Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

“The Crisis of the Black Leading Man” - Reader Submitted Op-ed

by Tambay A. Obenson
May 24, 2011 1:47 AM
  • |

In case you weren't aware, we do accept reader-submitted pieces; in fact, we encourage it!

Obviously, not everything received will be posted; in fact, I'd say that if you'd like to submit something, it'll probably be best if you contact me first, before spending time writing it, only to later be shocked and hurt that I won't post it!

All that said, good content is good content, so, if you've got something to say with respect to what we call "black cinema," and you can express yourself well, whether in written or video/audio form, don't be shy!

Today's submission comes from long-time reader of Shadow And Act, Mr Accidental Visitor (AV), whose writing I've featured on the site previously (the old Shadow And Act site); this time around, his focus is, as the title indicates, "the crisis of the black leading man."

If you've been reading this site long enough, you'll know how we love to inspire dialogue - good, healthy, informative conversation; I’m hoping this post will do just that - get you folks talking...

So, here ya go… it's quite long, but worth the read; and certainly share your thoughts with AV in the comments section below:

“The Crisis of the Black Leading Man”

By: AccidentalVisitor (Jonathan)

It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Actually that’s not entirely true. The not-too-long-ago announcement that Tyler Perry would be playing Alex Cross, the central character of several best-selling novels by James Patterson, did pull a laugh out of me. When I first saw the headlines I thought it was a joke better suited for the Onion rather than a legitimate press release found in the Daily Variety. As far as I was concerned one of the few cinematic atrocities worse than Tyler Perry the writer/director is Tyler Perry the actor. Nevertheless the reality is that Perry will soon go before the cameras to take on what looks to be a prized role.

The improbability of all of this could make one’s head spin. Considered the actual choices individuals made to put such an odd package together. A studio had to attain the rights of one of the most popular book series on the market. The studio and producers would then initiate a process to find an actor to play the role of Dr. Cross, an intelligent forensic psychologist/former police detective/FBI agent who makes a career pursuing ruthless bad guys. To appease the large fan following of the crime books and to justify the studio’s expense, they had to consider doing a competent search for the man who could bring the right mix of sophistication, appeal (Cross is described as looking like a “young Muhammed Ali”), and physicality to the part; not to mention the correct amount of thespian seasoning. Finally after these studio bigshots weighed all of these issues and put their heads together to come up with the right person who would be the center of a potentially successful film franchise, they wound up offering the role to a guy whose onscreen credits primarily consisted of him wearing women’s clothing.

No one expected a Scarlet O’Hara –like casting search for the lead of the Alex Cross reboot. However one would hope the search would have been serious enough to come up with several candidates better than an actor whom had only found work in his very own film productions (meaningless Star Trek cameo excluded). Was Tyler Perry really the best they can do for the Alex Cross movie, even if their first or perhaps second choices fell through? If they thought Perry’s following could give a boost to the project at the box office, didn’t they also realize the legitimate possibility that that alone would not have been enough to offset the potential disinterest of white moviegoers, including the alienation of those who make up the bulk of the Alex Cross readership?

The decision to cast Perry was at best a curious one. But not just for the obvious reasons. Under the surface it represented a problem more disheartening and ongoing. His selection perfectly underscored Hollywood’s long indifference towards the concept of a black leading man. Even more it exposed how that indifference led to a point in which “Medea” himself was a serious contender in the first place. The most startling revelation to emerge from this fiasco may not be the questionable casting decision involving Perry, but instead just how severely limited the field of in-demand black actors is which studios must choose from.

The year 1970 is a very important factor when gauging the current state of black leading men. Anyone born in that year is at least forty years old. Typically in our society this age represents an unofficial cutoff point in which people stop being defined as young. When it comes to black male stars most of the well-known players reached that milestone awhile ago.

Denzel Washington – 56
Will Smith - 42
Don Cheadle - 46
Jamie Foxx – 43
Cuba Gooding, Jr – 43
Wesley Snipes - 48
Laurence Fishburne – 49
Djimon Hounsou - 47
Martin Lawrence – 45
Eddie Murphy – 50
Terrence Howard – 42
Jeffrey Wright – 45
Forest Whitaker - 49
Samuel L. Jackson - 62
Danny Glover - 64
Morgan Freeman - 73

The names above do not represent all of the current working black film actors, however they do make up the vast majority of black men who get leading and/or major roles in Hollywood films. Additionally they also account for almost every Academy Awards acting nominations for black males over the last two decades. Thus when it comes to the biggest household names for black male movie stars, these guys, a few exceptions not included, are it.

The numbers lined up next to them on the list represent their respective ages which surely youth-obsessed Hollywood is well aware of. Even Idris Elba, the industry’s current young black actor of choice, is “getting up there” at thirty-eight. This is not to say that being forty-something is old, or that fifty isn’t the new forty or that actors can’t have viable careers until their 60s or later. But in post-Twilight Hollywood, where the trend is to go younger in just about everything, the collective of the most in-demand black actors is actually graying. There appears to be a need for new blood, but when it comes to grooming a new generation of young black talent to take over the mantle, the industry is dragging its feet.

That is not a surprise. One outcome of Hollywood’s indifference to black leading men is that it isn’t invested in finding the next new black stars. When Tom Cruise was at his box office peak a repeated stated goal of Hollywood insiders was to find the next Tom Cruise. However despite his succession of Cruise as box office king, there hasn’t been a rush to find the next Will Smith. Hell, it can be argued Hollywood had little interest in finding the “first” Will Smith. German director Roland Emmerich had to fight tooth and nail with 20th Century Fox to get Smith a lead role in “Independence Day”. The studio was set against having Smith, fresh off the success of Bad Boys”, play the role of pilot Captain Steven Hiller. They wanted a white actor for the part. But Emmerich put his foot down and insisted that the part should go to Smith. Emmerich won and the rest of it is history. Smith’s ensuing rise to the top probably doesn’t happen without the huge lift he got from that film. Despite Smith’s success Hollywood’s reluctance to hand out highly sought after roles to young black actors has not changed. What’s worse for these actors is that there doesn’t appear to be directors like Emmerich out there willing to fight for them either.

As has been the case historically, the methods of moving up towards A-list status generally are placed out of reach for today’s up and coming black actors. There aren’t any career jumpstarts awaiting them via co-starring alongside veterans such as Denzel Washington in a movie like “Unstoppable” or Jeff Bridges in “Tron Legacy”. Nor are there measurable opportunities to get leads in surefire blockbusters such as comic books and fantastical epic novels adaptations. Not to mention that they are also have next to zero chance of being picked to be a romantic onscreen love interest of an established female star in a mainstream feature.

Career wise that last point spotlights a damaging limitation placed upon younger black men in the acting community. Being an onscreen suitor in a major motion picture alongside a popular actress can be a step to bigger things, particularly if the young actor enhances his box office clout by picking up new legions of female fans. However this particular path to success though has rarely been opened to black actors looking to make a name for themselves. The one modern exception of this rule was Taye Diggs’ turn with Angela Bassett in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” Fortunate for him his character in the film and the best-selling book it was based upon, was Jamaican. But if the need for a black male isn’t specified in the script, it is a sure bet black actors won’t be getting the parts regardless of whether the lead actress is Jennifer Aniston or Halle Berry.

America has never been sold on the idea of the romantic notions of black men because that would lead to dwelling on what it is even more uncomfortable with : black male sexuality. Mainstream Hollywood is no different. It has never intentionally attempted to create a black romantic leading man. Nor has it ever purposely tried to manufacture a black male teen idol, the type that girls across the country would post pictures of across their bedroom walls. The industry has no stake, no investment, in pushing forward a black actor like that because that type of status has all but been the exclusive domain of the white male. When it comes to Hollywood’s concept of a non-threatening black male one key characteristic is a lack of an overt physical appeal, which is why since its very beginning Hollywood has been more comfortable presenting an image of the comedic black man, the buffoon. The movie business has very little use for black guys with sex appeal.

Regarding sex appeal how can you tell if someone has “it”? For a male actor the answer to that could be simply if female moviegoers respond favorably to the idea (the fantasy) of sleeping with him or being whisked away in his arms. Some actors project such an aura through less conventional ways. A quick wit. Rough and rugged charm. Keen intellect. Noble bearing. However nothing over the ages had served an individual better than plain old fashioned good looks. That may seem shallow but it is reality. We love to take in the sights of beautiful people and that includes those we choose to gawk at on the big screen. Throughout the history of cinema it is these types of stars that have attracted the largest fan bases and most attention. And it is this breed of star that is the rarest amongst today’s most active black actors.

One who does have that type of widespread appeal, who does have “it”, is Denzel Washington. While Will Smith may be the bigger box office draw, Washington has been held up as the idealized black man. If there had been an annual poll for black women to choose the sexiest black male movie star, he would have probably won in a landslide for the past twenty years. Even amongst heterosexual males Washington is one of those guys that we’ll concede status to. We can understand why ladies would swoon over him.

Just like Billy Dee Williams before him, Washington has had the black matinee idol title all to himself (it is as if there is an unspoken law that there can only be one suave black leading man at a time). That may have been good for Washington’s career, but it wasn’t necessarily a good thing for black cinema. First of all with Washington at an age in which he should have already vacated that throne, there aren’t any apparent heirs to pick up the slack, demonstrating the absurdity of placing all eggs in one basket. Even more importantly it never seemed as if Washington ever had much use for his status as a sex symbol anyway. Unlike his predecessor Williams, Washington’s characters have tended to come across as asexual beings who have little interest in the opposite sex. And in all fairness to the film industry, this has often been at the insistence of Washington himself. To maximize one’s sex appeal, the possibility of sex must actually exist for one’s character. Yet Washington too often appeared to have gone out of his way to avoid such portrayals. It is quite a setback to any goal of advancing the idea of black men in cinema as sexually desirable when the lone black idol refuses to saddle up.

Obviously there’s a familiar pattern. Take for example that the Tyler Perry selection was not the first questionable casting of the Alex Cross role. Hardcore fans of the novels didn’t understand the choice to go with Morgan Freeman for that part in “Kiss the Girls”, the first of the Alex Cross films. They wondered why the makers of that film would pick someone who, while admittedly a great actor, was too old for the role. The Cross character in the novels was a relatively young man with an active love life. By casting Freeman, essentially America’s Grandfather, all that was thrown out the window and the Cross character had become neutered. The same thing occurred in the unnecessary remake of “Shaft”. Bringing in Samuel L Jackson to play “the private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks” was a major blunder in itself. But the misguided step to subtract the sex machine element out of the equation (in the film we are told about Shaft’s rep, we don’t see it) was the equivalent of disregarding James Bond’s libido in a 007 flick. These decisions were consistent with the propensity of the motion pictures industry to frame the sex lives of black men as either feast or famine. Over the years there had been a tendency to present such men as sexual deviant or, as in these two above cases, celibate.

The original “Shaft” was amongst the most notable films of a genre born during the 1970s. This genre, blaxploitation, ushered in an era of American movies in which black masculinity was celebrated and put on full display. Although the quality of the films were, to be kind, mostly suspect, they presented a view of black men that truly hasn’t been seen since. These were alpha males rather than sidekicks, these were guys who carried a certain swagger, these were men who were “allowed” to have as healthy an onscreen sex life as white male stars (translation : love scenes) . Weirdly enough in what was just a few years following the Civil Rights struggle, blaxploitation films delivered a more bold presentation of black men’s sexual conquests than you will find in 2011. Today in mainstream entertainment the few chances black males get to be portrayed as lady killers typically comes when there is a 1970s slant to the characters. And even then it’s partly played for laughs. Whether it is the blaxploitation parody “Black Dynamite”, the Shaft-inspired comic book “Afrodisiac”, or the afro-wearing Tim Meadows as the Ladies Man, it would appear as the thought of black men and intercourse is a safe topic only when exhibited through the filter of a bygone period.

The blaxploitation days also offered audiences the first true glimpses of the black action hero. Virtually every one of those flicks had at least one tough guy who stood up to The Man and whipped up on street punks with his bare fists. Now those type of stars are all but gone too. I suppose Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fits the bill, but his physical appearance allows him a certain racial ambiguity on the big screen. Washington and Smith get their share of action flicks but they don’t play the type of tough characters I’m referring to. To be honest America doesn’t produce many actors of any stripe for such parts. Yet while Hollywood would search overseas to find foreign white actors from countries like Australia to fill the gap, It resorted to seeking out rappers when they wanted to hire a black person for a role. During the late 1990s and early 2000s this led to studios overlooking capable black performers, such as Michael Jai White who had the look and the martial arts training, in order to pursue hip hop artists whom they felt would bring a large following to the theaters.

One benefactor from this line of thinking was O’Shea Jackson, better known by his stage name, Ice Cube. But while…uh….Cube may have once lived the thug life and could freeze a furious scowl on his face as well as the next guy, he never looked the part of a kick-ass action hero. Especially when compared to such iconic names like Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis who had raised the bar. Nonetheless despite his roly poly frame and his limited screen presence, he was offered lead roles in such films as “Dangerous Ground” (playing a native South African for God’s sake) and “xXx: State of the Union”. His worst showing came in “Ghosts of Mars” where the audience was supposed to buy him as Desolation Williams, a legendary, dangerous convict. It was a laughable miscast, especially since the blonde cop, Melanie Ballard, who was his primary antagonist, physically towered over him. Truthfully the movie probably couldn’t have been saved no matter who was cast as Desolation, but it would have been better for all involved if a guy like White had been chosen for such a character.

As out of place as Ice Cube appeared to be he was still practically John Wayne when compared to another rapper who also hit it big in Hollywood around this time. Believe it or not there were producers and executives who once went on record touting DMX as the next great screen star. That temporary bout of insanity would explain why they allowed him to skip to the front of the line by showering him with multiple film offers. Regrettably for them DMX, aka Earl Simmons, tended to come across as unlikeable on the big screen and had as much range as a pit bull. He also developed a reputation for being difficult and tardy on set. Only when his films hit a bad streak at the box office and he kept getting in trouble with the law, did industry insiders begin to rethink their position regarding his future prospects.

By that time Hollywood had already bypassed a new generation of black actors who were looking for the same chances given to particular rap artists. The size of the role didn’t matter either. Director John Singleton’s first choice for the part of Tej in “2 Fast 2 Furious” was denied by the studio bankrolling the production. Singleton wanted a young actor named Michael Ealy, the studio though preferred hip-hop artist Ludacris. Of course the forces for Ludacris won out, perfectly exhibiting the Bizarro Land attitudes for casting black performers compared to whites ones. Only with black people would a studio pass over a young, handsome and talented actor for a musician with barely any acting experience. Singleton may actually have had few qualms with the decision considering how frequently he himself relied on untested music artists to fill major roles, including Tyrese Gibson who was one of the leads in “2 Fast 2 Furious”. In retrospect it was all symptomatic of the lazy casting Hollywood fell back on when black faces were needed. In the 1970s that led to the industry’s choice of going with athletes, in the 80s it became comedians and for the following two decades gangsta rap artists started getting the nod. This led to films in which the white part of a cast would be represented exclusively by actual thespians working on their craft while their black counterparts would be made up primarily of music industry stars taking a break from their day jobs. Young black actors trying to make a living were already burdened with numerous disadvantages. Suddenly they had to settle for arbitrarily taking a backseat to a group of performers who bought more “street cred” than acting credibility to a film set.

When 2007 rolled around the collateral damage for this type of thinking may not have been readily apparent. Flooding the market for mainstream audiences was a stream of movies with black male leads. You had Denzel Washington in “American Gangster” and Will Smith in “I Am Legend”. There was the teaming up of Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the underappreciated “Talk To Me.” For “The Kingdom” Jamie Foxx led a team of FBI investigators into Saudi Arabia, while Terrence Howard was still on a roll when he got the co-lead for “The Brave One.” Morgan Freeman starred in “The Bucket List” while Derek Luke had one of the most important parts in “Lions for Lambs.” As an added bonus Washington had a second movie in which he shared scenes with another Academy Awards Best Actor winner, Forest Whitaker, in “The Great Debaters.” Even though the quality of the films varied, these 2007 releases presented arguably as great an output by Hollywood for black leading men in a single year. Yet this was not to be the dawn of something new, it was an anomaly. During the following years the winds shifted again and in their wake came a bit of a drought for black actors in high profile roles. On the subject of major parts, the only black males getting their names called regularly the past few years were Washington, Smith and possibly Freeman. But what else would one expect considering a decade or more had been lost developing the new talent of black male performers who could have joined those men’s ranks?

When I think about the careers of Ealy and Luke it feels as if they should be further along by now. Both of them are 37 and are not “new” anymore. Yet both had to fall back to television series to make a living. Their “Miracle at St. Anna” co-star, Laz Alonso, has also been generating his most attention as of late from a crappy television series (No “Avatar” bump for him). All three seem to have all the requirements to be leading men but if it did not happen for Blair Underwood or Cylk Cozart (IMBD him if you have to) or Leon, then this trio may be out of luck as well. Of course all of them could have gotten a career boost if a certain director of “Miracle at St. Anna” had concentrated on making a great film rather than picking fights with other directors. But that’s another story.

Terrence Howard has the looks and, despite what some detractors may say, the talent too. Other than “Iron Man” he has gotten critical acclaim for just about everything he’s been in, but his career appears to have stalled anyway. That though may have to do more with his “diarrhea of the mouth” than anything else. Nonetheless the potential remains. I can recall when former Washington Post critic, Stephen Hunter, reviewed that Singleton film “Four Brothers” and came away thinking that not only were Howard and co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor the best things about the movie, but that a film should be made with them as the leads. Funny then how in “Four Brothers” the two black guys with the more substantial roles were Tyrese and Andre 3000, further evidence of Singleton’s devotion to musicians. I particularly feel for Ejiofor, an actor so talented he became the first Othello to outshine Iago in a major stage production of “Othello” in about fifty years. With his theatrical pedigree, his reported affability and his British citizenship, you would think Hollywood would have rewarded him more. Instead seeing him being wasted in a bland film like “Salt” can break one’s heart. And while I’m at it, it is hard to believe that the Jamie Foxx that was nominated for two Oscars in 2005 is the same guy who went uncredited in the trailers for something as low brow as “Due Date”.

Even the loaded work schedules for the two busiest black actors can be deceiving. Idris Elba and Anthony Mackie are clearly in demand, but when you look more closely at their slate of upcoming films one thing that stands out is that they are not the lead guy in any of them except one. And that lone film, “Bolden!”, is an independent flick that went into production at least three years ago. Other than that they get stuck with supporting roles. In fact Mackie keeps ending up as the bridesmaid every time he and “Hurt Locker” co-star Jeremy Renner are up for the same part. He may want to call his buddy and ask him to stay home during the next round or two of auditions. George Nolfi, Mackie’s director for “The Adjustment Bureau”, claims that Mackie is going to be a star like Will Smith. That is nice of him to say but talk is cheap. Similar things have been written about Ejiofor and Elba. Guys like Smith and Washington however were getting lead roles regularly during this stage of their careers; Mackie and the others simply aren’t. Indeed these are such tough times for black male leads that for the first time in generations there isn’t a single black man dominant in the genre that Hollywood had always allowed greater entrance for them: comedies. With Eddie Murphy beyond his prime, with Chris Tucker eternally MIA and Martin Lawrence stuck in self-inflicted Big Mama purgatory, the biggest comedic hit movies have become lily white.

What good is talent to a black actor if he never gets that elusive chance at stardom? The last one handed out to such an actor caused an uproar from fans. When Smith picked a Karate Kid remake as a starring vehicle for his son, Jaden, he upset many people who didn’t like the idea of a beloved classic being remade (I felt the same way) and most of all didn’t care much for his display of nepotism. That was understandable. But what got lost was this remake also happened to be the only major motion picture in Hollywood history in which a black boy was the center of the story. Does such a thing FINALLY occur in the year 2010 without Will Smith’s influence? Absolutely not. Because of that and because of the critical and financial success of the film, Smith deserved credit, not scorn. I can’t say whether Jaden will ever make the transition from child star to adult actor, but with the “Karate Kid” he was given the best shot at a road to stardom that a black male has been since his dad was picked for ID4. It seems that the elder Smith at least learned well from Roland Emmerich.

The truest way to understand how bad it is, even more so than 50 Cent’s emerging acting career, is to pay attention when websites mention upcoming movie roles for black men. It doesn’t matter if it is a fictional piece or a biopic, the list of candidates posted by fans is depressing. Too much of the predictable, too much of the ridiculousness, too much of the same old thing, too much campaigning for guys who aren’t leading men. Whether it is Luke Cage or Martin Luther King, Jr., Marvin Gaye or Django, the choices toss around tend to be as uninspiring as Hollywood’s selections. Recently there was a press release concerning Kimberly Pierce’s “The Knife” which is based upon a GQ article of an undercover black man who helped the FBI bring down some of the most notorious criminals in South Central. My interest piqued I tracked down the article and found it to be an amazing read. Two red flags concerned me. Almost the entire article concentrated on the black guy who went undercover, but Ms Pierce suggested in the press release that she saw the story as being equally about the white agent who was his handler. The other problem was the writer’s description of the black man whom his article was about. It made up the very first sentence: “A tall and strikingly handsome black man in his midthirties….”

Tall? Strikingly handsome? Who from the available number of working talent could play that role? Alonzo perhaps? I have a hard time figuring out who fits the description but I don’t have any problem coming up with names of actors who don’t. Yet I’m sure those same names will be batted around by those making the decisions. Knowing Hollywood’s track record they’ll cast the lead in “Thor” as the middle-aged white handler and then pick some short, average looking dude for the black guy. Could it go to Lil’ Wayne? Only if Tyler Perry is unavailable.

  • |

More: oped

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Shana White | July 17, 2014 3:47 PMReply

    The same could be said for black actresses. But really, if you are of a certain age does this really surprise anyone? or did you really believe that because you have a President in blackface things were different? Yes, hope and change hope and change. Paul Mooney a very wise and talented comedian once said "....racism is here it's here forever it's in the blood, cause white folks owned us and they will never get over it cause I'm going to tell you why, I read the white book getting away was not a chapter okay ? We tricked their a$% we got away and they ain't goin' ever be the same, they ain't been happy since! I love the ever insightful Paul Mooney.

  • handsomerandyblackladbrad1953 | June 27, 2014 9:58 AMReply

    Hollywood is SO SCARED of us black lads with pin-up boy good looks,it's pushing that ugly dwarf Kevin Hart as a "leading man" (????????????????),while ignoring us TRUE studs!!!!

  • bobby c | July 5, 2013 2:32 AMReply

    first off i'm a 34 year old white guy a huge fan of alex cross and i cant stand tyler perry and didnt see the movie because he played cross, that out of the way how the hell did no one from the wire get cast in this part, most of those guys have seen little to no roles at all yet people of every color love that show Michael K. Williams (omar little) as far as i know has had a cameo on the comedy community and took anthony bourdain on a tour of brooklyn, thats it thats his rolls as far as i know in like the 5 or 6 years since the wire went off the air, lance redding has been in a handful of great shows that are now off the air i mean shit he was on lost with mathew fox who's also in alex cross, and how bad is it mathew fox was also cast in this movie he got drunk and beat up a female bus driver that same year talk about a recipe for disastour , anyway redding has been playing goverment agents and cops in movies and tv shows for years, he's a bit old but in the books cross is in his forties when the events in this movie happen

  • class of fitnes | November 2, 2012 11:15 AMReply

    Yeah, hollywood love to case Non-American in movies these days? enjoy getting overseas actors.

  • John Wilson | October 19, 2012 12:03 PMReply

    I have a quibble with this piece in that it presumes white moviegoers will ignore Alex Cross because Tyler Perry is the leading actor. Where did that come from? If Tyler Perry himself was such an obstacle to white viewership then why would Oprah be offering hims scripted deals on OWN? A network that is intended to be mainstream just as her show was.

    I think the author of this article took low white viewership of Tyler Perry's movies to mean that Tyler Perry himself is the problem. Wrong. The content of most of Perry's work revolved around storylines more fitting for his particular fanbase. But don't mistake that to mean Tyler is divisive or off-putting to mainstream.

    Lastly, yes, the fact Perry's fanbase is so supportive of his work and will probably account for half the first weekend's take probably did account for his casting. And if there are few black men worthy of being leading men in Hollywood, there are even fewer who can guarantee box office returns regardless of the storyline.

    I think it's time folks stopped concerning themselves with tearing down Tyler Perry, or trying to put the hope of black cinema on his back.

  • Mel | October 22, 2012 3:51 AM

    This isn't about tearing anyone down, it's a straightforward analytical piece. Yes, there are some subjectives in there, but MOST people would agree that Tyler Perry is just not a macho leading man. That's not a putdown, it's the truth. Oprah is his friend, she got on national tv and said the Madea movies were 'good', at a time when some (like 50 cent, of all people) were challenging her commitment to her own race.

    If I'm being honest, I DO think her association with Tyler was rooted (at least partially) in some desire for her to appear more 'down homey', like she hasn't forgotten her roots. They're both also survivors of incest/sexual abuse and I think that has a lot to do with their close working relationship. So, I don't think she's the most objective on the matter. As far as being offputting to mainstream, there are many non-Black people who have paid money to see the Madea films, but that doesn't help him when he's trying to be a heterosexual, testosterone filled male star. THATS what's offputting, that he doesn't come off as a leading man.

  • ryvin | September 8, 2012 3:39 AMReply

    This is actually a point that I've made a few times before. So many complain about black men not being given romantic leads in film roles because Hollywood is run by white men(many of them Jewish though blacks won't dare touch on that aspect). But guess what? If Hollywood, one day, came to be run and dominated by black men, which race of men do you think you'd see in the vast majority of sexual/romantic roles? I'll give you one guess - actually I don't even have to do that. If Hollywood came to be run and controlled by Asian American men, who do you think would most likely occupy the leading male roles, romantic or otherwise? If Hollywood was to become run by gay men, which type of love stories would you more than likely be seeing the most of? Get my point by now? Whoever or whichever group of people dominates and controls the Hollywood business will more than likely put actors who look like themselves as the leading characters. I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, I'm saying that's the way it is. White men are not some unique case when it comes to such things. The same thing happens and will happen when ANY group/race of people come into power in any institution be it Hollywood or otherwise. The fact that people are chosing to act as if this is something that only white men do shows a fundamental lack of understanding and comprehension about human nature in general. I've no doubt that many will of course disagree with this assertion. Many people chose or rather wish to view the world as being, no pun intended, strictly black and white with no shades of grey in between.

  • Peggy | July 5, 2013 9:04 AM

    You just posited a theory (although you think it's true). Any theory has to be tested. So, lets kick all the white, jewish males and the one or two white females out of their studio CEO jobs and replace them with black american males for the next 80 years and we'll see whom they hire. You may be right. They may hire only black males. But we'll just have to wait 80 years to find out. Should be fun!

  • Franklin | December 19, 2012 6:45 PM

    Sorry, but this is utter self-serving nonsense. You're just making excuses for the status quo, by trying to present it as something permanent. While having a clear misunderstanding as to WHAT "human nature" is. Like many other things that are labeled as being a part of "human nature", you grow out of them. Because humans are constantly evolving. You trying and act as though this is permanently hard-wired into humans (by your "clever" use of "that's the way it is") is just you being flat-out dishonest.

    And your excuse (which it is) of "everyone else does it" when it comes to a problem, is both pathetic and juvenile. It didn't work with your parents, when you tried to get out of trouble as a child, and it doesn't work now.

  • Chris | August 5, 2012 9:46 AMReply

    One thing people brought up here and elsewhere when the discussion turns to why black actors aren't being given shots at being leading men more regularly or indeed why black actresses aren't being given shots at anythingit seems in mainstream Hollwood now is why can't they look to the music industry as a comparison. That's because the music industry, whilst far from perfect, was intergrated alot earlier than the film industry was decades ago. From Jazz to Rock N Roll to Motown if you were a performer that sold well within that genre/sphere you were a guaranteed household name even in households that though blacks were inferior. Compare the era of Motown and Stax to a film industry that at that time had only one black entertainer above the title in Sidney Poitier. It was only in the MTV 80s where Michael Jackson helped permanently kick down whatever remaining doors that, in the wake of another young and successful black talent in Eddie Murphy, the movie industry emulated their music counterpart which led to the Whoopis, Denzels, Wesleys, Morgans, Will Smith getting shots that would have been denied decades earlier. The problem now seems to be not so much a fear of black sexuality but a simple lack of imagination and lack of original material when it comes to blockbuster movie making.

  • troy | June 11, 2012 8:10 PMReply

    Not even Will Smith looks like a leading man if he stands next to Cam Newton(6'6" 240lbs). I dont think young black buy into the actors as leading men. Their are athletes who command audiences of millions every week. With the athletes and rappers consistently getting more press than these actors and especially their younger counterparts the star ratings are not there. Maybe the athletes(who've been honing their crafts since grade school) and rappers should find away to lower their popularity. This may allow the younger generations of black actors to become more famous to get better roles. I think Will Ferrell is more famous than Aaron Rodgers but not Tim Tebow. When it comes to entertainment there are many forms not just acting. It is about being bankable I thought Earl did okay in his roles but though shall not defend crackheads even if they have sold tens of millions of records. Make art in the street or theater, Hollywood doesnt do that no matter how many awards white people win. Film is to acting as rap is to music, cheapenly transformative but cheapened none the less. In sports they pass torches seem like these CHT throat classically trained actors have be closing doors.

  • Ronald | May 10, 2012 6:37 PMReply

    Successful Black people should pool their resources and create their own small scale version of Hollywood, no matter how impossible?. Sure, it's easier said than done because of so many pitfalls and the likelyhood of such an undertaking would seriously be undermined by powerful forces by trying to portrait Black actors as an equal to their White counterpart in films. The forces that control Hollywood is to make sure that the White male Anglo actor remains unchallenged and dominant on the silver screen (it's the law). Of course, a gorgeous sexy young Black actor like a "Harry Belafonte"(see Island in the Sun) would never make the grade because it is against the norm to upstage the White Anglo actor as a leading man. He would be too good looking, too sexy, too dangerous and subversive. What? you want White females to have posters of such an actor in their bedroom?..Are you insane?.. These Hollywood people know exactly what they're doing because it is part of the agenda..Who is 50 cents, DMX or even Will Smith?..All cartoon characters, buffoons, ex-thugs, jokers, devoid of movie star good looks and sex appeal..Please, this is not a surprise...Let's talk about creating or own thing or we will continue to depend on Hollwood whose mission is to perpetuate mediocrity by giving Black actors limited and perfunctory roles in forgettable films and to continue to have actors like Tyler Perry wear women's clothing.

  • Mike | February 7, 2012 10:24 PMReply

    Here we go again with another "Hollywood is insensitive to black people" piece. You want to divulge into real injustice? Write about Hollywood's insensitivity toward Asians. Do you realize that it took until 2004 for Hollywood to make a non-martial arts movie ("Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle") featuring two Asian leading male roles? That's right, 2004. So, to act like there's a "crisis" of leading black males is a complete joke. If anything, there's a crisis of leading Asian males. Not to mention the fact that yellowface is still accepted in Hollywood, whereas blackface isn't. For example, there's an upcoming movie about Genghis Khan that stars Mickey Rourke as Khan. Now, if there was an upcoming movie about Martin Luther King, Jr., starring Tom Hanks as King, Jr., there would be a massive uproar. However, when Asians are involved, nobody cares.

  • Dee | October 5, 2012 1:54 AM

    This is an op-ed piece by a black male. He wrote about what was on his mind on seeing a studio's African-American choice for role. If you have such strong feelings about it then you should write your own piece and join your voice to the fight against exclusivity oh Hollywood. There is no reason why it has to be a "sit down, your problem isn't the only problem or worst case" situation. I recently read an article about Huey P. Newton's support of gay rights and was reminded of how people struggling in similar fights are strongest when the band together for each other's causes. I think an inclusive "this is our struggle also" is a better tone to set than the divisive tone you are taking. I am reminded of Martin Niemöller's "First They Came" whenever I encounter a mind-frame such as the one you exhibit in your rant.

  • Ty Lattimore | January 12, 2012 8:21 AMReply

    Great article. Many levels and layers to this that hopefully lead to some discussion. I loved the point you made about the Karate Kid remake. I had never thought about it like that. There was a lot riding on that film in term on money. On another note, I wish you would have included Brian White, Morris Chestnut, and Lorenz Tate in the article. Lorenz really seemed to be grooming himself to be a leading man after Love Jones and Biker Boyz, but then you never see him anymore. Morris Chestnut is another that seems like he should be a much higher level at this point in his career. His body of work is much is much better than that of Cuba Gooding Jr in my opinion. An entire article could be written on Cuba's bad movie choices. Brian White is always seemingly on the verge of stardom. He definitely has the "Leading Man" looks as do the others I mentioned, but I just do not see enough of him on the big screen. But again, great article and clearly well thought out.

  • Lucienne | November 16, 2011 3:13 PMReply

    Shemar Moore? I do not know about his work in film, but he is compelling in Criminal Minds ...

  • Carmela | November 16, 2013 1:37 AM

    He is the best thing about Criminal Minds! I would love to see him as a lead in a movie.

  • Alasdair | November 15, 2011 7:37 PMReply

    Damn good (and depressing) article. I'm a white guy, and even I can't help but have noticed the general lack of black leading men, but this article made it much more clear. Comparing the current situation to that of the 70s makes you go, "Woah, how in the hell did we let this happen?".

    The 'black male sexuality problem' is definitely part of it. What's strange is how different things seem to be in the music industry. Now, I wouldn't normally consider the music industry a beacon of progressiveness, but at least there are plenty of black male musicians who have an outwardly sexual image. (Indeed, as the article notes, that's part of the problem, since the roles that should go to young black actors go to singers and rappers instead.) And I can also think of several primetime television shows that feature black men with love lives. It seems there's something about the movie industry in particular that refuses to accept black men as sexual.

    Anyway, whatever the reasons are, these problems aren't going to go away until society in general, and Hollywood in particular, stops considering white the default. Or at least stops going 'generic male lead = white'. Avatar pissed me off for that reason - the lead role could have been played by anybody and the film would have made megabucks, but of course he had to be a white guy.

    You'd think the growing internationalisation of cinema would be encouraging Hollywood to make more movies with non-white leads, but apparently not.

  • Anthony | November 15, 2011 2:32 PMReply

    It's human nature to want to associate yourself with a character on screen. Hollywood understands that and chooses characters in consequence! For example, I'm a 32 year old white male that is in excellent physical shape, if Hollywood made a movie about a man this is out of shape and the daily struggles he must face, I will not go and watch regardless of whether the lead is white or black. Similarly, if the movie is about an aspiring sports athletes struggles to make it to the top level, I would not be interested either as I'm a gym rat and don't particularly like sports.

    This is where the problem of a black lead comes in.... as white people are still the majority in the US, for a black lead to be successful, he has to have similarities that can make the larger white audience relate to him... This is why Will Smith does so well, he don't potray himself as someone from the ghetto or off the street that the majority of the ticket buyers can relate to. This comment also applies to white actors that have a troubled past or portray themselves in a way that is contrary to the way that most white people live. If you look now, there are very few Italian-Americans with lead roles either unless Hollywood is filming a movie about the mob, in fact the only one I can think of is Stallone.

    Ultimately, what I'm getting at is that Hollywood likes to keep the lead roles to actors that can fit the mould of the majority of the population, which in the US happens to be White/Protestant. It's the sure fire way to get as many people in the theatres...

  • Ehtesh | December 6, 2011 8:22 PM

    Just thought I'd let you know, a lot of people associate Will Smith from being from the ghetto. Look at the 'Fresh' Prince of Bel-Air. What does that tell you? What about Boyz II Men? Casting actors that the box office relates to -- and not people off the street? This is like the opposite of what AccidentalVisitor says. This is why rap artists like Ice Cube and DMX got roles instead of trained actors like Michael Ealy.

  • Humpty Hump | October 30, 2011 10:26 AMReply

    (PART 2)
    > Has anyone else noticed that films in which the leading man has brown skin and the leading lady is of european descent, always, so far anyways, as a rule, (and I've been tracking this since the 70s) oddly & suspiciously the films are sexless? And even in the types of movies inwhich the hero typically "get's the girl"?

    It seems the only time sex between the two happen on the big screen is when the subject of the movie is about interracial dating, (.."Jungle Fever", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", etc) or if it's used to depict a "person out of control". But if the lead characters of the movie only happen to be interracial, the sex never happens.
    Let's look at some of the movies with the "black male / white female" formula to date:

    Pelican Brief (Denzel & Julia Roberts: no sex)
    The Long Kiss Goodnight (Samuel Jackson & Geena Gershwin: no sex)
    Bad Boys (Will Smith & Tea Leoni, who's characters flirt throughout the film, but still no sex!)
    Murder at 1600 (Wesley Snipes & Julia Roberts: no sex)
    Inside Man (Denzel & Jody Foster: no sex)
    And many many more! Yup!

    In any of these movies, picture in your mind if the male character had been "white", (see it?) ...they 4sure would of sexed the starlets.
    In the James Bond movie with Halle Berry, Pierce Bronson sexed her ass good. Same with Billy Bob Thorton in Monsters Ball. (..really good. That lucky bastard!) It's only the "black" males who get this isolated treatment. Could this be my imagination? Is this just my own warped perception because I still have a chip on my shoulder from growing up in the deep south?

    (By the way, some people consider Tampa a more sophisticated southern city, and therefore don't refer to it as the deep south, but put it this way; around Tampa Bay "boiled peanuts" are still at every gas station & 7-Eleven.)
    Point made.

    Blacksnake Moan (Samuel Jackson & Christina Ricci. True there's a flashback scene of her & a black guy, but sticking to the rule, the two leads never got it crackin! And even that sex was depicted as a "sickness", her incurable desire for sex & blackmen.)
    So here we finally have some interacial sex in a movie, but of course the girl has to be mentally sick, and it was with a random drug dealer, instead of the hero of the movie. ("Oh BOY those Spielberg guys!")

    Hancock (Will Smith & Charlize Theron: sexless)

    Jackie Brown (Bridget Fonda actually plays Samuel Jacksons girl, but the only sex scene is when she cheats on him with Robert Deniro) DOH!!

    [..he coulda' played her grandfather by the way]

    Love Actually (Kiera Knightly's newlywed husband is black, and sure, they speed thru a quick montage of their wedding; but her most passionate & intimate scene is when she cheats on him to kiss his white best friend) DOH!!

    Whether all this is by coincidence or not, the indirect message is clear; there's some type of fear that exists out there that prevents people from writing or showing that particular racial combination in a hot sex scene. We've all been subliminally groomed & conditioned in this way, since we were kids. And best believe it does it's share to make it subconciously uncomfortable for the average caucasion or asian girl to intimately interact with a man of brown skin. It makes it a tougher line to cross, because we have no positive images (or images at all) of it since childhood.
    I jokingly call it "Fear of a Mixed Planet", but what it actually is, is fear of being outcasted by friends, family, and society. (Cowards!)

    Oh well, at least the smarter women see thru this, and the stronger ones cross that line anyways, if & when they so desire.

    For the record, I'm not angry or losing any sleep over this, it's just a fun area of study to me, an interesting aspect of human behavior, a glitch in our social reality. As u know, deep down, "DOOWUTCHYALIKE" is my motto, and my way of life. But I do simply notice it, that's all, do you?

    I'm actually kinda flattered by all the fear & hoopla over my brown skin, it gives it a certain power & respect. Wow, am I THAT sexually attractive? where a whole decades-long censorship of my sexuality must be maintained on the silver screen?
    hee hee, thanx Hollywood!

    If this subject interests you, check this piece out, it's a serious article I discovered online about race & dating; the most honest, fair, and informative I've read so far:

    type atcha' lata my friends,
    Founder, producer, lead vocalist,
    digital underground

  • Humpty Hump | October 30, 2011 10:24 AMReply

    "HANCOCK SUCKED/ Fear of a BIEGE Planet"
    Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities (PART 1 OF 2)

    Don't get me wrong, it had some good giggles and a few visually spectacular moments. Also Will did a good job of keeping his Game face on throughout the film. (..and I do mean Game the rapper) But it's the underlying premise of the movie that sucked to me: Keep black men & white women apart.

    Yes, it's the latest addition to the centuries-old series that began with Beauty & the Beast, rose to fine art with Othello, sunk back into exaggerated paranoia with King Kong, and now has returned with the most blatant analogy of all: "We have to stay far apart from each other in order to retain our full power". (..yes, they actually say that in the movie!)

    Similarly, the summary line of King Kong, of which the entire movie served as camouflage & set up to say, was: "He may have been a king in his homeland but he's just a dumb animal over here." (!!)
    This was written in the 30s by the way, when there was a huge paranoia in the United States (by a decent percentage of white males) that black men were gonna "steal away our women!".

    The newest King Kong seemed to echo the following phrase: "He's too big & black for you honey". The thinly framed meek-modest-n-patient gentlemen caucasian boyfriend represented the modern-day geek/nerd white guy who's been forsaken by the fast-lane white hottie who likes her boys with a bit of hip-hop swagga. ie: Nicole Kidman (Kravitz), Heidi Klum (Seal), Madonna (Tupac), Carmine Elektra (Rodman), etc.

    But of all of these movies, hands down the winner for boldness, blatantness, & shamelessness, is Hancock. It seems that pride & dignity aren't even an issue anymore, because Hancock just screams it "Black guys & white chicks, please stay away from each other, it's driving the rest of us insaaaaaaaaaane!"

    hee hee,
    That's my review.

    p.s. By the way, my blood, in equal 8ths (one great-grandparent per 8th) is:

    1. East Indian (hindu)
    2. East Indian (pakistani)
    3. African American of unknown decent (we suspect Haiti)
    4. Bajian
    5. Guyanese
    6. Puerto Rican
    7. Irish
    8. Jewish

    Does this mean I'm only supposed to date other Indian-Afro-Baja-Rican-Irish-Guya-Jews like myself? Or is it okay with you that I may date a full-blooded & pure Asian, Caucasion, or Negro woman?

    Ha ha, just checkin boss!


    "Fear of a BIEGE Planet" by shockg

    No wait, scratch that:

    "Fear of a Wood-Panel Peanut-Butter Brown Almond Coffee Planet"
    by gregory e. jacobs

    (Yeah, that's it.)

    Okay, all jokes aside, while we're here, let's touch on something people don't usually talk about; the little subliminal ways in which many blockbuster films are either secretly racist, or how they perpetuate racism unknowingly:

    > In Shrek, most of what makes the "ugly ogre" different, is simply that he has African & Asian features as apposed to European ones. Besides his alien ears and the fact that he's green, he actually could be related to my good friend Clee from digital underground. (..who most women consider to be a hot dude, trust!) Or the actor James Earl Jones, or Forest Whitaker, or many many others. The female ogre's face & body-style could easily be many of the loved women in our society. I take offense to this, dammit. How do you suppose this makes little girls with those features feel? What does it mean to a child's confidence? What if I was to make a movie about that big ugly cyst on ya moms neck?

    This is not to say the writers purposely meant it that way, they may not even realize they're favoring a European standard of beauty. Of course, on the surface was the positive message of "accept & love whoever u are and however u look", but underneath it all was the basic premise of what's pretty or ugly to begin with. This subliminally teaches kids who's beautiful & who's not, and causes them to subconsciously react discriminatively to certain faces later in life.

    Yeah dickhead, ever thoughta' that? (END PART 1)

  • ryvin | September 8, 2012 2:16 AM

    I don't think I've ever seen or heard a race of men with such an absolute obsession with interracial issues than black men. They seem to be consumed with the idea of being kept apart by society from 'their' precious white women(who ALL want and desire black men according to them apparently). Why do black men seem to desire white women so badly? Have they perhaps bought into the idea of white women being the most desirable women on the planet and therefore view women of their own race as inferior to them? One could certainly and easily come to such a conclusion. So on one hand they brag about their supposed superiority, but then on the other hand clearly view white women as being better than black women. The fact that black men have for so long been consumed and obsessed with being with white women sexually actually reveals a deep inferiority complex on their part as well. They truly view white, when it comes to women only of course, as being right. So what we have here is a case of black men constantly attempting to imply how much better they are than white men(who ALL fear them naturally) while at the very same time professing their want and desire for white women over black women. So in essence, black men are superior to white men and yet see white women as being superior to black women. And I guess that's supposed to make sense in their minds somehow. But to any person with a rational mind it makes them look like hypocritical fools I'm afraid.

  • puddintain | November 16, 2011 12:41 AM

    Not only was there no sex in Hancock between Will and Charlize, but in their one tender moment, just milliseconds before they kiss, Will gets throw through the front of the house and over a five rows of parked cars. And just to make matters worse one of the film's main conceits is that these two Gods (or whatever); the only two of their kind left on earth, were too volatile a mix to sustain a relationship. As if the movie wasn't bad enough without this infuriating nonsense.

  • zreeder | August 3, 2011 7:07 AMReply

    A lot of what you said has really hit me, and it made me see that if this is the case for black men, then black women aren't getting anymore luck.... I am a young black actress, not quit experienced, but I am working on it, but for me, the main reason I wanted to start acting is because as I grew up I never saw actresses that looked like me in movies that I love. I am an action girl, I love action movies and I want to be the lead in an action block buster, that would be my aim. But if no actresses today, black actresses are getting the roles I want beside Halley berry who is getting older, then what chance do I have... It makes me want to give up all together...Then if we do have some starring roles, like black men, it's on the small screen, there is nothing to push us forward into that genre or into movies. We remain in the genre of black comedies, black dramas, or television. Raven Symone' a beloved black actress from the age of 3 years old cannot even get off the small screen, even though she has proven herself a talent amongst stars for years. Jada Pinket Smith, opposite of will smith and a star power hitter herself playing in an action movie like the matrix, as a captain of her own ship, but she has maybe 3 action movies maybe 4. I am mentioning the action obviously it's because of something I want to do, but it's still very much relevant. I looked this up and I realized that Hollywood will over look a great black actor for a role because of our history of not starring in there types of films, like action or just a big block buster. They don't even give anyone a chance if they audition. No one is helping either by avoiding those roles besides Halley Berry and Vivica A. Fox- kill bill. Then the fact that most of the movies coming out are books, or comic books based but no roles for black people when I know there is a genre of black character based comic books like icon, the black panther, Or black character based books too. Like an entire fantastic Vampire series, Anita Blake:Vampire Hunter, about a black leading female character who kicks ass as a vampire slayer, like buffy but way better as she was created in heaven to be a vampire slayer. The vampire boom could have benefited from her greatly! These stories keep the fear of vampires and are not soft and sad like twilight. What was wrong with this story that it couldn't be made into a movie series, it has great love arches, powerful scenes, and the leading lady is not pathetic like the twilight character is who is dependent on her love affairs. A strong black character. Denzel in the book of Eli, the leading black role, but how could he have possibly been the only black guy in the whole movie! what!! they know they could have picked a black female to play opposite of him! We only have right now, Zoe Saldana, beautiful women, great actress, but she is not black, and she is only getting roles with action where her hispanic heritage is way more important. I don't want to discredit her, but she has not played a single action role as a black women when she clearly looks like one and has portrayed one plenty of times. My point is, your absolutely right! We as a black people are not pushing ourselves for those roles, and Hollywood in it's white dominance is not helping us by avoiding placing black actors who deserve the role in great roles over white actors who barely have the chops. Then your argument about rappers and artist getting roles that are for and could help a lot of black actors in their career is so true, and so stupid! Why! Why! why cast a rapper or artist over an actual actor because they can bring audiences? Well that's just completely unfair to the actors who work hard everyday perfecting their craft to be over looked for a favored rapper or artist, that's ridiculous! It's just a sad reality, that unless we fight for it, won't change. It's just another revolution that has to be taken in holly wood, a troop of actors has to step up and demand it, and I intend on doing that! So thank you, now I know what I must do.

  • Laila B | July 17, 2011 11:09 AMReply

  • AccidentalVisitor | June 4, 2011 4:36 AMReply

    {{{ I am beginning to think white hollywood isn’t the problem after all. I’m beginning to think that black hollywood isn’t interested in pushing forward intelligent stories either.

    And that, sir, is an uncomfortable truth. And has been for quite awhile too.

  • AccidentalVisitor | June 4, 2011 4:34 AMReply

    {{{ Having said that, Denzel hasn’t completely rejected showcasing his sex appeal onscreen (see Mississippi Masala, Out of Time, Mo’ Better Blues and even Ricochet to an extent). Now all of those films (save Out of Time) were made early in his career, which is why I made the comparison to Clooney. Like Denzel, Clooney was more receptive to the leading man roles early in his career but has steered clear of them in recent years. }}}

    In Mo Better Blues Denzel argued with Spike about not wanting to take off his shirt during the filming of the love scenes with his two leading ladies. He brought up some stuff about how he’s a family man, blah, blah, blah. This is just one of about a dozen examples of Denzel wanting to lower the “sexual heat” of a scene, get rid of a sex scene altogether or get rid of a romantic angle with a female character. Clooney does not have such history so that it still a bad comparison.

    {{{ Lastly, I have to disagree with you on the current slate of you black actresses being strong. Now there is some talent out there, with the likes of Jurnee Smollett, Lauren London, Meagan Good and Nicole Beharie but none of them are getting the opportunities that their predecessors received. And it’s not like said predecessors has the greatest opportunities either. But I think that has a lot to do with the current state of black film. In the 90s, we saw a re-emergence of black films and black actresses, which as it turns out was more of a trend, as we are lucky to get one black studio film a year these days. Not to mention that young black actresses today have to compete with racially ambiguous actresses to star opposite black men. So while young black actors aren’t necessarily getting leading man roles, they still have more opportunities than their female counterparts.}}}

    1)I could name a few young actresses that you are forgetting and not one of them would have been Megan Good or Lauren London.

    2)What predecessors are you referring to? If you are talking just about the 90s who was getting lead roles other than Whoopi Goldberg and at times Angela Bassett? Don’t say Halle because she was still getting primarily supporting roles during that time. If we go back to the 80s then name me someone other than Rae Dawn Chong? I know I’m exaggerating a bit with that one but still….come on. A woman like Zoe Saldana is on track to be a bigger major star than any of those ladies IMO.

    3)The young racially ambiguous actresses are only considered for black men during those rare opportunities in which black men actually have both leading roles and love interests. And frankly the only two black guys getting that Denzel and Will. Denzel was already a guy who often went without a love interest and now that he is getting older those opportunities are even less. As for Will….he hardly has time for movies these days. So at best there may be one role per year for a black female to lose out to a racially ambiguous actresses. Actually considering Denzel and Will’s love interests have primarily been played by black actresses, I think you may be making much out of nothing. And to be blunt when black actresses are paired in an interracial relationship they don’t have even have to go the “safe’ route of being hooked up with racially ambiguous actors. We see black women from Angela Basset to Halle to Zoe to Rhianna be cast with white male onscreen love interests without anyone making a big deal out of it. Black actresses actually get those opportunities more than black actors and if you have any doubt about that take time to go over the IMDB filmography of black actors and actresses and you will see that what I’m saying is truthful.

    4)Hollywood films employ far more men in roles than they do women. That’s regardless of race. Hollywood relies on genres that are more geared towards male activity. So there should be no surprise that there are more black actors working than black actresses. The ratio is even greater I believe when you plug in white actors and white actresses. That being said with more black films targeting black females (the Tyler Perry effect) black actresses are quickly gaining on black actors. Nonetheless the important thing to consider is substantial roles. And on that front black actors are not making any more gains than black actresses these days.

  • Lawrence Lee Wallace | June 1, 2011 2:38 AMReply

    Thank you for posting this. I'm a film director who recently did a film with a predominately black cast of handsome black men and beautiful black women. There was a love scene and there was lots of intelligent dialogue as well as dynamic acting. There were NO down low brothers, pimps, hoes, gangstas or men in drag. The film won "Official Selection at the 2009 Black Harvest International Film Fest at the Gene Siskel center and ran every night to sold out crowds. Everyone loved it. Its reminiscent of the film "Love Jones" a true black romance/comedy. Its 2011 and my entertainment attorney has submitted that film to many black production companies including Code Black Ent.(makers of the film Motives) and Rainforest films (makers of Trios and Stomp the Yard and Stomp the Yard art 2) and its been completely rejected. I am beginning to think white hollywood isn't the problem after all. I'm beginning to think that black hollywood isn't interested in pushing forward intelligent stories either.

  • misha | May 30, 2011 4:06 AMReply

    @AV, Yeah I figured you were referring to age with Denzel. Still, he doesn't play the leading man (in the traditional sense) so I don't think it's necessary for him to vacate the throne.

    Having said that, Denzel hasn't completely rejected showcasing his sex appeal onscreen (see Mississippi Masala, Out of Time, Mo' Better Blues and even Ricochet to an extent). Now all of those films (save Out of Time) were made early in his career, which is why I made the comparison to Clooney. Like Denzel, Clooney was more receptive to the leading man roles early in his career but has steered clear of them in recent years.

    Lastly, I have to disagree with you on the current slate of you black actresses being strong. Now there is some talent out there, with the likes of Jurnee Smollett, Lauren London, Meagan Good and Nicole Beharie but none of them are getting the opportunities that their predecessors received. And it's not like said predecessors has the greatest opportunities either. But I think that has a lot to do with the current state of black film. In the 90s, we saw a re-emergence of black films and black actresses, which as it turns out was more of a trend, as we are lucky to get one black studio film a year these days. Not to mention that young black actresses today have to compete with racially ambiguous actresses to star opposite black men. So while young black actors aren't necessarily getting leading man roles, they still have more opportunities than their female counterparts.

  • AccidentalVisitor | May 29, 2011 8:54 AMReply

    Doing some more catch up.

    The use of rappers and musicians in acting roles has really been detrimental....The fact that Black thespians are denied the chance to practice their craft and not taken seriously enough really shows how much we are valued in the industry. }}}

    Not only are they not taking black thespians seriously, they frankly just don’t care about them very much it would seem. But it would be one thing if that was just white Hollywood filmmakers and producers who were guilty of this. Black filmmakers and producers are arguably even worse.

    {{{ Why wasn’t Mario Van Peebles mentioned anywhere in your writing. He starred in a couple of 1980’s films, Posse, and Solo. }}}

    Is this a serious question? :)

    To be honest I could have mentioned him and a whole lot of other actors but as you can tell my writeup was long enough as it was. But if you want my true assessment of Peebles I would say he would have been perfect for hour-long light drama on TV, but he never had a strong enough presence for film. Although he did surprise me with his performance in “Badassssss!” so maybe I’m underrating him.

    {{{ Thanks for posting. Very thought provoking article. I think another related topic is the diversity of roles being offered to black actors in general. What are your thoughts on prospects for black actors who don’t fit the traditional big strapping black man model? }}}

    I don’t think the “big strapping black man” is a mode that is used all that often anymore (and that may be a good thing). Hardly any black actor who has gotten a lot of work the last 20 or so years fit that model.

    {{{ Black Men will sell out & kiss As* whill black women stay true to there culture. }}}

    In Hollywood? Don’t know about that.

    {{{ Good read. And I agree with the author for the most part. I do have a few quibbles though. :) First off, I don’t know if the critique of Denzel is a fair one. Suggesting that he should’ve vacated the role of “suave black leading man” by now, implies that there is only room for one. }}}

    Actually I made a point in my writeup that there should never be just one so trust me when I say there should be more than enough room in that department for multiple guys. My remark about Denzel vacating the throne had to do with his age, and nothing else.

    {{{ I would contend that Will is the one who’s embraced the suave leading/ladies men roles (see Hitch, Bad Boys, Wild Wild West), even if he isn’t viewed as the idealized black man. So in that sense, he’s much more “Billy Dee-like” than Denzel. As an actor, Denzel (I would say) has more in common with George Clooney than Billy Dee. They both have managed to attain sex symbol status without really ever playing up their sexuality onscreen. }}}

    You may be right about Will Smith. I have to disagree with you o the Clooney-Washington comparison though. It is rare for Clooney to be in a movie in which he isn’t pursuing a relationship with a woman, isn’t trying to woo a woman, isn’t having a sex scene with a woman, etc. Washington, on the other hand, is more likely to play characters who aren’t going after “the girl” or who already have long, established marital relationships (read: sexless) in which case no wooing is required and sex is more of an afterthought.

    {{{ Moreoever, I don’t agree that Denzel’s refusal to embrace his sex appeal is a “setback” to black men being viewed as sexually desirable. }}}

    Fair enough but I still think Washington could have broken down barriers by leaning towards playing more sexually active characters (and by sexually active it could be something as blunt flirting with a female). Reading articles of several movies he has done over the years, it is amazing how many times Washington has asked for a love scene (or even a kissing scene) and romantic relationships to be eliminated from a script. As for Billy Dee he never had the mainstream oportunities that Denzel would have 15 to 20 years later.

    {{{ Now can we talk about a more dire crisis: the disappearance of the black leading lady? :) }}}

    When it comes to leading black ladies (and by leading I mean those that are given the same opportunities of love and drama on the big screen as their white counterparts), I tend to feel there have been more articles about that on this site than there has been about the state of the lack of leading black men. And I have pointed out before that I think this current slate of young black actresses are strong and attractive and will continue to get more chances. So I wouldn’t call it a “disappearance” when it comes to them, I would call it an emergence.

  • misha | May 28, 2011 6:26 AMReply

    Good read. And I agree with the author for the most part. I do have a few quibbles though. :) First off, I don't know if the critique of Denzel is a fair one. Suggesting that he should've vacated the role of "suave black leading man" by now, implies that there is only room for one. Now that may be how Hollywood sees it but is that a notion WE want to espouse? Secondly, although Denzel is "Billy Dee-like" in leaving the ladies swooning, he doesn't take roles that specifically call for him to be the "sex symbol" or suave leading man, as you stated yourself. Thus, that begs the question: how can he vacate a role he never had?

    I would contend that Will is the one who's embraced the suave leading/ladies men roles (see Hitch, Bad Boys, Wild Wild West), even if he isn't viewed as the idealized black man. So in that sense, he's much more "Billy Dee-like" than Denzel. As an actor, Denzel (I would say) has more in common with George Clooney than Billy Dee. They both have managed to attain sex symbol status without really ever playing up their sexuality onscreen.

    Moreoever, I don't agree that Denzel's refusal to embrace his sex appeal is a "setback" to black men being viewed as sexually desirable. For one, hollywood has to be able to visualize it before we can see it onsceen. And two, it's not as if actors like, Will and Billy Dee embracing that role has done much to advance the cause either.

    I'd just like add that although Sam Jackson wouldn't have been my fist choice as Shaft, I thought he did the role justice. However, I would agree that the decision to tell us, rather than show us, Shaft's sexual prowess was indeed a blunder.

    Now can we talk about a more dire crisis: the disappearance of the black leading lady? :)

  • What About Black Women "WTF" | May 27, 2011 6:20 AMReply

    Black Women have it harder in Hollywood Black Men will sell out & kiss As* whill black women stay true to there culture.

  • HandsomeBlackCowboyStudBrett1953 | May 27, 2011 6:13 AMReply

    Who gives two craps about 'Shaft?" That this CRIMI-
    NALLY OVER-RATED TURKEY came out in'71,A FEW WEEKS AFTER a female Grade Thirteen teacher told me she found me "exceedingly handsome," a view of my appearance I can say truthfully is STILL HELD by a lot of the ladies two generations later as I approach 60-
    I'll turn 58 July 6-ruined the chance for someone like me to play TRUE black romantic leads,as "Johnny
    Boy," essentially a low-rent,ghetto thug black version of James Bond Tinseltown foisted upon blacks because NO WAY would these bigoted crypto-Klans-
    men let us play Bond,or even a Bond-like character,
    instead,through director Ernest Tidyman and protago-
    nist Richard Roundtree,pitching this racist stereotype
    as "the new,ultra-coll,ultra-masculine black man"(yea,
    guess there are enough sociopathic black killers menacing black America!!!),TO THE DELIGHT OF BLACK AUDIENCES WHO LAY DOWN THEIR HARD-
    We classically handsome black prospective lead actors ARE STILL PAYING FOR "SHAFT' AND HIS MUCH WORSE,BLAXPLOITATION CLONES,as no ac-tor in these shoe-sting budget flicks became a star,plus when the block-buster movie era began with "Star Wars," and the Hollywood big wigs-and SMALL BRAINS-saw we would see these movies,in which nearly NO BLACKS were cast in major roles,they quickly jettisoned blaxploitation and relegated us black man to our familiar sex-less buddy/side-kick to the handsome white star/stud-usually the 80's white/black "buddy cop," the druggie/
    ghetto hoodlum of the 90's and 2000's and today's newbie nasty,the intellectually challenged or perverted
    black male pity or opprobrium object.Yeah,we have a LOT for which to thank John-Boy Shaft,don't we?

  • Austen | May 27, 2011 3:40 AMReply

    Thanks for posting. Very thought provoking article. I think another related topic is the diversity of roles being offered to black actors in general. What are your thoughts on prospects for black actors who don't fit the traditional big strapping black man model?

    Also, in an effort to focus on things we have control over - what is the mindset of young black actors out there? I think a sad side effect of musician/rapper casting is that a lot of young hopefuls don't really focus on learning the craft but spend a lot of time learning about how to hustle in the biz. I think both are necessary. I'm a student at a prestigious drama school and my program and others like it produce tons of black actors every year. Charismatic, beautiful, classically trained theatre and film artists.

    Anthony Mackie went to Julliard but theatre training doesn't seem to be something valued in young black actors these days. From within and without the community. I think that's why a lot of the young actors who have any chance of rising tend to be British - because all of them are well trained artists (David Oyelowe etc) - not just folks looking for stardom. I know that this is an area where we can affect change. Classic start like Ruby & Ozzie, Phylicia Rashad, Denzel and Sam Jackson all got their start in theatre. A forum where black artists don't need billions of dollars to create some heat. I say we rebuild that model as a launching pad for the next generation of black stars.

  • HandsomeBlackCowboyStudBrett1953 | May 27, 2011 2:30 AMReply

    I'm short-five-eight,though 210-218 lb.,with 171/2" biceps-BUT STILL REGARDED

  • HandsomeBlackCowboyStudBret1953 | May 27, 2011 2:22 AMReply

    I'll be 58 July 6,but I'm said to look 15-20 years younger than my age AND to be
    telegenic enough to play the 2011 handsome black cowboy equivalent of Brad Pitt's career-making role in any re-make of "Thelma And Louise!!!"

  • Phillip Michael | May 26, 2011 1:07 AMReply

    Why wasn't Mario Van Peebles mentioned anywhere in your writing. He starred in a couple of 1980's films, Posse, and Solo.

  • Cherish | May 25, 2011 4:44 AMReply

    The use of rappers and musicians in acting roles has really been detrimental. It even brings down the quality of movies as a whole. I feel like scenes have to be re-written to accommodate the weak acting skills of some actors.

    The fact that Black thespians are denied the chance to practice their craft and not taken seriously enough really shows how much we are valued in the industry. So sad.

  • Cherish | May 25, 2011 4:34 AMReply

    Hey AV,

    I get the gist of what you're saying. I guess the point I was trying to make was that it wasn't necessary for those Black actors of yester-year to star against White actresses to move up the ladder and become leading men.

    Hollywood never had Black men as love interests for White co-stars, even back then. For the majority of their film careers Will and Denzel had Black or other non-white love interests, and still be became superstars. Denzel had moved further into stardom where he did act opposite major White actresses, like Julia Roberts, although (unfortunately) not very often as a love interest.

    The difference back then was that Black actors were working regularly enough to build up an audience. I think that is what is missing today for their younger counterparts.

    And, yes, with the lack of "Black" movies, they have not been able to (should say not allowed) to cross over into mainstream movies and star opposite White actresses, which leads us to the "missing Black leading man."

    But in this post-racial America and increasing number of interracial marriages, you would think that would be easier to Black men to make that leap, but it isn't.

    Hollywood is still resisting.

  • Jug | May 25, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    Here's something to think about. Old casting idiom for women,

    "Women need to want to be you, Men need to want to Fuck you."

    Well, now "Men" has moved into that place as well. And if a majority of projects are written by or greenlit by white men, I don't think they want to be a be or fuck a black man too much...unless it's a sports movie or he's rapping.

  • Wanett | May 24, 2011 12:56 PMReply

    Excellent article! I was thinking about this recently from the sex symbol stand point. I was trying to think of a black actor that women (universally) crushed on and came up blank. Denzel had appeal to ALL women and Will Smith to an extent, I guess. But younger black actors, not so much.
    Also, I was having one those "Who would I cast in my movie?" conversations with my husband and thinking of black actors (that stood a chance of being selected by a studio) was damn near impossible.
    We also talked about the refusal to cast Halle in the Eva Mendes role in Hitch and the lack of black children in big roles, and how glad I was for those cast in The Hunger Games. Hollywood is terrified of that much black sexiness in one film. They can't handle it. I hoped with Michelle and Barack making black love look SO good in such a public way that this thinking might change, but alas it has not. With their daughters showing another side to the life a black child, I hoped this would affect some change, too. But, no. Not really.

  • DEEDEE | May 24, 2011 12:45 PMReply

    When you spelled "Madea" wrong. I knew you were a doe doe bird. Tyler Perry is here to stay, if you dont like it...... LEAVE THIS WORLD.

  • Geneva Girl | May 24, 2011 12:22 PMReply

    Very nice, well laid out argument. I hope to hear more from you.

  • sandra | May 24, 2011 10:57 AMReply

    *joining the slow clap*

    Excellent article. Very meaty and insightful. One of the best S&A articles of 2011, surely.

  • Melissa | May 24, 2011 9:15 AMReply

    Accidental visitor, would you say the music industry is dominated by Black people? Maybe that could be a factor in all this.

    How did we manage to affect the music industry so greatly (pre-gangsta rap)? Can we apply the same blueprint to movies?

    We need a movie production company with a vision on the scale of 'Motown Records' . Perhaps through a collaboration of several Black producers and directors.

    This is me speaking *ideally* and *absolutely* of course.

  • AccidentalVisitor | May 24, 2011 9:14 AMReply

    {{{ You mentioned that Hollywood’s reluctance to pair Black male actors with white female actors is one of the main reason why black male stars are not becoming leading men. But if you look at the list of leading Black men from 1990s, the majority of them acted in movies acted in movies with predominantly black casts or paired against non-white women.

    Will Smith - who got his big break in Independence Day - was paired against Vivica Fox. ( I wonder what kind of discussion took place when choosing the woman to play opposite Will, if they even considered a white actress to begin with. )

    It worked great, they even won an MTV Movie Award for “Best Kiss” lol. }}}

    Thanks for the kind comments, Cherish.

    As for this particular point my view was that in general black men are not called upon to be the romantic suitor of any women in a film outside of black romances. If the actress is white a black guy is almost definitely out of the question. If the actress is a black female who is a major star or a rising star, black men also are likely to be out of luck. The majority of Halle and Whoopi’s leading men were white as soon as those actresses reached a certain status in Hollywood. Zoe Saldana is at that status now and do you see any black guys playing opposite her as a love interest? And if a Hispanic actress or an Asian actress becomes a big enough star they too won’t be paired with any black guys. Ladies such as Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes and Salma Hayek were paired alongside black men only when they were working their way up the ladder. (and the black guys they starred alongside were almost always already established).

    The Vivica Fox example doesn’t work because 1)Smith was already chosen before she was picked, 2) she was not an established star and 3)their relationship was a very small part of the film…it wasn’t as if Smith was playing a romantic suitor in that film. He was made a star because of the action element of the film which later became a blockbuster hit.

  • Melissa | May 24, 2011 8:57 AMReply

    I agree with this write up in its entirety, as I often agree with accidentalvisitor's other comments.

    Since this is a deliberate practise on Hollywood's part, as I'm sure you know... I don't see it going away anytime soon. consider the political/socio-economic implications if things were to go your way(black actors being given the same chance as their white counterparts.)

    Same thing with Black actresses. They are afforded occassional romances but all other factors are the same as those you've mentioned for Black actors (picking musicians over thespians, picking rolo-poly framed over strikingly beautiful, not looking for new talent, old age etc).

    If anything is to happen for our young thespians, IT IS UP TO US. We are very capable.
    We cant hope to change the highly deliberate, and non-coincidental dynamics of Hwood when it comes to POC.
    Let's get to work :)

  • Fanta | May 24, 2011 7:15 AMReply

    You forgot Omari Hardwick. In 'I Will Follow' he played a strong, sensitive, fully adult black man like I hardly ever see. He has done Tyler stuff ("Colored Girls") and studio stuff ("Kick-Ass") and TV stuff ("Dark Blue"). He is like 34 or 35. I like him alot. Also Lance Gross is a younger generation black man who is getting good work doing studio things ("Our Family Wedding") and TV stuff with Tyler. These are some men to keep in mind too. I thought your essay was outstanding by the way and very smart and observant.

  • Cherish | May 24, 2011 6:30 AMReply


    Thank you for a most thoughtful and provocative post. As an outsider of the industry, who is just a fan of movies and TV, I can truly appreciate your sentiment.

    Ahh, post-racial America. I guess its not so much what its cracked up to be. I think what is going on in Hollywood today, is, like the political world, it's the White Man's Last Stand." America is becoming more diverse, and this one a major cultural avenue they refuse to give up. Kind of like closing in ranks.

    It seems everyone around them, black men, black women, and even white women, are losing ground in this arena. I read an article that there are fewer white women writers in Hwood then ever, and most are paid significantly less than white men. It has to break sooner or later.

    You mentioned that Hollywood's reluctance to pair Black male actors with white female actors is one of the main reason why black male stars are not becoming leading men. But if you look at the list of leading Black men from 1990s, the majority of them acted in movies acted in movies with predominantly black casts or paired against non-white women.

    Will Smith - who got his big break in Independence Day - was paired against Vivica Fox. ( I wonder what kind of discussion took place when choosing the woman to play opposite Will, if they even considered a white actress to begin with. )

    It worked great, they even won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Kiss" lol.

    We need more Tyler Perrys , but not Tyler Perry. Will Smith has potential, and I'm glad he's making movies with his kids in them - nothing wrong with nepotism from our end.

    And as for Tyler Perry as a leading man - can I say that the thought of kissing him makes me want to gag? I don't think a leading male actor should bring out those feelings, not good for business.

  • ryvin | September 8, 2012 2:56 AM

    I notice that most of these posts seem almost consumed with the idea of black men not getting to star opposite white women in films. But why is this so important to black men I have to ask and wonder? Do they feel that if their with white women sexually onscreen that it gives them a certain power or superiority over white men? And while demonizing white men is absolutely nothing new, perhaps another question should be asked, the flip side of the coin if you will. Instead of only concentrating on why white men in Hollywood(btw why don't you ever refer to these white men as being mostly Jewish?) apparently want to keep black men and white women off of the screen(FYI: the reason for this is because they feel it won't make money. You know money, what Hollywood is ALL about), maybe some should also be asking WHY black men want to have white women as love interests so desperately? Could it be because they view them as better and more desirable than the women of their own race? I mean not that black men will ever admit to such a thing, but as they say the proff is in the pudding. Just read the comments on here, and elsewhere, of black men complaining about not getting to be with any white women on screen. You get the impression that if it were totally up to them, black men would avoid black women like the plague both on and off the screen!

    I'm actually quite curious to know how black women themselves feel about the obvious obsession black men have of being with white women. Like I mentioned before, black men will constantly talk and bring up how white men don't want them anywhere near white women. But they usually avoid talking about WHY they want to be with white women so very badly. There's much more here than meets the eye that's for certain.

  • Jay | May 24, 2011 6:10 AMReply

    Thought provoking and heartfelt. The implications are disturbing and
    highlight the bizarre subtext in industry thinking.

    Great work.

  • Jug | May 24, 2011 5:48 AMReply

    AccidentalVisitor, I want to let you know that not only was your article thoughtful & extremely insightful, but that it touched me. For those of us, actors of color, who are working our butt be trained, work on stage & in short films, guest stars etc, it means THE WORLD to know that we're not crazy and there are people out there who see the bullshit happening and STILL appreciate us for what we do, not just for "how can you 'entertain' me".

    Not as "fans" but as those with a real respect for the performance experience and both parties', actor & audience, role in it.

    So, hats off to you, and Thank You, for saying words that needed to be said.

  • KismetRose | May 24, 2011 5:21 AMReply

    A strong casting choice for “A tall and strikingly handsome black man in his midthirties….” might be Mechad Brooks. He's only a little younger than the description, and he has real looks and real talent.

  • Yoshi | May 24, 2011 4:58 AMReply

    Wow. I'm just beginning to follow film seriously so this op-ed was very educational for me as well. It is such a shame to see how Black men who have trained their entire lives for this field be looked over for a bunch of comedians and popular music artists. But the fact is that there really isn't much to expect from White Americans. They just do not value Black artists only Black entertainers whether consciously or unconsciously. Hopefully more collectives like AFFRM will pop up and give more Black actors opportunities. However we have to still keep the feet of White directors and critics to the fire to have some courage and develop Black talent. I'm sure the same can be said for Latino/a, and Asian actors and actresses.

  • AccidentalVisitor | May 24, 2011 4:43 AMReply

    I like to thank those of you had such kind words for the piece. I’ sorry it ran so long. To be honest I had to cut it down in half before I even submitted it. But I think I was able to still cover most of the points that I thought needed addressing.

    I want to respond to a few of the replies I came across...

    {{Solution: ignore “Hollywood” completely. Make your own stuff and distribute it via new, modern technologies. Make your won stars and your own stories. Stop looking to them to do it for you because that will be a loooooooooong wait.}}

    Here’s my thing with this….when we do make such films we are just as likely to make the same bad casting decisions. When was the last time you saw such a film and saw a guy and said “yeah, he has that star quality”. Of course it would help if more of those films were actually good but that’s a conversation for another submission that I am working on.

    {{ Same thing with Black actresses. They are afforded occassional romances but all other factors are the same as those you’ve mentioned for Black actors (picking musicians over thespians, picking rolo-poly framed over strikingly beautiful, not looking for new talent, old age etc). }}

    Interesting viewpoint because I have felt for the past few years that the field of upcoming young black actresses, who could be leading ladies, is pretty strong. Perhaps the strongest ever. That may not be saying much but it is a sign of progress. There are a lot of gorgeous black gals out there with actual acting talent who are starting to get work and have become or could become stars. We’ll see. Hollywood is typically biased against women who aren’t beautiful anyway (more so than they are against men who aren’t good-looking), so most females who get a chance at stardom are going t be attractive. And even the black female musicians they choose are eye candy because most of the black female singers these days (intentionally) have the type of looks that appeal to a large and diverse audience. Beyonce may not be able to act a lick and the same may end up being said about Rhianna but people do find those women sexy. You are right that these ladies still aren’t getting enough material overall, but I think they are actually doing better than you suggest in terms of onscreen romances. Hollywood has far less of a problem pairing them alongside the white male stars that drive the industry than it does pairing black men of any clout alongside white female stars. Of course Hollywood has about zero interest pairing blacks with blacks. :) Again time will tell if I’m right or wrong on this front. Obviously black women haven’t had an easy time of it in Hollywood.

    {{ Excellent article. I just wanted to toss another name in the ring: Eamonn Walker. I always think of him as right there on a par with Idris Elba (with perhaps a bit less sexy exposure). }}

    Walker is a fantastic actor but unfortunately he falls under that “getting up there” problem. Is he approaching 50? I think so. So it is never going to happen for him

    {{ What is going on with Bolden!?? Does anyone know? }}

    Like with ‘Red Tails” it seems to be in eternal post-production. I know Mackie was called in for filming of more scenes last year and that that was supposedly intentional all along. The director is a rich dude like Lucas who can take his time. And he is. The good news is that the short film he shot around the same time on Louis Armstrong was released last year to critical acclaim. If the full length feature film is as good as that short then we may actually have something worthwhile to talk about.

  • LeonRaymond Mitchell | November 15, 2011 10:00 PM

    Your Comment

    Thanks so much Harry Belafonte has been begging pleading for us to do just that, maybe this post will start the road to many of us coming together to make our own films and I really mean come together. Black folk keep waiting for this mystical magical day when Hollywood says okay and now it's your turn for us to feature you in large numbers- NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN-NEVER EVER NEVER. and lets make searing quality films powerful films that echoes The French new wave but from our slant -We can do it there are awesome writers out there (like myself) awesome directors, producers, Production designers, 1stAD'S DP's etc we should not be asking this same question nor exploring what we should do come January 1st -5, 4, 3, 2, 1, -Lets make this a moment when it all started right here today!!!

  • cc | May 24, 2011 4:35 AMReply

    Very interesting. I read another article recently about the lack of roles for black actors, but it definitely wasn't as thorough as yours.

    I sort of thought my head would explode when I read about the Tyler Perry/Alex Cross decision. Although I know next to nothing about the Alex Cross series, I can no longer watch Perry in a film as a man. I just can't. I just can't. (especially when I think that I could be watching Idiris Alba as Cross. . .). And it just seemed like such an uninspired decision (and HUGELY insulting to the actual black actors who are legitimately qualified for the role).

  • Trou | June 11, 2012 7:49 PM

    I like when Elba plays non american chatacters he is more authentic. Is he supposed to be like Danny Glover and play a cop all the time. Least challenging roles cops.

  • Tamara | May 24, 2011 4:12 AMReply

    Funny then how in “Four Brothers” the two black guys with the more substantial roles were Tyrese and Andre 3000, further evidence of Singleton’s devotion to musicians. I particularly feel for Ejiofor, an actor so talented he became the first Othello to outshine Iago in a major stage production of “Othello” in about fifty years. With his theatrical pedigree, his reported affability and his British citizenship, you would think Hollywood would have rewarded him more.


    Ejiofor was one of the best things about that feature. He continues to surprise me. Ridiculous talent. Even in his 'medium-size' role in Joss Whedon's "Serenity" he was amazing. Just amazing.

    Great write-up. Food for thought. Thank you :)

  • troy | June 11, 2012 7:45 PM

    I think Ejiofor is a fine actors but he was not the least bit believable as a bad guy in this movie. It was comical.

  • geoffrey thorne | May 24, 2011 4:05 AMReply

    Excellent article.

    Solution: ignore "Hollywood" completely. Make your own stuff and distribute it via new, modern technologies. Make your won stars and your own stories. Stop looking to them to do it for you because that will be a loooooooooong wait.

  • AccidentalVisitor | May 24, 2011 3:47 AMReply

    {Accidental visitor, would you say the music industry is dominated by Black people? Maybe that could be a factor in all this.

    How did we manage to affect the music industry so greatly (pre-gangsta rap)? Can we apply the same blueprint to movies?}

    Melissa, I think the music blueprint strategy has been overstated. For a long time black people have used that analogy with the belief/hope that if black people can be so dominant in popular music across the globe, then why couldn't they be just as beloved in films? But I don’t think that that argument holds up that well. In fact I think we need to stop even looking to the music industry as a model to follow when trying to tackle the film industry. Of course that is just one man’s opinion.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | May 24, 2011 3:46 AMReply

    *starts a slow clap*

  • CWhitt | May 24, 2011 3:36 AMReply

    Good Read!

  • Zeus | May 24, 2011 3:32 AMReply

    Excellent read sir.

    Couldn't agree more.

  • Sonya Steele | May 24, 2011 3:30 AMReply

    Accidental Visitor,

    You broke it down...laid it out...summed it up.

    Hollywood will not solve this crisis. It's up to us to do that.

  • jessie's girl | May 24, 2011 3:02 AMReply

    Great post!

  • blaqbird | May 24, 2011 2:40 AMReply


  • Vanessa | May 24, 2011 1:26 AMReply

    I agree with this post. However, my mood has shifted downward this morning. :-/

    What is going on with Bolden!?? Does anyone know?

  • matafleur | May 24, 2011 1:14 AMReply

    Excellent article. I just wanted to toss another name in the ring: Eamonn Walker. I always think of him as right there on a par with Idris Elba (with perhaps a bit less sexy exposure).

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • 'Take Me To The River' Celebrates Memphis' ...
  • Byron Hurt Seeks Hazing Victims, Perpetrators, ...
  • Trailer for 'Contamination' - Film Tackles ...
  • VH1 Announces the New Cast of 'Love ...
  • Check Out the First Teaser-Trailer for ...
  • Papa Pope, Crazy Eyes and Egyptian Revolutionaries ...
  • Weekend B.O. Aug. 15-17 (The Dog Days ...
  • "Bang, Bang!" HBO Releases New Trailer ...
  • Energetic First Trailer for Kenya-Set ...
  • PBS Goes on Archaeological Dig for Josiah ...