Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Why Aren’t We Talking About the Sexual Assault in 'Beyond the Lights'? Why Aren’t We Talking About the Sexual Assault in 'Beyond the Lights'? Page to Screen Possibilities for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' (Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo Starring) Page to Screen Possibilities for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' (Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo Starring) David Oyelowo Joins Lupita Nyong’o in 'Americanah' Film Adaptation David Oyelowo Joins Lupita Nyong’o in 'Americanah' Film Adaptation Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Interest in Destiny's Child Biopic + Immersive Kanye West Feature Film Experience Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Interest in Destiny's Child Biopic + Immersive Kanye West Feature Film Experience Weekend B.O. Dec. 12-14 (So How’s That Boycott Working for Ya?) Weekend B.O. Dec. 12-14 (So How’s That Boycott Working for Ya?) FX Orders Comedy Pilot on Atlanta Hip-Hop Scene From & Starring Donald Glover FX Orders Comedy Pilot on Atlanta Hip-Hop Scene From & Starring Donald Glover Chadwick Boseman, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Rosario Dawson, Others Share Kisses in NY Times Shorts Chadwick Boseman, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Rosario Dawson, Others Share Kisses in NY Times Shorts What Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal Should Do if She Sincerely Wants to Make Amends What Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal Should Do if She Sincerely Wants to Make Amends Here's the Character John Boyega Plays in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Here's the Character John Boyega Plays in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Watch Zendaya, Kadeem Hardison, Tammy Townsend in Trailer for 'K.C. Undercover' Watch Zendaya, Kadeem Hardison, Tammy Townsend in Trailer for 'K.C. Undercover' Ava DuVernay Earns Her Way Into the History Books - First Black Woman Director to Be Nominated for a Golden Globe Award Ava DuVernay Earns Her Way Into the History Books - First Black Woman Director to Be Nominated for a Golden Globe Award Beyond The Lights, Beyond The Urban Narrative: When Marketing Gets In The Way of Story Beyond The Lights, Beyond The Urban Narrative: When Marketing Gets In The Way of Story Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Will You Join The Boycott 'Exodus' Movement? (Or You Don't Care) Will You Join The Boycott 'Exodus' Movement? (Or You Don't Care) Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Will Smith Explains Why Willow Smith Dropped Out Of 'Annie' Remake Will Smith Explains Why Willow Smith Dropped Out Of 'Annie' Remake Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Discuss: 'In The Heat of The Night' & 'Crimson Tide' - 2 Different Slaps, 2 Different Men, 2 Different Responses?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 1, 2014 at 10:50AM

In consideration of ongoing debates on the testicular fortitude of Hollywood’s leading black male stars (and/or lack thereof)
16
Crimson Tide

With June now behind us, and July just welcoming us, Netflix's usual purge of older streaming titles has happened (rights expirations), with a new list of titles replacing them. Scrolling the list of those that become available on the streaming platform today, July 1, one that immediately caught my eye was "Crimson Tide" - a movie I haven't seen in ages, and one of Denzel Washington's best, in my not-so humble opinion.

It got my attention because it instantly reminded me of a debate we had on the old S&A site, many moons ago (when it was still a hobby, and relatively-unknown) - a debate I thought I'd revisit years later, if only because the site's readership has grown exponentially since then, and I'm curious to read even more reactions to the central argument.

In summary, at a Black cinema conference I attended that year on representation (2009), one of the panelists (Dr Todd Boyd) spoke to the power that black Hollywood stars have in controlling the portrayals of the characters they play on screen, and how that power seems to have almost gone into retrograde, despite the progression in racial acceptance/tolerance since the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. 

Specifically, Boyd compared Sidney Poitier’s immediate reaction to Mr Endicott’s slap, in the 1968 classic, "In The Heat of The Night," to, 27 years later, Denzel Washington’s response to Gene Hackman’s double slaps (although they were more like punches to the face), in 1995′s "Crimson Tide."

His point was that Washington, as a contemporary Hollywood movie star, with power, should have insisted, as Poitier did, that his character respond with the same instinctive reaction – a return slap/blow to Gene Hackman’s jaw – especially given the difference in the racial climates during which both films were produced and released. His argument suggested that Washington really had no excuse for allowing that scene to play out as it did, as a black Hollywood star with clout.

Naturally, some disagreed with Dr Boyd, stating that context was important in both instances; and I recall someone mentioning a code of conduct in the Navy, which is the milieu in which "Crimson Tide" takes place, stating that a lower-ranking officer (Denzel’s character) would not respond in real life, and would simply take the blows from the superior officer (Gene Hackman’s character).

And to that, a counter argument was made, asserting that there’s a difference between so-called real life and Hollywood movies, in that, Hollywood movies are essentially fantasy, and don’t necessarily strive to fully represent reality, as we’ve seen numerous times when Hollywood has taken liberties in studio-produced films, re-writing history, or the present; And so, certainly, the script could have been adjusted so that Denzel’s character indeed retaliated, if only because of pride and ego, and then face any legal consequences later… or at least, the character could have been written that way, because, it’s fantasy anyway, right? That was the other side of the argument some presented.

It was also suggested by others that the same could be said for Poitier – specifically, in talking about “realistic” representations of scenarios; would a black man in the 60s, in the south, slapping a white man, get off as easily as Tibbs does in that film? And if not, then, Poitier really was moving mountains by insisting his character return the slap, and thus Denzel, once again, really could have done the same.

It’s all debatable I suppose, hence this post.

We’ve discussed and debated ad naseam the, shall we say, testicular fortitude of Hollywood’s leading black male stars (and/or lack thereof), when it comes to making certain character decisions in the roles that they choose to play, and how they portray them. Dr Boyd’s presentation touched on that a little bit, and this came up as an aside. So if you hadn’t given much thought to this specific comparison of scenes he made a few years ago (and I can't say if he still feels the way he did back then) between both movies, with Poitier and Washington, think about it now, and share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Here are both scenes.

"In The Heat Of The Night":

And here’s the scene from "Crimson Tide." It helps if you’ve seen the whole movie already, for context. It’s probably the best film on the long list of actor/director collaborations between Denzel Washington and Tony Scott.

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm..., Denzel Washington


Shadow & ActNewsletter