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Jimmie Walker Says Your Constant Complaining Discourages Studios From Taking Risks On Black Stories

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 2, 2013 3:13 PM
55 Comments
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In a good interview with NPR earlier today, Jimmie Walker of Good Times fame, had a few things to say, when host Michel Martin asked him to respond to criticism (then and still now) of the show that would make him a star - specifically, the notion that it encouraged and exploited stereotypes of black people.

In addition to challenging those criticisms by exalting the show's pros (like the many issues that affected the black community that it did tackle), Walker argued that it is essentially because of the fact that we (black people - although, in fairness, not all of us), routinely (and reductively, I might add) reject what we deem as "negative" depictions of black people on screen, so much that Hollywood studios, and other financial risk-takers in TV and film, are less willing to back productions that tell complex stories about black people. 

In short, they (the studio execs and financiers) would rather just not deal with the hassle (in the form of outrage or protest from the black community), and thus, suggesting that, unlike what many believe to be the case - that Hollywood isn't sensitive to the lack of variety in its productions - is instead the opposite; that Hollywood is very sensitive to the feelings and needs of under-represented groups (in this case, black folks), because they are concerned that certain depictions of black people wouldn't be embraced. 

Take for example, the recent petition to boycott Flight, because of the kind of character Denzel Washington plays - a drunk, drug addict who has a relationship with a white woman, who's also an addict.

I believe it was Boyce Watkins who started that petition, although I don't think anything came of it - thank goodness for that! (CORRECTION - as Dr Watkins notes in the comment section below, he didn't start the petition; he only wrote about it in one of his blogs. I should however, also note that Dr. Watkins suggested a boycott, with respect to Denzel Washington's performance in Flight, arguing that the Academy only seems to reward black actors when they are, as he stated, "forced to debase themselves and play to racist stereotypes in order to be recognized." Read The Hollywood Reporter's piece on that HERE).

Here's Jimmie Walker's quote:

What happens is, it also is reflective in black TV shows and movies, that you're not gonna get anymore of those because of the constant complaining, moaning and groaning... The point is to make money. And therefore, the network themselves have actually stopped doing any ethnic shows, because they don't want the aggravation... What has happened is that any minority character you see on a show now is always the police commissioner, the head of the hospital, the school superintendent. Those kinds of people don't invoke followers. The people who are going to get attention are the wacky guys... who eventually become stars... You'll never see a black Will Ferrell, You'll never see a black Adam Sandler, because black people aren't allowed to play those kind of roles.

So does Walker have a point there? Are we, in essence, partly to blame here for the lack of variety in depictions of black stories on screen, because we are, albeit unintentionally, discouraging studio execs and other financiers from taking any risks with us and our stories, because they aren't quite sure how we will respond to one kind of portrayal or another, and would rather just not deal with the hassle?

What do you think about what he's saying there?

And, by the way, Walker also added that he's doing a Showtime special, titled It's Not All Dy-no-mite, which will be recorded in Raleigh, NC soon, and will air on the network some time after.

Feel free to listen to the full interview HERE.

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55 Comments

  • Tyrone | February 21, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    I never liked "Good Times" matter of fact I hated it! All those adults in a rent control apartment and they still could not afford nothing...SICK!! That the image Jimmy walker wants???? HOW IGNORANT!!!!!! If he wants to act like a nut a buffoon do it at his home! I understand that he was too stupid and horrible actor to do nothing but Good Times...And he is mad!!!! I was born in 1958 at that time there were very little if any black people permitted on TV. Whites dominated TV and they laid the foundation . Or rather the positive image for their race! White women could not come on TV or be in a movie. Without makeup lipstick down throughout the TV program or movie! She could be in a fight in mud and would come up with perfect make up and lip stick down!The nuclear family was promoted in the white TV and movie families! Whites were the good people and the rest of the races were invisible! Sitcom like Ozzie and Harriet showed the perfect white family! The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 through March 26, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. Whites brought to the public a image of whites were in authority and everyone else DID NOT MATTER UNTIL WHITES SAYS THEY MATTER!!!

    When blacks were allowed on TV they were white people’s joke....... THE BUFFOON! Dark skin big eyes and white white teeth were whites preferable black people. Horrible stupid ignorant diction is also a preferable at that time for white people. What was crazy was the fact that the real Ozzie and Harriet. The white father was a drunk and a womanizer the white mother a alcohol ! In other words whites in entertainment TV And movie were very concern about the image of white people! This behavior worked for whites in many ways...First it made white Americans feel superior to all other race of America. Second it made all other race of American feel whites are prettier better and superior! This laid the ground for “First fire last fire (WHITE) vs Last hire first fire (BLACK)! AND DWB..Driving While Black)....WWB ...Walking While Black.. And today unemployment national unemployment 7.9% vs black unemployment 16.7%!

    That why I’m very critical of Tyler Perry movie and TV sitcom. In my opinion Tyler Perry has turn the clock backward with the accomplishment made by black actors. Black sitcom today overall are a disgrace to the many accomplishment of black American! Black American that demanded better! Black actors that refuse to do anything that made them act like fools or rather buffoons! Tyler Perry puts overweight and ignorant speaking black people in his movie and TV sitcom. At a time when black obesity is causing many health problems! Even before Donald Trump’s 2011 season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began, the chosen previews featured NeNe Leakes of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” raising Hades with everyone, especially the other black women on the show. I’d bet “The Donald” loves this — black girls “gone wild”— as it is good for ratings and for those who like such acerbic behavior. But I say, enough already.

  • NO BRAINER | January 7, 2013 2:58 AMReply

    My dun, Jimmy. You're speaking the truth, brother...

  • Troy | January 3, 2013 1:55 PMReply

    Is it possible for someone who has been in the industry over 40 years to know less about what's going on in said industry than a bunch of people who are not? I think complaining by the black audience keeps studios from taking more chances on different stories leading many young filmmaker's to stay the independent course. I think everyone in entertainment wants to cross over. The stage doesn't save lives just like Hollywood doesn't.

  • Wise | January 3, 2013 12:02 PMReply

    You lost me at "Boyce Watkins."

  • Micah | January 3, 2013 6:05 AMReply

    There is very little validity in what Jimmy Walker is saying. Jimmy Walker is being dishonest when he suggest characters that are noble or have decent jobs can't be compelling. It's the flaws in these people and their struggles to maintain that "invoke followers". It's far easier to find a black Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler then to find a black Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep in the history of popular entertainment. While the latter actors have played less than respectable characters, they also have played the lead a multitude of times as noble characters. They also where allowed to play both with complexity. Out of the few well known-superstar black actors that we have had in the history of hollywood, they have mostly been comedic actors. Take away Denzel Washington, Sidney Portier and Morgan Freeman, how many major dramatic black actors do we have? Not many. When they do get parts it's almost guaranteed that they will be negative and the actor will be doing his or her hardest to bring a shred of humanity that character the writer/director left out(They always have their work cut out for them.) I'm more concerned with two things: (1) Making platforms where young and upcoming black artists can grow and shine where they reflect the true variety of the black experience. (2) Having the equivalents in stature and success of actors like Leonardo Dicaprio, Charlize Theron, Hugh Jackman or Kate Winslet. All of which are allowed to play deep thoughtful characters whether noble, vile, comedic or dramatic with a sense of respect.

    There are a lot of issues that effect why studios are less willing to put up minority actors of any kind in a lead role, complex role or unusual role. Is this really his excuse for why they don't use other minorities either? This is certainly not the root of the problem.

  • Charles Judson | January 3, 2013 2:05 AMReply

    I would suggest listening to the whole interview. One, Walker sounds incredibly humble and self aware of where's he at with his career. Two, his major point is not that the frequency of actors appearing on shows has dropped, it's the lack of roles that can allow an actor, specifically comedians, of color to breakout that's been reduced or restricted is his major point. Just look to the recent history of SNL as an example. Will Ferrell (as mentioned), Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey. The number of breakouts on that show is small compared to the overall number of cast members. Even smaller is the number of breakouts who rolled that into success. Exactly how many network shows can you name with a character played by anyone of color that has broken out in the last few years? Donald Glover is one of the few examples I can think of. Mindy Kaling is another (notice they're both writers as well). This isn't a new phenomenon. If Lucy Liu's character hadn't become an unexpected hit and by extension a reoccurring character would she be where she is? Think back to Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor who had platforms like Johnny Carson and the Ed Sullivan's show. Same with Eddie Murphy on SNL. At the moment, there are not a lot of spots for someone who's just coming up and on the brink to shine. If you want a final comparison, go back to Def Comedy Jam. Aries Spears (16), Dave Chappelle (19) and Chris Tucker (19) all appeared on the show at a young age. Who's a current comedian under the age of 25 you can name? Who's been in a role that's allowed them to standout or made you notice them? Over the last few years we've definitely seen a number of actors slotted into the safest of roles and it's definitely a problem if you're looking to develop and groom actors of colors to be leads.

  • Charles Judson | January 3, 2013 2:30 PM

    I don't think it was complaints about the comedians themselves, it was about the roles, most pointedly the lack of positive roles, and the under representation on TV. A set of complaints that's come from not just the public but likes of the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and a host of other organizations. The result has not been expansion, and not opening up the leads to consider anyone, but to populate the guest roles and safe reoccuring characters. Which basically ignores the real problems with casting. Yet, it allows execs and producers to pat themselves on the back for thinking they've done more by not slotting actors into stereotypical roles. Sometimes they will work hard to diversify the leads and co-leads, especially in ensembles, but it again comes off as half-measures. I loved E.R., but I always found the handling of minority characters maddening. It seemed to get really bad near the end when they had more Black and Asian reoccuring characters than during the entire run. So many of the storylines featuring the characters of color on that show felt like backburners to everyone else. E.R. had a great number of characters of color, but I can't name many of their story and plotlines that were both memorable and satisfying. Shariff Atkins character off screen exit is an example. Mekhi Phifer's storyline with his dad also seemed not only bungled, but essentially created another black character who basically has no father figure in his life. But, as a producer they could say those characters were always the most hyper-competent and intelligent of the cast. What good is being hyper-competent if your arcs are mishandled or instead of subverting the norm, just fall in line with it? And Hollywood has been listening to the audience since the days of local Censorship Boards. They maybe blind and death at times, but Hollywood becomes hypersensitive once they think the bottom line will be hurt if they offend audiences, or more importantly, think they'll lose advertisers and advertising revenue. Keep in mind, the NAACP and Jesse Jackson often targeted not just NBC, ABC or CBS, but also the advertisers. It was in radio and not TV, but you only have to look to how many advertisers jumped ship after Limbaugh's remarks last year. Enough folks jumped ship that one of the major radio companies, the name escapes me at the moment, announced they were going to end 2012 with a loss for the first time in years. They blamed Limbaugh. It sounds unbelievable, however with shrinking revenues, the ever rising cost of TV shows, now having to report quarterly numbers to shareholders, and their parent company's worries about Wall Street's reaction, networks are just as sensitive to potential controversy in today's environment as they were in the 1970s and 1980s, when they were constantly fighting with affiliates over fees, airtime and programming.

  • monkeysuit | January 3, 2013 1:12 PM

    Yeah, but do you really think it's because of people's complaints about black comedians? People were just as noisy then as they are now. Why would Hollywood all of a sudden start listening to the culture police to be "safe?" The roles he mentions (the cops, superintendents, doctors), were filled by people of color while many of the comedians you mention were breaking out. I think this is an example of correlation without causation.

  • Micah | January 3, 2013 6:06 AM

    Charles, thanks for making the point about having good platforms for young talent to grow.

  • Mary | January 3, 2013 12:37 AMReply

    Am I the only one who thinks Jimmie Walker has gotten increasingly more handsome over the years?

  • Peggy | January 9, 2013 4:10 AM

    Why is it always the ugly brothers that are republicans?

  • Pat | January 3, 2013 7:03 PM

    Mary I agree. However, it "...but JJ age Niiiice!"

  • bill | January 3, 2013 3:17 PM

    That comment was.....DYNOMITEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

  • lauren | January 3, 2013 9:59 AM

    @Mary....Thanks for my first laugh of the day!

  • Howling | January 3, 2013 1:06 AM

    @ Straight Talk, LMAO!

  • Straight Talk | January 3, 2013 12:51 AM

    Um Mary...that would be a resounding YES.

  • Miles Ellison | January 2, 2013 11:57 PMReply

    The issue of how black people are portrayed has less to do with the offensiveness of the images than it does with who is perceived to be controlling them.

  • turner | January 3, 2013 10:22 PM

    @Miles....This is the plain truth... and sadly, too many say little about the worst images of black people in the media are generated by other black people.

  • Miles Maker | January 2, 2013 11:27 PMReply

    I'm not buying Mr. Walker's opinion as the prevailing reason why we're not seeing people of color depicted as often as we'd like to see ourselves in TV and film. However good writing requires compelling characters with seemingly unconquerable problems, and the most intriguing story arcs involve characters with inner demons and interpersonal conflicts that are perceived as larger than life--hence fiction on screen to convey them. Some of the most memorable and endearing white characters in cinema have the vilest of personal struggles--yet these same struggles depicted with Black characters gets us heated. Is it because they're produced by white people, or does it matter if the same story was depicted by a Black creator?

    There's something about us 'looking bad' on screen we're vehement about. On the other hand I've read countless books by street lit authors that depict such downright distasteful images of us I cringe at the thought of seeing them adapted for movies and TV. However these are the very same bestselling books I see in countless Black hands. Is it because we only picture these characters in our private thoughts & minds?

  • NO BRAINER | January 7, 2013 3:12 AM

    Mr. Walker never said it is the prevailing reason why black people are not depicted on the the TV/Film screen as often as we would like. He simply mentioning something that is a part of the reason. Black people whine too much. All that whining messes with the money.

  • Boyce Watkins | January 2, 2013 11:09 PMReply

    Hi, I am Dr. Boyce Watkins - I did not start any such petition. I simply wrote about it on one of my blogs. Please do your research.

  • NO BRAINER | January 7, 2013 3:05 AM

    ROTFLMAO @ CARL

  • Kellee T | January 3, 2013 2:40 PM

    Boyce, why all the hostility? The man said he believed you did and was gracious enough to make the correction when it was pointed out. I can understand not wanting to be put in something you have no part of, but it's not like you didn't suggest a boycott of the film on public record. It's an easy fact checking mistake, and you of all people should know what that is--you've made plenty in your career. All writers have. So "Please do your research" is condescending and pointless, kind of like 90 percent of your writing.

  • Carl | January 2, 2013 11:12 PM

    Hi, I am George Washington and I once chopped down a cherry tree. Please don't bullshit us.

  • Bee | January 2, 2013 11:08 PMReply

    I'll put it simply: both Jimmie Walker and Boyce Watkins need to have a damn seat. Several seats. They are both symptoms of the problem we as black Americans face in terms of film representation. One (Walker) blames black folks for Hollywood's misrepresentations and refusal to recognize us, while the other (Watkins, who is a hypocrite, among other things) cries about every single representation that even slightly displays a black man with real human faults. They both need to just stop and get a clue. Period.

  • ALM | January 2, 2013 10:07 PMReply

    Yes, Mr. Walker, blame the audience, who has very little control over what the media decides to show....that's real productive. SMH

  • ALM | January 8, 2013 11:08 PM

    @ No Brainer: Your use of the phrase "you people" says it all....Have a great night :)

  • NO BRAINER | January 7, 2013 3:15 AM

    You two sound like idiots. Yes you ALM and MONKEYDUNG. The audience control every bit of it. What's this nonsense about forcing audiences to be entertained by things they don't like? You people don't know what you're talking about.

  • monkeysuit | January 3, 2013 1:02 PM

    I couldn't agree more. How can you expect people to force themselves to be entertained by things they don't want to see? That's nonsense.

  • Miles Ellison | January 2, 2013 9:15 PMReply

    It seems to me that Hollywood defaults to simplistic negative stereotypes and buffoonery because it's easier to sell than dimension and complexity. And people buy it. More people watch Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, or the Tyler Perry cavalcade of neo-blackface than watch The Wire or Treme.

  • Micah | January 3, 2013 6:10 AM

    That speaks to the Hollywood's dumbing down of entertainment and culture. They make junk food and appeal to the lowest common denominator. I don't follow Tyler Perry's work but I like to think his work is better than these horrible reality tv shows. Nonetheless you make a great point.

  • Bondgirl | January 2, 2013 6:41 PMReply

    "I believe it was Boyce Watkins who started that petition, although I don't think anything came of it - thank goodness for that!" <<---Says the author of this post who secretly slams Scandal in public. Look down, you're fly is open.

  • Micah | January 3, 2013 6:12 AM

    I still love you though Tambay.

  • Micah | January 3, 2013 6:11 AM

    She kind of has a point.

  • getthesenets | January 2, 2013 5:54 PMReply

    check out the videos to some of his book signings and the Q&As...he says some of the same stuff...find it at the usual video sites.-book was a good read also

  • Tali | January 2, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    This story has NO validity.

    Tyler Perry, a billionaire off black theater and movies and tv has some of the worst stereotypes on screen and yet his movies, tv, theater does beaucoup business.

    And at ANY given time, some group is protesting Hollywood offerings. Be it gay people, latinos, arabs, asians, christians, hell parent groups... Does it change the business model? Hell no! Because there is GREEN to be had. And Hollywood's favorite color is GREEN.

    Hollywood doesn't do "black" stories more often because they are short sighted. People in power in Hollywood have one job... to KEEP their jobs. They are more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. And since they are all white with no cultural experience or knowledge of black people, they greenlight things they are familiar with and want to see and think others will want to see (even though they are usually wrong). Doing a "black" film is a bigger risk in their eyes than doing other types of movies... And executives are NEVER fired for NOT taking a risk on a project. They are fired when they take a risk and it doesn't pay off (hence executive turnover every few years).

    Historically, if you look at straight budget and box office numbers, "black" movies are the LEAST risky to do. They tend to always make money (ask 50 cent who has been investing in no budget films the last few years). However, since Hollywood executives change over every few years, that lesson gets lost as the new batch of executives coming in will only take risks in worlds they know... which is not ours.

    What I'd like to know is what the hell is Jimmy Walker doing right now other than schtupping the ultra-conservative Ann Coulter? My point is he is NOT a friend to black people despite being black and acting on one of the greatest shows ever. He has little legitimacy on the issue and needs to go back and hang with his tea party buddies and leave the hustle to those that are truly invested in the community and entertainment industry and care.

  • monkeysuit | January 3, 2013 1:00 PM

    Very, very true.

  • Micah | January 3, 2013 6:14 AM

    Thank you Tali. There is a ton of truth in what you just said. Can I quote you on that?

  • Jeremy Jones | January 3, 2013 4:47 AM

    Thank you for the insight.

  • travis | January 2, 2013 4:05 PMReply

    Damn....Damn....Damn......!

  • Alice | January 2, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    I kinda just talked about this in my new blog post Django: A Story Still Chained. Controversy sells and fear of criticism is not why Hollywood isn't producing more movies about black folk that present us positively. They aren't producing them because they don't make as much money. PERIOD. Gauge the box office receipts of films like "Django" versus "Amistad" or compare a film like "Love Jones" to "Think Like A Man". Had it NOT been for the mainstream success of the book and its producers track record, the studios would not have been so open to support, "Think Like A Man." Why invest millions of dollars in a movie when the stats show black audiences don't support them as much. WE ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMY...between boot-legging and willingness to wait for DVD or On Demand, we as an audience have told Hollywood what we are willing to spend our money on. That said, did "Red Tails" make a profit? Read more of my take on why Django is still chained...http://www.hollywoodliveandwork.com/2013/01/django-story-still-chained.html

  • monkeysuit | January 3, 2013 12:57 PM

    I think the biggest flaw in this argument is not the ticket stubs, but the movies you use as an example. I would take "Django" over "Amistad" any day. And there's no argument in the world that will convince me that "Red Tails" deserved to make a profit. Positive images or not, it was still a terrible movie. And there are obvious reasons why "Think Like Man" would have a more mainstream appeal than "Love Jones," which by the way has had a healthy cult following. The audience is never to blame. You can't expect someone to pay for a movie that A) doesn't appeal to them or b) is not that good. And like Alm said you've left out instances when black support aided in a movie's success like "Malcolm X" or a number of other late 80s and early 90s hits.

  • Charles Judson | January 2, 2013 11:37 PM

    When exactly have ticket stubs being changed been that widespread in the last 20 years? Major distributors and studios are notorious about not only getting a cut of their money, but they penalize exhibitors for under reporting and mishandling films. Sony as an example has been known to be a hard ass. There are exhibitors that have seen their theater counts cut for future titles, and some films have gone straight to their competitors. The only upside of under reporting is to try to squeeze out more profits from a film that has a better percentage share. But, the windows are so short that strategy hasn't made sense years. On the flipside it doesn't make sense for exhibitors to change the numbers. If you want to negotiate better deals and guarantee films down the line (like a Skyfall or a Harry Potter), or if you want to keep a film that's bringing in the audiences who are buying concessions--which is where the real money is at for exhibitors--you want to report the right numbers so you can keep the right films. No reasonable exhibitor, nor would any manager, mess with their recap numbers (the ratio of concession dollars earned per audience members), lose a film that's actually bringing in audiences to only hold on to the film that's not a draw, or gamble on losing future bookings. Most corporate offices and distributors are closely looking at Rentrak numbers, especially hour by hour on a weekend. They've been looking at it all the way up to the day of. Tracking is so strong now that they can spot anomalies and trends by neighborhoods. They've researched the history of particular theaters. The only other incentive one has for changing a ticket stub is to hand out physical tickets that aren't reported in the system. Again, since most theaters outside of a few regional exhibitors, mostly family owned at this point, and arthouses haven't done preprinted or generic tickets in years, it's incredibly difficult to fake a stack of ticket stubs on a large scale. You'd have to preprint them and then back them out of the system. Pre-internet, you could get way with that because numbers used to upload via satellite, or you called or faxed them in, now that's also been long gone for a while. If you're getting the wrong ticket, you're probably looking at some kid or manager trying to make some extra change. This same issue also used to occur with retail stores, but real-time inventory tracking has made it difficult for store managers to make big screen TVs fall of the truck like they used. Loss Prevention averages over 20 years ago used to hover near 5% in some companies. Now you'll find many companies have gotten that down to below 1%. In some companies it's crazy low like .2% or less. Ticket stubs being changed is one of those worries that might have been a big deal back in the early 90s, but it's pretty much unfathomable now. Even when it exists, it's hard to do it on a global scale, with no upside.

  • Bee | January 2, 2013 11:12 PM

    @Alm: Right! That has happened to me a few times, and I thought it was crazy and totally scandalous. @Luce: I don't think the kind of thing Alm mentions is all that uncommon. But maybe I'm wrong.

  • Alex | January 2, 2013 11:06 PM

    @ALM Sounds like that episode of SCANDAL ...

  • Luce | January 2, 2013 10:52 PM

    @ALM I don't understand? Which cinema complex does that? And did this happen to you?

  • ALM | January 2, 2013 10:08 PM

    @ Alice: You have left something HUGE out of your argument. What about the countless times African Americans have gone to support an African American film, just to look down and see that their ticket stub has been changed to credit a different movie from the movie they paid to see?

  • bill | January 2, 2013 3:59 PMReply

    Shadow and Act. A place where we can agree to disagree. Like I need advice from JJ. I think the only character in flight written for an Afro-American was don cheadle's character. Denzel made that movie (flight) and I'm sure it wasn't written for him ten years ago boyce so do some research. Seriously though Bill O' Reilly? As as far as voting is concerned, no I don't have to vote for some one because they may be of my complexion, but I'm also not going to vote for a party that doesn't give a damn about me.

  • Charles Judson | January 2, 2013 3:52 PMReply

    It will be easy for some to dismiss his points, but it's a very valid point. You can go back to the days of the Hays Code and regional Censorship boards and you'll see that Hollywood has always been afraid to turn off any group. Especially any group willing to pay money. They've reedited films, designed them to have scenes that could be pulled out, and changed the posters to fit whatever region of the country they were targeting. Is the complaining the only and main reason that they've shied away? No. However, I would say that in today's Wall Street run fire first analyze the fallout later Hollywood, executives are likely even more adverse to dealing with anything that will be deemed a "headache" or a hardsell. This is even more so when you also add in the perceived lack of foreign market for projects with actors of color. Think back to the 1990s. Between those who came up through Def Comedy Jam and In Living Color, and the myriad of offshoots that showed up in syndication and on cable, there were quite a few folks who got their start. Does that hold true now? I haven't looked at it, but it does seem to be fewer Black comedians who have come up in the 2000's and crossed over, even into reoccurring roles, than in the 1990s. Even the newer shows on BET, TV One, etc. are mostly featuring actors and comedians who have been in the industry for 20+ years. I'd be curious to compare the two time periods.

  • Nat Jones | January 2, 2013 3:50 PMReply

    I heartily disagree. Why are WE taking the blame for Hollywood because we want them to show us in a positive (or at the very least NORMAL) light? Hollywood doesn't want to tackle the REALITY of oppression/microagression that people of African descent deal with because their majority white audience doesn't want to deal with it. TV/Movies are for escapism/entertainment and people don't want to turn on the TV and be confronted with their privilege-it's THAT SIMPLE. That's one thing. Two, they won't hire black writers/directors/staff who can give them input on how to make a successful program centered around an African-American character -OMG that's just too much work! It's easier to make fluff, throw in a token black character to appear multicultural without addressing WHY that's the only black character in a cast of 100. The success of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and the internet series Confessions of an Awkward Black Girl just go to show that the material is OUT THERE, but no one wants to give it a chance. We have tons of talent out there that is never given a fair chance, so YES, JJ - we have every right to complain! If for every 100 shows/movies they make, 20 have prominent black characters and 15 of them perpetuate negative stereotypes - it is our RIGHT and our DUTY to say something.

  • Ghost | January 2, 2013 7:18 PM

    Is it our duty to complain? Yes. Folks just want a balance of black images. We will see the greatest push of negative images of blacks but let someone try to buck that and they are throw to the wolves and ignored. All this negative black images does affect the community. You keep making this buffonery and you will see more and more of it.

  • Charles Judson | January 2, 2013 4:18 PM

    The question is, what is a negative stereotype and what's just a silly character. Is it our duty to complain about every negative character? Maybe, maybe not. It definitely is our right to. However, is a silly, over the top character always a negative stereotype? Is a stereotype in and of itself always a bad thing? It's a tricky line. Dave Chappelle used stereotypes to create some of the best comedy of the last 20 years, however the messages and critiques were skipped over by audiences, including black ones. Comedy Central was more interested in getting those last skits up and out for monetary gain than trying to understand where Chapelle was coming from or to retain the context of what he was trying to achieve. Conversely, race aside, Jimmy Walker was playing a character type that was a staple of U.S. TV sitcoms. It's not that far removed from that of a Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the characters on Welcome Back Kotter, or the myriad of teenage male TGIF characters on ABC--now found all over the place on Nickelodeon and Disney. You could even say that Theo from The Cosby Show, an average student who would like to chase girls more than get his schoolwork in, is in the same vein. Forty years later, folks in some places are still critiquing his character far more than other aspects of the show. How many other sitcom characters are still even remotely controversial, are even considered relevant, going on five decades? Archie Bunker, Maude, Jodie from Soap, a host of characters from that time have lost their ability ignite much active debate and discussion like black characters can. Is that because there still hasn't been as many memorable, genre pushing, lead black characters like Archie or Maude? Yes. But, I think it can be argued that collectively, film, media and TV criticism is always lagging and is often filtered through a lens of 5, 10, 40 years ago and not always through a lens of what's current, what's going on right now.

  • Lowell | January 2, 2013 3:43 PMReply

    Women complain about how Hollywood depicts them too. Why are we being singled out? Because there are more of our stories to tell that does NOT involve slavery or the hood?

  • Lawrence | January 2, 2013 3:41 PMReply

    Interesting article. I thinks some, not all of us have a hard time divorcing our feelings when looking at ourselves (black characters) on TV/film. It's like we put ourselves in a box and can't play anything other than hero roles. In the film 'The Hangover' I wonder if that film would have been embraced by blacks like it was, if all 4 characters were black and on the highly rated show 'Shameless' what if they were a black family? I don't know.

  • donnadara | January 2, 2013 3:28 PMReply

    Shut up J.J.. Is that why Django is doing so well in the box office? Hollywood tells that stories that it wants to tell, directed at a white audience, regardless of what we say. And they love to greenlight the buffoonery of Tyler Perry - positive images? And Training Day, Precious, and Monster's Ball, all won actors Academy Awards without positive imagery. They do what they want. They are not checking for us.

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