You know, it seems to me that Hollywood is 20 years behind when it comes to Black films. Last night, while hanging out with my movie buddy, we opted to see The Prince of Persia over Queen Latifah and Common’s Just Wright. I don’t have any plans to watch the film until it’s released on Amazon Video on Demand. I’ll pay 3.99 to rent it but not 10 bucks to check it out at the theater—and that’s where it really counts too.
See, that’s the problem. A mystical adventure set in ancient Persia trumped the love story of two Hip Hop stars portraying a mix matched couple. Supposedly, this film feeds into the perception that Black athletes only want trophy pieces (White women included) as dates/girlfriends/wives. So when one of them, Common’s character, falls for his full figured therapist, portrayed by Queen Latifah, this is the ‘ahhh’ moment of the film. So, I’m assuming the takeaway is that ball players should be looking for women that’s going to stand with them, even if they suffer a potentially career-ending injury rather than pursuing the obvious chicks who look good on their arms.
Yeah, so…..does Hollywood think that the entire Black audience has the educational level of a seventh grader? Apparently, Hollywood executives are under the impression that the Black audience wants to see simplistic notions of Black love rehashed over and over again on the screen instead of in-depth, complex characters and stories. You know, that’s exactly what they think because their financials support their position. With the recent rash of Tyler Perry films, Hollywood believes that Black people want to see more romantic comedies and films that cater to the supposedly ‘innate’ criminal sense of Black men (think:Takers starring the latest Black girl heartthrob Idris Elba and a fresh from jail, straight to the film set T.I.).
Let me be clear. I am, in no way, criticizing the actors–not at all. Black actors have to work and eat too. Besides, the actors do not make decisions on what kinds of movies get the green light. There are merely the front men and women. So, tossing a good heaping pot of Blame on them is pointless. No, let’s get to the heart of the matter. First of all, Black people are literally starving for some proper representation in popular culture. Radio One and research firm, Yankelovich, conducted a recent survey, polling 30 million Black Americans on their perceptions about varying aspects of Black life. The results indicated that we are a people with a serious longing for those things that reflect our cultural values. Since Hollywood is not an any hurry to release a hoard of Black films at any given time, we wait, busying ourselves with a standard, mainstream flick or two until we see a preview featuring a movie that has, at least, three to four Black actors. Then, under cultural obligation and loyalty, we hurry into the theaters and support it with our ticket buys, momentarily quenching our thirst of seeing some Black folks on the screen.
Herein lies my offense. I made the choice to see a film with a cast of several lily white Europeans portraying tan-skinned Persians. I was supposed to watch this film featuring two of my Hip Hop icons, but I didn’t because I have grown utterly weary of this Black film formula. Some years ago, Spike Lee said (and continues to say), that we support films with our paychecks. That hit home to me. Ever since, I’ve been managing my paycheck a lot better by not supporting a lot of Black films. For instance, I didn’t go see Precious. With that one, I’m taking it a step further—I won’t even watch it on DVD.
Now, I know that pushing out films that reach deep into the Black Experience could pose some significant challenges in many ways. For one, we cannot escape the tragic effects of racism and its impact on every aspect of our existence. Believe it or not, we’re still not ready to see too much that will pull on our emotions. Many of us gave Precious a go—apparently, thinking it would be quite easy to watch Black pathological behavior without being affected (oh, and because Oprah and Tyler Perry told them to go see it). Boy, were they wrong? After reading many online comments from Black moviegoers, the flick caused the reaction I thought it would—heartache, anger, frustration, and an overall sense of helplessness. The movie, Rosewood, performed poorly at the box office, partially because of subpar marketing but also because many Blacks did not make an effort to see it. If anyone cannot understand why, then I refuse to waste my time explaining.
Now, many of you reading this may ask: Chandra, what’s so wrong about a Black movie with a romantic theme, comedy or otherwise? Well, the ones that we keep getting just don’t delve deep enough. Where is the Black version of Dear John? The Black community has plenty of soldiers being deployed and leaving the women that they love behind. Given certain socioeconomic factors, that would be one interesting plot filled with some great complexity. Instead, we get a Black bedtime story in ‘Just Wright’. The movie will probably fare well at the box office because many of us (raising hand to be counted) love some Queen Latifah. Since he ain’t T.I., there’s some in the Black audience who are just now getting familiar with Common, although I’ve been a fan ever since the rapper came onto the scene as Common Sense.
As for myself, on the film ‘Just Wright’, I can wait.