronting the more insidious forms of racism that permeate American life. Through clips of Withrow on the talk-show circuit following his "crucifixion," the film shows how the media abruptly recast him as a "redeemed warrior." As a white supremacist, he was an icon of evil; after the attack, he became an icon of redemption. Both constructions deny Withrow his humanity in its full complexity.
"Blink" gives voice to Withrow's current attempts at a more meaningful kind of redemption, one in which he faces the extraordinary pain and cruelty of his past within the context of an unremarkable daily life. Through Withrow's struggle to renounce white supremacy and its twisted mythology, the film provides viewers with a multifaceted exploration into the gritty nature of personal transformation. "Blink" resists the temptation to see Withrow's change as a fait accompli. Rather, it points to a more complex understanding that the path of healing resides in his ability to endure the perpetual tension of opposites -- between self and other, victim and victimizer, good and evil.
Produced by Elizabeth Thompson for the Independent Television Service with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "Blink" is a presentation of the Independent Television Service.
"Successfully raises critical questions about racism in American life and impels students to examine the social, cultural, and political context of emerging meanings of whiteness and masculinity in America." -- David Wellman, Prof. of Community Studies, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz
"Better than any textbook or lecture could hope to do, this film prompts its viewers to seek out the social, psychological, and cultural factors in American life that give rise to racial hatred and to inquire into the factors that enable people to avoid or overcome such hatred. The film brings to light the contributions that socio-economic status, family dynamics, intimate relationships, peer pressure, authority, religion, and general cultural values (such as the warrior ideal) make both to the production of racial hatred and to the overcoming of it. This is an invaluable classroom teaching tool and resource in a very wide array of disciplines and courses." -- Prof. Mark Bracher, Dir., Center for Literature and Psychoanalysis, Kent State Univ.
"An invaluable tool to the work of people taking proactive approaches against the endeavors of white supremacists to induct young American men into their distorted world. The story of Greg Withrow is a common one for many white youth who are at risk for becoming associated with white supremacist gangs. The film's mixture of commonality, passion, and thoughtfulness holds viewers' attention and elicits an overwhelmingly positive response." -- Noah Chandler, Senior Researcher, Center for Democratic Renewal
"The interrelated questions of individual and civil rights, of interpersonal and communal relationships, of cultural shifts and population migrations, are all brought together in this well-conceived and admirably executed film. Most interesting about this remarkable teaching tool is that it condenses its themes into a contemporary and riveting story that is grounded in a historical trauma we all recognize, yet have different vantage points upon. It will be compelling to a remarkably wide variety of audiences in psychology, sociology, gender studies, media studies, ethnic studies, and of course the humanities such as ethics and religious studies." -- Anne C. Klein, Prof. and Chair of Religious Studies, Rice Univ.
"A compelling case study of the symbiotic relationship between the media and an individual who uses it for his own political agenda.The video provides rich and topical material for courses in media studies, journalism, and documentary production." -- Jan Krawitz, Prof. of Communication, Stanford Univ.
"A unique and illuminating work that offers a doorway into the world of those involved in the Aryan Movement. This important and compelling film provides students with a concrete and accessible framework for understanding the personal meanings of complex prcesses of social, psychological, and political change. Highly recommended!" -- Troy Duster, Prof. of Sociology and Dir., Institute for the Study of Social change, Univ. of California, Berkeley
- American Psychological Assn. honoree
- American Anthropological Assn. honoree
- American Psychiatric Assn. honoree
- Western Psychological Assn. honoree
- Emmy Award
- American Library Assn. Notable Videos Nominee
- PBS Natl. Broadcasts on POV
- Nashville Independent Film Festival Award
- Sinking Creek Film Festival Award
- Athens Intl. Film Festival Award
- Dallas Video Festival honoree
- Taos Talking Pictures honoree
- Waterfront Film Festival honoree
- Maine Intl. Film Festival honoree
For additional information, please visit producer Elizabeth Thompson's web site, at http://www.thompsonfilms.com.
An excellent review of Blink, as well as an interview with producer Elizabeth Thompson, is at http://www.thompsonfilms.com/BLINK/press/releasePrint.html.
An important article by Annalee Newitz about Blink and conflicts within white identity -- “white trash” in particular -- can be found at http://eserver.org/bs/36/newitz.html.
For an intriguing analysis of "White Trash" culture as a scapegoat for the cultural elite, see this article by Michael S. Gibbons: http://www.mundanebehavior.org/issues/v5n1/gibbons.htm.
Here is the Table of Contents for Violence and Gender: An Interdisciplinary Reader, edited by Paula Ruth Gilbert and Kimberly K. Eby: http://mason.gmu.edu/~pgilbert/Violence%20Gender%20Table_of_Contents.htm.