We will focus on analyzing the African American Vernacular English (AAVE), using two movies: “Forrest Gump” and “The Help”. Both movies are set in the South region of the USA and both demonstrate several aspects of AAVE.

“The Help” is a movie which criticizes racism and the way black maids were treated back in the 60’s. For that reason its main characters are members of the black community and their lines are a great example of AAVE. One of the most evident example is repeated several times by the maid Aibileen, every time she comforts the child who she takes care of.

Aibileen:- “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.”

Link: “You Is Smart, You Is Kind, You Is Important” – From the movie “The Help”

you-is-kind

Other tense aspects such as “She done told” and “I done went and did” appear in the scene below. Syntactically, “She told it” is grammatical, but done (always unstressed) is used to emphasize the completed nature of the action. (Green, Lisa J. – 2002).

Link: Exerpt from the movie “The Help”

Knowing that AAVE nowadays is not a variety restricted to the black community, but above all it is a variety from the territories that used to belong to the South colonies, which struggled against the liberation of slaves and which also were mostly agrarian, we’ve chosen to analyze the AAVE aspects in scenes of “Forrest Gump”. The movie is set in Alabama, which has inherited a lot of aspects from the South colonies culture and language. Right at the start, Forrest’s lines present several aspects of AAVE. His accent is as strong as the accent heard by the maids in “The Help”, and he also uses the same variety aspects concerning mostly verb tense. For example, he doesn’t use the formal plural conjugation. Instead of “They were”, he uses “They was”, instead of  “We were” he uses “ We was”, and this aspect goes on throughout the whole movie. Also at the very start, he presents the omission of the auxiliaries “have” and sometimes the omission of the verb to be when in Present Continuous sentences. Example: “ Where they going”; “Where they been”.

Link: Excerpt from the movie “Forrest Gump”

forrest+gump+facts

This analysis aims to enhance the importance to consider the aspects of AAVE not only as an African American Language, but as the result of a mixture between cultures, considering the historical process which the region has been through.

It is quite polemic for some to classify this variety as “African American”, since after so many centuries of mixture of cultures and languages, it seems unfair to classify the variety as one restricted to the black community.

One of the links we have suggested below, relates the use of AAVE  to racism in Disney’s characters, where in productions such as “Dumbo” the AAVE is pronounced by black crows and other cartoons also portray the AAVE as a language used by villains. It is very interesting in the matter of restricting the language to a singular community, when in fact the variety shows deeper roots.

It is known that the South Colonies had  slavery as base and it is no surprise that those territories, which inherited this culture, have more marks of this mixture. But it is not for that reason that we shall consider the AAVE as a variety restricted to the black community, when there are marks of its use throughout the Southern territories in USA, regardless the speaker is black or white.

In essence is very important to break the barriers of prejudice and admit that AAVE is a variety deep-rooted in the American culture and a variety as important for the construction of the modern American English as others. Below, we have described several links which show how frequent is the use of AAVE in music and movies, proving that it is time to admit this is a variety that dictates trends and helps creating several idioms in the American English. It is a proof of how important the historical process and culture mixture are when it comes about shaping a current and modern language. AAVE is a great example of  the “evolution” of a language and also shows the importance and influence of the African American culture in the USA, besides their political accomplishments concerning the fight for equality.

The links quoted and bibliography, which we’ve found of great importance for the analyses, are described as below: