By Brandon Marshall | Shadow and Act February 3, 2014 at 11:39AM
We’ve all heard it before. You’re hanging out with friends, talking about the new Superman movie, and then there’s that one friend who says they don’t watch “white movies”. Maybe you’re bored one Friday night, and you want to see that long awaited Jennifer Hudson movie, but someone’s not a fan of “black movies”. I’ve heard both terms casually thrown around, and what upsets me the most about it is how vague and limiting they both sound. Still, the question is continuously brought up and the terms are still being used, so I think it’s time we try to define what a “black” or “white” movie is.
Let’s start with “white movies”. Generally, I’ve heard this said mostly about comedies or action films. There’s a predominantly white cast, most likely white director, but a mixed fan-‐base, especially if the action film is in the superhero realm. So with this in mind, one would say a “white movie” is an action packed, white-cast film, with bits and pieces of comedy for a humorous effect. So where do we account the fan base? What about the characters of color supporting the story? Since these characters are in the background and not in the leading roles, then our definition changes. The definition we have now is an action packed, comedy-sprinkled movie with a story centered on White characters. Still, this definition doesn’t cover the fan base question. There are many people of color who like to laugh, right? One would even say that people of color enjoy an explosion and car chase or two. So, our definition is again turned on its head.
Ok, why don’t we try dissecting “black movies”? Shamefully, this definition seems to be centered on films about crime, and more specifically, crime in the hood, and even more specifically a hood with all black people. This was more in the past, but many of these films also deal with comedy, but it’s more of a “laugh at ourselves” kind of comedy, where instead of confronting the struggles of low‐income neighborhoods, such as not being able to pay rent but being able to afford those new Jordan’s, we laugh at the characters on screen and passively absorb the truth. So by this definition, a “black movie” is one that deals with ghetto portrayals of Black people in low‐income neighborhoods, getting into “comedic” situations due to their otherwise dumb logic and thought processes. However, with this definition, where do the other race of people living in low‐income neighborhoods come in? Where are the White criminals doing the dumb things? Come to think of it, aren’t most of the white characters either those corny “trying to be black” characters, or police officers? They aren’t exactly the center of the story, so again our definition changes. The definition of a “black film” now changes to a movie centered on Black characters, but there’s still a piece of the puzzle missing. Why are White people in films about the ghetto always the authoritative figure? Are there no White criminals, and if there are, are they always carbon copies of a bad rap video? While I do not know any hardened criminals in my life, I do know people, both Black and White, living on hard times, living on good times, and enjoying a good laugh every once and a while, as well as a car chase, or gunfight in a movie. So how do we come up with a clear-‐cut definition?
The answer is simple, we can’t. Why? It’s because there is no Black film. There is no White film. Crime and comedy have no color, folks. There have been people of color as wealthy as White people for as long as there have been White people as poor as people of color. There is no barrier to situational reality, so there is no Black or White film. Sure, you can argue that a “Black film” is a film made by a Black writer/director, but most likely there have been people of other races involved in the making of it. Even if the story is centered on Black or White characters, there are still characters of the opposite race in the story. We do not call a movie with martial arts an Asian film, do we? In fact, to reiterate my director example, the majority of the Fast and Furious franchise have been helmed by Asian directors (Justin Lin and James Wan, currently in production with Fast 7). So to counter the director argument, is Fast and Furious an Asian film?
It is my belief that these terms only limit our thought process, our creativity, and our aspirations. There was a post on here about whether or not a Black director should be limited to making a “Black film”. While some of the comments gave me hope, others made me fear for our future as human beings. Should we celebrate a Black filmmaker’s efforts, yes, as they will obviously give a better perspective on certain topics, but why limit themselves to just what they know? There are many people of color working outside the realm of what a “Black” film is, venturing into experimental genres and sci-‐fi, such as a personal favorite, director and screenwriter Kevin Grevioux (Underworld films, I Frankenstein) as well as White directors working outside the realm of what a “White” film is, such as Steven Spielberg (The Color Purple). It’s time we stopped limiting ourselves as creators and as an audience, start focusing on creating, and what has been created. Just enjoy the experience and stop labeling everything.
These are just my two cents, what’s yours?
Find me on Twitter @BXMXXRSH.