Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch Now: Baseball Phenom Mo'ne Davis Inspires in Spike Lee Doc 'I Throw Like A Girl' Watch Now: Baseball Phenom Mo'ne Davis Inspires in Spike Lee Doc 'I Throw Like A Girl' New Daytime Talkshow 'The FAB' w/ Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, Joe Zee Coming to ABC New Daytime Talkshow 'The FAB' w/ Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, Joe Zee Coming to ABC Watch: Everything Else You've Wanted to Know About 'The Wire' - Cast Reunites for Hour-Long Chat Watch: Everything Else You've Wanted to Know About 'The Wire' - Cast Reunites for Hour-Long Chat Sundance Institute Announces New Artist Development Programs Coming to 8 US Cities Sundance Institute Announces New Artist Development Programs Coming to 8 US Cities TV Series Based on Queen of Salsa's Celia Cruz is Underway; Puertorican Actors Jeimy Osorio & Modesto Lacen Star TV Series Based on Queen of Salsa's Celia Cruz is Underway; Puertorican Actors Jeimy Osorio & Modesto Lacen Star Weekend B.O. Oct.17-19 - How Did 'Dear White People' Do and What Might it Mean? Weekend B.O. Oct.17-19 - How Did 'Dear White People' Do and What Might it Mean? Trailer Debut: 'Black Dynamite' Season 2 Arrives Trailer Debut: 'Black Dynamite' Season 2 Arrives Review: 'Mike Tyson Mysteries' Proves That Iron Mike Isn't Afraid to Dress Himself Down Review: 'Mike Tyson Mysteries' Proves That Iron Mike Isn't Afraid to Dress Himself Down Donald Glover Adds to Growing Film Slate - Joins Cast of Ridley Scott's Sci-Fi Thriller 'The Martian' Donald Glover Adds to Growing Film Slate - Joins Cast of Ridley Scott's Sci-Fi Thriller 'The Martian' It All Started at a BSU Meeting: Justin Simien on 'Dear White People', Raven-Symoné, and the Black Art House (Interview) It All Started at a BSU Meeting: Justin Simien on 'Dear White People', Raven-Symoné, and the Black Art House (Interview) The Cast of 'Drumline: A New Beat' Talk How the Original Movie Impacted Them The Cast of 'Drumline: A New Beat' Talk How the Original Movie Impacted Them Lifetime Releases First FULL Trailer for 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' (Premieres Saturday, 11/15) Lifetime Releases First FULL Trailer for 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' (Premieres Saturday, 11/15) In Wake of 'Gotham' Controversy Comes 'Painted Down' - New Doc Chronicling Struggles & Hard Fought Victories of Black Stunt People In Wake of 'Gotham' Controversy Comes 'Painted Down' - New Doc Chronicling Struggles & Hard Fought Victories of Black Stunt People 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) 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 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) ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series 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) 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