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Eventually, You Come To Realize & Make Peace With The Fact That They Don't Care About You...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 16, 2013 3:17 PM
37 Comments
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That was my response to a friend who wondered why I wasn't more upset and enraged over the dearth of black actors cast in Hollywood feature film projects, as well as the tiny percentage of *black films* backed by the studios, as we both looked over the lengthy list of new feature film projects announced in the last few days, as well as the onslaught of Cannes Film Festival updates, via sites like Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter.

"As someone who writes about this stuff, don't you get really annoyed... and depressed when you're going through these sites and it's nothing but whiteness and more whiteness everywhere, and maybe there's that one casting notice with a Samuel L. Jackson in a supporting role, or that new romantic comedy," was essentially his inquiry.

If he'd asked me that question 5 to 6 years ago, when I was running a little-known personal blog called The Obenson Report, long before Shadow & Act was born, my response would've been entirely different. In fact, he wouldn't have had to ask me that question because my *raging* would've been evident.

But, eventually, as stated, I realized that I certainly wasn't the first black person to rage against the machine, so to speak; black people have been doing just that since D.W. Griffith unleashed Birth Of A Nation onto the world. It's kind of sobering when I read critiques penned by black writers, of black films and TV shows (or black characters in films and TV shows), from 50 to 100 years ago, and I realize that I can say almost the exact same things about black films and TV shows (or black characters in films and TV shows) in recent times - suggesting how little has changed over the years, and how very far we still have to go.

As much as the institution called Hollywood pats itself on the back for how liberal it thinks it is, is it really?

Eventually, you have to realize that, the product of an industry that's run by white men primarily, will reflect its makeup (their POV) for the most part, especially when there's little desire to broaden their thinking, and take what would be described as risks, and, like most in industry, are almost entirely profit-motivated.

You also realize how powerless you really are to challenge the status quo, especially as a single voice. Collective power is another thing entirely, however. But that's another conversation - one we've had once or twice in the past on this blog.

And I'd rather invest all that energy (as well money and time) into projects that I think fill the gaping hole Hollywood has long ignored, or has just pretended isn't there, or, frankly, just doesn't care about.

So... life isn't fair. Mother Teresa isn't running Universal Pictures nor Warner Bros. There are stories to tell and lots of money to be made, but, unfortunately, you don't really have a seat at that coveted table. You're invisible - haven't you heard? And nobody gives a shit about you and your plight, and your laments about how *invisible* you are (other than you; you meaning, us.. some anyway).

But whatever the reason is, I actually really don't care. It's pointless. The bottomline is that the results are evident, and have been for a long time, despite the tiny bursts of progress that have been made over the years.

So I'm tired of *raging* if you will, and reacting to every questionable casting decision, every *problematic* project made, the lack of awards show representation, critical analysis of "what's wrong with Hollywood," or "why black films aren't [Fill In The Blanks]" or "why black actors are [Fill In The Blanks], etc, etc, etc. 

My energy is better utilized in what I feel are more productive ways. 

But, to my friend who inspired this post (thank you by the way), don't let any of what I've said stop YOU from raging though.

A luta continua.

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37 Comments

  • Someone | May 20, 2013 5:39 PMReply

    Omg. Thank God you wrote this piece Tambay!!

  • molasses jones/SWEET Entertainment Group | May 19, 2013 11:16 PMReply

    The door is open.

  • LeonRaymond | May 19, 2013 11:08 PMReply

    @FOOD FOR THOUGHT with that stated you are superbly right about your point below

    "And, finally, black businessmen. Dr. Dre just donated $70 million dollars!! to USC to form some new media technology college. Of course, its his money to do with what he will, but think how much more powerful it would have been if he pooled that money with, say, Ava DuVernay to support AFFRM and the work she's doing. ... And, obviously, what you need from the audience of color is to boycott crap and demand better -- which is really difficult."

  • Exodus Animator | May 19, 2013 9:31 PMReply

    OUR BIGGEST PROBLEMS
    - Lack of Black owned theaters and theater chains (Magic Johnson Theaters are owned by AMC)
    - Lack of distribution ownership (Companies that make the deals to put movies into theaters, on video, on cable, on demand, and streaming.)
    - Lack of ownership of TV networks(fully autonomous), video stores, and streaming networks
    - Lack of ownership of film and DVD printing companies.
    - Lack of ownership of major (international) advertising firms.
    - Lack of ownership of financial institutions.

    WHEN, AND ONLY WHEN WE HAVE OWNERSHIP OF EVERYTHING I'VE STATED, THEN WE WON'T HAVE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT OUR LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES AND IMAGES...

  • derrick mathi | May 19, 2013 9:08 PMReply

    You know, the US has a pretty large latino population. You don't here them complaining as much as black people complain about the lack of latino films. Matter of fact, I don't think I've ever seen anything in print about latinos complaining about lack of latino movies produced here. Might there be a possibility that we're tripping too hard?

  • BluTopaz | May 20, 2013 7:58 PM

    Who cares if the Hispanic/Latino population is complaining or not, it's usually Black Americans who often trailblaze the way for everybody else of color anyway when it comes to diversification in this country.

    And it's not just a matter of the quantity of films, it's imagery. But to answer your question, google Latinos, Devious Maids, controversy, etc. and you'll get a taste of how there are smart Latinos/as who are also VERY concerned about how their images are perceived. It's not just Black people who speak up, though we tend to do it more frequently because we've been dealing with this ish longer.

  • MASTER BLASTER | May 19, 2013 12:17 PMReply

    The bottom line is that we have to go out and get our own projects done on our own terms. Period. Love this piece. My favorite thing on S&A since I've been reading the blog.

  • Donella | May 18, 2013 7:01 PMReply

    I like the approach of Marlon Wayans. He and the Wayans family have proven themselves time and again. But every once in a while, a Wayans gets "done" in closed door meetings and finds themselves on the outside looking in. Marlon Wayans played the long game that took years on the grind to pull off. He won on his own terms with Haunted House. One of the best ways to channel rage is with long, hard, dirty, frenzied, sustained, passionate work. Very proud and happy for Marlon's efforts to beat the Hollywood machine at its own game.

  • Addison Witt | May 18, 2013 6:39 PMReply

    I agree with everything you say in this article. I would add to it by stating that "Hollywood" doesn't care about any group as far as I have experienced. I have worked with them all, diversity of every stripe. I have been fortunate to have achieved success with every group, and it has been a challenge at every turn. Whether disabled, actors from other countries, American whites, blacks of every shade, red, or yellow. "Hollywood" is a follower. Whatever is hot, whatever breaks through. Whatever is attention grabbing at the moment, "Hollywood" finds a way to profit. "Hollywood" is not a social, intellectual, or spiritual leader. The system is set up to profit from trendsetters, people and groups that find a way to break out of a stronghold mold. The cookie cutter "Hollywood" design is a very expensive endeavor that is limited and restrictive. The "Hollywood" formula works. And why does anyone want to change something that works for them? Certainly not because it is the right thing to do.

  • david | May 18, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    THEE BEST article I've ever read on s&a! Thanks a lot, and although I can't stop raging just yet, I'm on my out...lol

    da

  • Tananarive Due | May 18, 2013 11:37 AMReply

    Preach! Tired of raging too. Doing my own thing. :) Thanks for posting this.

  • Akym Sims | May 18, 2013 11:07 AMReply

    As BLACK PEOPLE in America we expect handouts on uneven ground. WE NEED TO DO FOR SELF, NOTHING ELSE WILL SUFFICE. Every race thinks they can be 50/50 with their white brethren. BLACK PEOPLE are less than 17% of the American population. We hand over our art and culture to people that don't share our backgrounds and expect that second hand info to be told to the populous correctly. The Asian Studios and Bollywood don't make white or black movies because they invested in their own people. We need to do the same and get out of this slave mind state of letting white people define us.

  • Mawon | May 18, 2013 11:15 AM

    You can't compare China or India to black America though. So your point is invalid.

  • julius hollingsworth | May 18, 2013 5:05 AMReply

    im glad your past the rage and moved on to making your dreams come true.celebrating ind. black film.

  • urbanauteur | May 17, 2013 1:54 PMReply

    BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN!

    1992 -Rodney King -Beverly Hills- The FIRE That Time...almost...almost made it.

  • PrinceToddyEnglish | May 17, 2013 9:20 AMReply

    I love this website primarily because, instead of raging, you shed light on all the films, movies, and television featuring black: writers, directors, actors, and actresses that ARE out there. Were it not for this site I would not know about 90% of these projects!
    I'm most definitely a loyal fan.
    Shadow And Act even gave me the inspiration to start my own movie blog. Let's give voice to our auteurs who are doing it, no matter how quietly.
    Cheers!

  • April | May 17, 2013 9:08 AMReply

    They Die By Dawn- by Jeymes Samuel - research it- great A list Black cast being made into full feature length film. Brilliant by the way. English African man loves American west, cinema and contacted every one of these fab actors who agreed- no agents, BS, red tape. Great untold stories about Black American outlaws brought to life. The story on how this short film was made (with help of Bulleit Bourbon-Samuel's band is called The Bullets) is a film in itself- Stop wringing your hands and make it happen. Jews never waited for someone to give them a leg up, nor the Irish.

  • VichusSmith | May 17, 2013 7:50 AMReply

    Fuck. Yes.

  • L. Michael Gipson | May 17, 2013 7:04 AMReply

    This is a surprisingly cynical piece from the publisher and editor-in-chief of a blog that manages to find fresh content daily about new black films, videos, webisodes, casting, etc. I do agree with your central premise: "They don't care about you...and your invisibility." That's true. But, Shadow & Act has single-handedly restored my faith in the future of black cinema across the Diaspora by covering each and every day the black cinematic renaissance that really is in our midst. It's just not a renaissance backed by Hollywood, and maybe one not corrupted by Hollywood isn't so bad after all. I owe that faith to you and your S&A team. So, cheer up!

  • Slem | May 16, 2013 10:06 PMReply

    Here. Here.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | May 16, 2013 7:11 PMReply

    Two tears. One bucket. That's all I've got.

  • ScriptTease | May 16, 2013 6:50 PMReply

    Excuse me if I sound NAIVE, but I have to believe that one day in the near future, someone will take that step and encourage black folk, we have to be there for one another. We have to have each others back because no one else does. I have to believe that soon, in the near future, black folk will be spitting out a minimum of 6 films a year at the theaters. We can do this, we have the power, but for some reason, IMO we feel that it is limited, so we're reluctant to help one another. Again, sorry for being Naive, but I am a believer, and all it takes is one person to get the ball rolling, and it will be like a "domino affect". And please you naysayers don't look at it as being the crabs in the barrel affect either. Movies are just the tip of the iceberg, but that is another story for another day.

  • ScriptTease | May 17, 2013 3:46 AM

    @ D.A. I feel you. Although, I do like a couple of his films, I am not a big TP fan. I am not going to sit here and bash the man, or anyone for that matter. As I stated earlier, I'm a bit Naive to all this, but I just don't understand how certain films are greenlighted, and others, much better films are not. What is it that black folk want in a film? What I want to accomplish goes above and beyond my screenplay writing. Yes I would love to see my film(s) on the big screen, but It's so much more I want to do to bring black folks together.... Like other races. Dream, hope, wish, pray, cry, try..........

  • CC | May 17, 2013 2:40 AM

    "And, it's my hope that Adam addresses the devil in the details of "WHY".

    And I believe it has nothing to do with "low hanging fruit" nor "high brow" or low brow" affair. In stead, I have to borrow the words of TAZ. She captured my thoughts to a tee. In the post "What's In A Name" she said, "Excuses mooches. We talking pathology of villains, moola, upper class, middle class, ghetto, vision, chitlin' circuit, one note. JUST STOP IT and let me be real. The top of this page has the title "Shadow and Act: On Cinema of the African Diaspora." I thought it meant that this would be a place where ALL TYPES of Cinematic Arts based on the African culture as it has dispersed and realigned - where people of all ages, races, cultures, and BACKGROUNDS - could congregate to ENJOY, appreciate, create, uplift and discuss meaningfully - the past, current and future history of African Cinematic Arts heritage."

    Her words hint at the answer to the question... "[What] black audiences are getting from the kinds of films that they've shown they want".

  • CareyCarey | May 17, 2013 1:42 AM

    "Better black films than Temptation have been made. Many of these films have been talked about here [...] If they were [in a multiplex] would they have made 49 million combined?"

    I believe the answer is no.

    And, it's my hope that Adam addresses the devil in the details of "WHY".

    I believe you, Miles, are standing of the cusp of the big picture-->"Black audiences are getting the kinds of films that they've shown they want".

    And, I believe D.A. (below) is on the right path.

  • Miles Ellison | May 16, 2013 11:34 PM

    There are films being made with diverse and interesting black characters, but none of those movies generates nearly the interest that the latest Madea opus from Tyler Perry does. On other threads, Carey Carey has asked why this is. That is the salient question. Black audiences are getting the kinds of films that they've shown they want. Better black films than Temptation have been made. Many of these films have been talked about here. They are off the cinematic beaten path. The difference is that none of them made 49 million in one weekend, or were even in a multiplex. If they were, would they have made 49 million combined?

  • D.A. | May 16, 2013 10:48 PM

    You whats REALLY FUNNY about that whole "Black people need to lift each other up" motto that we supposedly hold so dear is that it was never a universal statement.......

    prime example:

    Tyler Perry came, we loathed him, hated him, were more than willing to picket his work at the theaters even though he started 34th street films to showcase the talents of other talented black writers and directors who didn't share his particular views, as a matter of fact, that was the whole point. Tina Gordon Chism may have hit a wall with 'The Peeples', but would we even be reading about her on S&A if she didn't get the opportunity (My hope is that he hasn't given up on her). We let Spike Lee and John Singleton dog him out on MAINSTREAM (read: White) Television failing to realize that TP is no Spike Lee nor John Singleton. We've been had the opportunity, as matter of fact, we've had numerous opportunities. We keep wanting The Cosby's, but we don't want The Evans's. We must have the Banks's but we can't stand The Sanford's. We aren't willing to accept the full spectrum of black life, heed the reason why it is even harder for black actors to secure roles. We failed to see the bigger picture. JJ may have been living in the projects, but JJ was a painter, and a damn good one at that. White actors are hired in droves because it is widely accepted that white actors are fully capable of portraying any and every kind of character from every walk of life. I personally think that we're still stuck with always wanting someone to be a lawyer, a doctor, a police chief and etc. We still have those ideas of grandeur in mind failing to understand that there were violinists who survived wars, junkyard owners who hunted aliens, and weed-heads who robbed museums. There are so many of us who can't seem to get past Cliff and Claire like that's the only thing that will get us somewhere while there is a man out their creating his own wealth by documenting America's ugly fascination with superficial beauty........virtually under the rardar.

    So I suggest you change that statement to "We need to stick together only if........"

  • Daryl | May 16, 2013 6:01 PMReply

    This is something that realize a long time ago, if you are black filmmaker hollywood only wants to give you money to do sterotypical films about black people. That's why I have been telling black filmmakers that want to tell other stories to forget hollywood and build our own film community. Hollywood only has power if you give it to them and that's by waiting on them to give you your big break or waiting on them to be a post racial industry. When enough black filmmakers and black actors, actresses, cinematographers, production designers, sound people stop waiting on hollywood co-sign and do for self then things will change because the thing about film is it a process of collarboration, the filmmaker can have their stuff together but a couple of people doing the jobs I mention can mess up your film if they not trying to do their best. You can only do so much alone as a filmmaker. This is what's hurting black film not hollywood but too many of us buy into the stuff they sell us on who black people are and how we suppose to act, now if you are doing a stertypical black film you will have a line around the corner and not have no problem getting the film made. I would love for you,Tambay, to do an article on why do so many black actors, filmmakers, writers need hollywood co-sign to feel like they made it and why do so many struggling black actors, actresses, and crew not take a project serious if it's not a typical black story that has been offer to black people forever.

  • NO BRAINER | May 17, 2013 3:23 PM

    Build our own film community? Good luck with that one.

  • ALM | May 16, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    Yes. Collective power is excellent, but you have two many people who either can't properly come together to form a collective or too many who will abandon the collective at the first sign of hope from those who historically have shown they could care less about more balanced representation.

    In the mean time, what are some of the more productive ways that all of us on this site can use our energy? Some are directors, writers, actors, etc., but what about the people who are in the audience? What do you need from the audience of color in order to help?

  • Daryl | May 17, 2013 6:14 PM

    The reason we have problems building a strong film community is too many people with your attitude no brainer, that's the attitude of saying it can't be done before we even try it or the other one you know white folks not going to let you do that. I believe we are going to have our own strong film community in the future, that we are not going to have to cater to nobody on their terms but they are going to have to do business with us on our terms, so no brainer I will let you keep buying the tickets of black people can't get together on unity that the fake powers that be have been feeding black folks to get them to think like you no brainer, because they know that's the only way they can keep control and power is people buying into that bs we can't do it.

  • Food for Thought | May 16, 2013 9:47 PM

    I agree with ALM. However, what also struck me about this piece is that it doesn't SOLELY apply to Hollywood, but EVERYTHING in America. And if we keep it in the realm of entertainment, wouldn't it be great if black athletes, particularly in football and basketball, banned together one season and walked out? America wouldn't know what hit it if all the black athletes boycotted for a bigger and better cause.

    But, also I wonder what would happen if more directors like Gary Fuqua, the Hughes brothers and F. Gary Gray, would try fighting harder to have one or two more blacks in their movies. I know Angela Bassett was just in "Olympus has fallen," and Fuqua directed that, but it seems, too often, when black directors get bigger movies they don't try to bring a few more black actors, writers, or other below the line people to the table.

    And, finally, black businessmen. Dr. Dre just donated $70 million dollars!! to USC to form some new media technology college. Of course, its his money to do with what he will, but think how much more powerful it would have been if he pooled that money with, say, Ava DuVernay to support AFFRM and the work she's doing. ... And, obviously, what you need from the audience of color is to boycott crap and demand better -- which is really difficult.

  • ALM | May 16, 2013 4:24 PM

    *too many

  • Jason Pollard | May 16, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    Hell of a headline and article..good work sir

  • Damone Williams. | May 16, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    I think I needed to read this today. Thanks, Tambay.

  • Justin W | May 16, 2013 8:56 PM

    Ditto as well

  • Poe | May 16, 2013 5:19 PM

    Ditto!

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