Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are we there yet?

Recently I was asked to read an article about the negative impact movies like Precious and (Color Purple) have on the community (African American) and the fallout culturally. I handed the article to my family especially my beloved man Nathan who was offended by the writer stating that we as a community don't need to see this aspect of African American life. That that story line of African American
man as enemy is over played. This writer says no more! It's a conspiracy. My boyfriend says that isn't real life and we shoudl be able to see all aspects of life not just the triumphant stories. He isn't African American so he doesn't have the wound and so he can't speak from "that place".

There is a wound.

The article has issue with the stereo type of Black man as perpetrator -rapist -incestor. I can understand the beef. I was in both The Color Purple and Soul man another divisive film that created a dialogue as it languished in theatres not doing the business it could have or should have because it too offended "the wounded" still at the end of the day it was a delightful film. Still it offended Spike Lee and he has a big platform (especially back then) and he hurt the film. It is THE WOUND speaking and there is nothing we can do about IT! I am sad about one thing though...Hollywood is fragile it is filled to the brim with people who are not creative yet are deft politicians who are expert at getting hired and promoted but lame at being creative and risky. In fact the brave soul who can greenlight a fresh idea is in Paris or England somewhere else. He or she isn't in Hollywood. It is the land of mediocrity. The thesis basically says that there is a subconscious need to keep us down. I have to say it is a slippery slope because if you look at the vast wasteland of media offering in regards to level or diverse programming with regards to African Americans well it's a sad pitiful lack there of. Nothing but Ghetto level obnoxious representation excepting reruns of "Girlfriends" and maybe "The Cosby show " and this doesn't include Oprah or Tyra because that isn't drama. So it is understandable that some people feel there is a conspiracy to badly represent us...in Media. I am not so sure. I just think people who have the ability to green light projects go with what they think they know and what they feel has less risk. 99.9% of the time it's white guy product. Meaning written and sourced from a guy or woman who isn't ethnic starring non ethnic people. So the argument isn't sound. It is subconscious because decisions are made in Hollywood from FEAR. The need to keep things status quo. I mean we should be cautious of some news outlets (Fox) and or corporate giants and their biased politics ie;Rupert Murdock. Unless Doug Coe or Mr. Dobson take over someone like John Malone so far okay. Still it's a white mans world and I am thinking it is easy to see how films like "Precious" feed awkward negative stereotypes in a time where things are just starting to really look up for us in African American America. Got that? Honestly I agree that Tyler Perry is guilty of "Coonery" or that Oprah has issues regarding what she likes (herself) and what she doesn't like (pretty women and Black men)still it's their domain and they can do what they want and we who don't have their clout should sit back and appreciate what they do and try to create our own kingdoms. I am not a fan of spike Lee the man but I love his directing I think he is talented. I am not a fan of Lee Daniels but Precious is very well made. It would not be my idea for a film but do I think we shouldn't have tough stories told about us? No...I think we can handle it. I just wish the field where more level. If there was at least two or three other films or television shows that showed a successful kind and balanced view of Black America I think the nerves would calm down,the wound would begin to recede into the shadows. But it is not the case and here we are looking at 2010 and nothing on network television or in the cinema's shows people of color triumphing without the help of someone who isn't white. The big film "Blindside" which I loved is a man being helped by a white woman who is the more powerful one in this mix. That he is sexless helps the film sell tickets. So it is a sad situation that men (of ethnicity)are OKAY in mainstream media as long as a white person is helping them succeed and they have no sexuality. This is harsh and this is the message.

I want a world where we can have many differing representations of color in media. Where it is a vast cornucopia of wealth in story lines and textures and color instead of a small niche of the same O ghetto fabulous rap music inspired saga's.

Still its' better then nothing.

So it means a black man in a fat suit playing a woman who eats chicken all day and screams at everybody who ends up in prison? It's better then nothing.

Precious is a well crafted story yet the real story here is that we need more...a lot more.

Otherwise we are not "there" yet! We have not arrived,truly.


Cheryl Carlyle said...

Hi Rae,

You were in the Colour Purple, oops I'm Canadian and spell it that way. The Color Purple. I've seen it many many times and I love it. I watch it for its entertainment value and yes, what I learned from it. I think the book would be very good. My sister read the book then watched the movie. Anyone can and should learn from it no matter their colour or who they are. It's a great teaching tool. Cheryl.

CK said...

Hi RD, been awhile since I've been on here. I just wanted to ask what you think about Don Cheadle? Reign Over Me, or even the Ocean's movies...not mentioning the ones where he played a part of a black man, but there are at least two where he was just "a man". I understand the point that it wasn't written, directed, or produced by an African American (I don't know those facts). The characters in Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy also are doctors first, characters that could be played by any color. Their color is not ignored, really, but the character's relationships/work/family are what people are watching. The sexiness, masculinity, and strength these men portray also might not be written by an African American (again, I don't know if they are or aren't) and maybe that is one of your major beefs, but they are there and a lot of "white" America tunes in and is turned on. Point being, there might not be A LOT, but not all of what is out there is Eddie Murphy or Tyler Perry being stupid.
I believe that there are also quite a few movies about sick, disgusting people who kill, rape, and so on, true stories or fiction, and they are white. One fact is that Hollywood knows that the mass audience likes to see the "other world", whether it's horror films, tragic films, or films based on true stories that feature some deranged, dangerous person doing horrible things. People like to see the awfulness in celebrities lives as well, and Hollywood/mass media likes to feed it to them. The issue being that regardless of color, the mainstream Americans want to be grossed out, saddened and the uplifted, exhilarated by action, or even just exposed to the awfulness of the real world, and that is what MOST movies are. The ones featuring African Americans are not as common, so is it when one finally gets made, it touches the wound? When the attention is paid to the color, does less attention get paid to the quality of the story? If Changeling were made starring Monique instead of Angelina Jolie, would the focus be more on a single, working African American mother that left her kid at home, only to be treated like shit and ignored when something bad happens, like so many African American mothers have to do in this country, and "shame on the Hollywood for depicting her in a stereotype"? Or is it possible to see the story as what it is: the story of a single, working, heartbroken mother who just wants her son back? If Precious were made about a scrawny white girl living in the suburbs who was abused by her white father and suffered the things she did, the story is the same. How it touches your heart SHOULD feel the same. I know it doesn't for some. There in lies the challenge, eh?
I agree with you that there aren't enough movies/shows made by non-white (men). I think that your points are real and fair. I also think they could be expanded to include women, gays and other "non's".
I believe there are good actors (black, brown, yellow) out there making good (if not many) movies/shows, even the negative depictions, and it's up to America to applaud them and keep asking for more.
Keep asking!
(this is what happens when I go online at night- I talk a lot!)