Why is Hollywood scared of a black movie?By Xavier Burgin | 01/17/2012 11:10pm
I have a newfound respect for George Lucas. I’ve always loved the man for his work as a filmmaker. I love Star Wars. I envy the life of Indiana Jones. These are the stories that have captured the hearts of children and adults alike. George Lucas is literally a staple of American culture. That is not an opinion.
I also have my qualms with George. In the eyes of many fans, he’s done a considerable amount of questionable re-editing with many of his best-known films (mainly the Star Wars franchise). Many fans were also dissatisfied with the latest Indiana Jones movie, citing the weak story and inclusion of Shia LaBeouf. I may not agree with many of his decisions, but I believe he’s a great filmmaker, and his impact is unequaled.
My newfound respect for George has stemmed from his willingness to do something the majority of Hollywood is completely against—he made a film consisting of an entirely black cast steeped in one of the most prominent African American stories, The Tuskegee Airmen. Note: Go see the film Red Tails.
The Tuskegee airmen were the first African American combat pilots in the United States Army. They fought in World War II. The airmen were met with racial discrimination and hatred from the army and citizens of The United States. Still, they served their country valiantly and became known as one of the best groups ever to emerge from the US Army Air Corps.
Now, why is George Lucas’ movie important? Simple. Absolutely no one wanted to make it. Forget story structure, production costs, or the magnitude of the film’s scope. It is an African American movie that does not feature melodrama, gang violence or hood portrayals. Hollywood is having none of that. If the story does not revolve around what I previously stated, sports, or a white person helping a poorly educated (often idiotic) black person (see The Blind Side, Finding Forrester, etc.), it will not be made. The Help is not an exception. The story may have African Americans, but it dwelled on the overwhelmingly privileged lives of southern whites.
There are bright spots. Spike Lee’s movies can bring a non-black crowd. Tyler Perry movies have been notably profitable, but are rigorously scrutinized by mainstream critics.
So what’s the problem? Hollywood does not think black sells (unless you are Will Smith, maybe Denzel Washington or Samuel “I Play Myself in Every Movie I Make” Jackson). A cast for a mainstream, high budget movie will never be predominately black (or predominately minority for that matter). Hollywood will not even allow a white woman to be a black man’s love interest, unless it specifically deals with race issues (see O, a modern conception of Othello). In Will Smith’s movie Hitch, Nicole Kidman was considered for the part of Will Smith’s love interest, but executives opted for a Latino lead role in fear their white audience may not approve of such interracial sexy. The opposite is untrue. A white man can bugger up a black woman on screen all he wants (see Monster’s Ball or Star Trek).
Hollywood executives said no, watching the screening of Red Tails. One executive didn’t even show up. I could understand such individuals ignoring Spike Lee or Tyler Perry in this endeavor, but to know someone of George Lucas’ clout could be ignored tells us Hollywood retains a circle jerk of high-powered money-rollers who still have a stamp of prejudice on the money they stuff up their rear-end.
So, thank you, George Lucas for making this film. Thank you for using your own money to distribute it. Thank you for fighting the convention minorities should not be allowed to play lead roles in major movies. I can respect someone who is willing to push boundaries. This also lends itself to the fact some issues will not be resolved until white people address the gash of racism still upheld by their less forward brethren.
God, I just hope the movie doesn’t suck. That would really ruin my argument.
Xavier Burgin is a senior in New College, studying Film Production.