Why would Gooding, an established, Academy Award-winning actor agree to such a part that amounts to no more than six minutes of Pear Harbor’s three-hour running time? Probably because Dorrie Miller’s isolated heroism conveys Gooding’s sense of his own singular position. Asked after the boxing match, “What do you get if you win?” Gooding’s answer-“Respect”—is the only thing a conscientious black actor can contribute to modern film culture. This Pearl Harbor cameo appearance
is preferable to Will Smith’s lead role in Independence Day because Gooding offers more than a liberal’s exemplary cipher and more than the patriotic token for “The Greatest Generation” that Bruckheimer-Bay intend. Each of Gooding’s roles has dramatized the black actor’s ideological struggle in the Hollywood wars.