Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To Bite or To Not Bite the Bullet?

The above is a movie trailer for the upcoming war movie, "Red Tails". This is a movie that was extensively funded by Hollywood giant George Lucas. Lucas had complained about the difficulty of selling the movie in more-racist-than-anyone-will-admit Hollywood where minority dollars aren't considered enough for major investment in any truly serious block busters. If it's not Denzel or Will, you can forget it.

So, he decided to make the movie himself, and there has been a great deal of buzz in recent weeks. I confess, I was buzzing, too.

For one thing, rarely has there been any focus on anything positive done by black soldiers during any war. And there's no denying that soldiers such as the Tuskegee Airmen, "Buffalo" Soldiers, and 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry have had a great deal of historical impact on the United States. The more non-White the cast, the more it's considered non-mainstream, and not worthy of mainstream circulation. Somehow the contributions of these persons to the racial whole of America is not relatable enough. And yet, miracle of miracles, every non-white person on Earth can relate to Patton.

But I digress.

The point is, this movie is seen as a major effort to bring the story of the first African American fighter pilots to the big screen in a big way.

Now, here is the problem that a number of BWE bloggers or black women in general have with this movie: No Black Women.

Uh oh.

BOYCOTT is the word on the street for a number of BW bloggers. For some, this move to boycott strictly about the absence of representation of black women. For others, it's about "the cringe", and BM and WW getting together and BW getting nada (See the "Peanut Gallery").

A line is being drawn in the sand, and only after the movie starts playing in theaters will there be any way to glean which side is successful, and whether or not it's a good thing in the end. The question is now what side do black women want to be on?

Make no mistake, if this movie flops, SOMEBODY is going to get blamed for it. I have no problem with being pegged Public Enemy Number 1 if it means that Hollywood understands (and I love you the most George Lucas, but this would mean you too) that black audiences are not a monolith and that black women want their own non-stereotypical, uplifting movies. Or at least to have some sort of acknowledgement in these types of movies. The fact that these movie makers have chosen to largely focus on the airmen isn't at all strange, but if there was enough time for an irrelevant love story, are you saying there wasn't enough time for a wife or mother back home?

Choosing to not financially support this movie for the above reason is completely understood and respected.

One reason I hope does NOT get trumpeted?

"Why can we not get big budget films made like this where the love a Black man (or any man) has for a Black woman be showcased? Why must the IR thing be shoved down our throats. Think about your daughters."

Oh yes, let's make this about "black love" and how every black woman on Earth wants a black man and we are bitter harpies who will not support a movie because Hollywood won't support BM/BW couples as major movies. Let's totally make it look like this movie failed because black women are haters and desperate and "that's why nobody wants y'all anyway". Think of your daughters? Hey, how about thinking that your daughter might NOT want a black man to begin with and there is nothing wrong with that. How about not fixating on BM/WW pairings and doing more to push BW/WM pairings. And if you thing interracial relationships are evil, then by all means, build a time machine and set a course for some time in the Stone Age. Godspeed.

Some BW may "bite the bullet" and decide it's more important for their male relations to be represented as something other than pimps, drug dealers, and gang bangers. Or there may be no bullet biting at all: Some women are the daughters, granddaughters, wives, etc. of these men, and they want very much for their family's story to be told, and it's something they are proud of. Or they may want to see the movie for some other reason.

I am not going to begrudge them that.

Will I see the movie? I suspect if I do, it will be via the world wide web.

But the one thing that bothers me in this to bite or not bite the bullet argument is the idea that BW are boycotting this movie largely because there is no black love. UGH. I encourage all BWE bloggers and regulars around these related blog-spheres to avoid throwing their lot in with these black people. Do not contribute to this narrow-minded stereotype. Especially since these same simpletons would likely not support a movie focused on BW if she was not an approved stereotype and her man wasn't Tyrone.


CHER! said...

It can potentially be another one of those "Damned if you do..."type scenarios. And correct me if I'm wrong because this is based on reading 3rd party accounts of the movie...

Black women should not ignore the contrast between war movies featuring those of other backgounds and this one. Every movie I've seen of this genre shows the soldier/airmman what-have-you with a special someone back home -Even if the only references are photographs and letters.

No (and what a relief) that "Red Tails" is not another 'Chitlin Circuit' production, however this doesn't mean it should garner an automatic stamp of approval either. Black people are not a monolith...And the expectation of "us" stampeding like a herd of elephant to certain films should have long reached its expiration date in 2012.

Toni said...


You raise a good point about the expectation of all black people stampeding to theaters.

I think that black audiences break down very similarly to white or any other audience: There are certain story lines that are more interesting to some groups than to others, and not everyone flocks to see the same kind of movie.

Zabeth said...

Great post. I agree with your sentiments- you put into words exactly what I'm thinking.

FunkyStarkitty50 said...

I refuse to go see a movie just because it has Black people in it. unless I read the book and there is a particular actor that I like, why should I waste my money.When I read in WAOD that Jazmin Sullivan was cut out of the movie, it annoyed me. If she had a substantial role in the movie, I wouldn't have minded going to see it. However, I absolutely despise Terrence Howard-- he give me that creepy itchy feeling. Aside from that, if I can get past him, I will wait for it to come out on Netflix,Redbox or Vudu, etc.

Toni said...

@ FunkyStarkitty50

Well, given I know about and have heard about him, your feelings seem to be right on the money. The man is a Grade A Creeper. :/

The irony is now being that we all were wrong about what might make this movie do badly (boycotting, not enough mainstream support). Apparently if this movie does badly, it will have nothing to do with black women or men: People just don't like the writing. Go figure.

Patricia Kayden said...

My Black husband wasn't interested in watching this movie so I don't think if it fails it will be because of BWE bloggers. I'll watch it when it comes out on DVD.

Toni said...

@ Patricia

The BWE bloggers hoping for it to fail may be disappointed; Despite criticism, the movie made back roughly a third of the cost in the first week, coming in second (higher than people thought it would do). It's being considered a success at the moment, and is looking like Lucas will make his money back.

I haven't gotten around to seeing the movie, but I suspect my folks will probably buy it when it comes out, so I'll see it then.