“Master” is a film directed by Mariam Diallo whose Professor Gail Bishop has just been promoted to Master of a fraternity. Soon, Gail is challenged by the trials and tribulations of Jasmine Moore, a freshman. When he is assigned a room in a fraternity which according to rumors is haunted, the first difficulties appear. And when she challenges her grades with Liv Beckman, things go from bad to worse. There’s a lot going on in this film, a sharp and intensely pessimistic horror satire on racism and identity politics. We will also discuss “Master Review & Ending“.
The setting is an imaginary Ivy League school in New England. She now prides herself on her diversity, where Jasmine, a new student and young woman of color, is troubled to hear rumors. Rumors that her new room is where the university’s first black female student killed herself in the 1960s. Meanwhile, in a kind of generational anxiety parallel, Gail Bishop, a distinguished scholar with a record respected publication, is delighted. But nervous to be named the first black female ‘master’ of one of the university’s constituent houses.
These two women have in common a rather trendy academic. Liv Beckman, Gail’s friend and Jasmine’s tutor who teaches literature and theory. Liv is more outspokenly radical than Gail on issues of racism and is now up for tenure. Which could be undermined by the fact that Jasmine filed a formal complaint against her. Because of a failing F grade on his article on The Scarlet Letter.
These campus policies, arguably scary enough on their own, tie into the growing and strange events that Jasmine experiences, surrounded by sinister and rude white students who are overwhelmingly most disturbing at a party on the dance floor when all the excitable white students loudly shout the N-words in Sheck Wes’ Mo Bamba. The film cleverly creates a shiver of nausea in the institutional use of “diversity” as another marker of prestige.
Master Ending Explained
The movie’s ending sequence is the culmination of all that had been happening, a kind of cumulative epiphany for Gail. All of this boils down from Jasmine’s suicide attempt to prevent her, through the worm infestation at the beginning, all the way to Liv being granted tenure.
Faculty members’ tendency to give Liv’s death more attention than investigating the student’s death is a terrible example of privilege. This is compounded by their attitude that these issues are “a Gail problem”. She was shocked to realize that she had been treated as a “Master maid” and that everything has not changed.
Both Jasmine or Gail may have experienced horror and hallucinations due to their racially charged pasts and the institutional’s persistent refusal to accept them. It could be caused by alienation. Jasmine might ignore her or stare at her more than Gail, while Gail may acknowledge her from a superficial level.
Liv Beckmann’s identity problem, as seen to the audience. This was later addressed via the official reasoning for giving her tenure. It shows that Liv Beckmann is a woman who knows when to use the race card to her advantage. This perspective makes Liv less villainous and more a survivor. This could be extrapolated from Liv’s childhood. It was not an easy one and so she assimilated into the privileged society. She is in a sense Gail’s final rejection.
Gail slowly realizes in the final scene that history can only be reconstructed. The striking similarities between the people in photos and those playing cards at the table is what symbolizes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Behind the scenes, the same generation of people is running the events. Diversification can only be described as an appearance or tokenization.
Gail is horrified to realize that her appointment as Master means she is the token maid for the white folk and responsible for tidying up the mess. It’s almost as if she is a “house negro”. Gail realizes she is not doing enough to end institutional racism.
WHY DID JASMINE DIE?
Jasmine gradually becomes more paranoid, withdrawing as a presence. She strongly believes that it is a racist student and plants a noose at the door with the words “LEAVE” written across the door. Another disturbing sequence sees a cross being burned in front of Jasmine as she escapes from a nightmare hallucination. She sees tourists staring at two black women sleeping, while a noose is tied around their necks with a bony finger.
Her life spirals after the resultant hallucination and the burning of a cross in front her and Gail causes her to experience hallucinations. Slowly, she begins to connect the dots. She has information from Louisa’s journal and sees a hooded ghost. Margaret is haunting her. She races back to her bedroom, locks her doors, and at 3:33 PM, she hears a knock at her window.
She falls from the roof but loses her balance as she climbs out of her window. It can be inferred, however, that she has had enough hallucinations or accidents to cause her mind to deteriorate, and the next time Gail visits Jasmine, she finds her suspended from the ceiling.
THE CASE OF LIV BECKMAN’S IDENTITY
As we mentioned, Liv Beckman, a literature professor of mixed race descent, is very close to Gail. Jasmine files a complaint against her after she was awarded an “F” for her essay on The Scarlet Letter.
The other faculty member is now required to reevaluate the decision to grant Liv tenure. Officially, the reason for the denial of tenure was the lack of substantive publications. Jasmine’s suicide and Jasmine’s abandonment are used by Liv to force the institute into granting her tenure. The college authorities have enough evidence of prior racial abuse to be cautious.
Liv gave Jasmine an F because she wanted to show that skin color was not taken into account when she handed out grades. Liv is a highly intelligent individual. Gail finally meets Liv’s mother Esther to give her a boost in her savviness.
Esther tried to contact Gail from the beginning of the movie. It could be inferred, however, that Jasmine mistakenly mistook Esther as the hooded ghost of Margaret Billet. Esther reveals to Gail that Liv was a white woman, and that an “evil force” had made her black. Gail asks Liv passionately about her past and she reveals that her mother didn’t want anyone to know. It helped, too, that she was offered a job at Ancaster and did not want leave home.