Home Featured The Space Between: The Help, Red Tails, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and the Problem With Black Cinema

The Space Between: The Help, Red Tails, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and the Problem With Black Cinema




It’s officially Oscar season in America and as a guy with an intense appreciation for film, I can’t help but be a little reflective around this time. Recently, “black cinema” or movies that feature stories with predominantly black casts, have been the talk of Tinseltown. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are gracefully making their award show rounds for their work in The Help. George Lucas & co. guilted us all into seeing Red Tails under the premise that the future of black cinema rested upon its success. And then there’s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, an independent film by Terrance Nance currently making its way through the indy film circuit, receiving rave reviews along the way. Of all the films I’ve seen over the past twelve months, The Help was the most insulting, Red Tails was the most entertainingly disappointing and An Oversimplification of Her Beauty was, by far – the best. All of this brings me to the nagging question I’ve had as conversations around these films have raged all year: What’s wrong with black cinema?

In form, The Help was pretty well done. It featured phenomenal performances by Spencer and Davis, – performances I’m happy to see receive the recognition they deserve. The story, taken at face value, was relatively enjoyable – the tale of mistreated black maids who with the help of a kind-hearted white woman, are able to find their voice. The cinematography, costuming, and score were all done well enough to give the average American moviegoer an enjoyable two hour experience. It is in content and context however, that The Help falls way short. Instead of taking the hard route of accurately depicting the harsh realities of life a step above indentured servitude in the deep south 60’s, The Help– much like the book for which it’s based- instead chooses to revert to predictable plot devices and stereotypical black character cliches. From Aunjanue Ellis’ thieving to come up with money to send her son to college, to the magical negro nature of Cicely Tyson’s character, at every point in the film where there was an opportunity to step outside the box and be great, it instead chose to be typical. So while I’ll be rooting for Spencer and Davis at the Oscars and hoping their roles open previously closed doors, I doubt I’ll ever again watch this film.

Those of you who read us daily might remember Slim’s post on Red Tails a couple weeks back. In that post he expressed a certain measure of ambivalence and trepidation toward the film based on its mediocre trailers and guilt laden promotion. I too shared this trepidation, but still decided to organize a group of friends to go see the movie. I believed in the story and I believed that the Tuskegee Airmen deserved to have that story told on the big screen– epically- with big explosions and corny one-liners. And while I think black cinema, the artists who create it, and those of us who support it have shown ourselves resilient enough to survive a flop, Lucas’ pandering to our collective cultural consciences wasn’t altogether without merit. A success here would be a step in the right direction; so I chose to support. The movie was … entertaining I’ll say. The Godfather, Raging Bull, Do The Right Thing or Malcolm X it was not– but it was worth the price of admission. The problem with Red Tails is that instead of taking the time to fully develop round characters- allowing us to really begin to care for them, they instead gave us archetypes of characters our date-night-movie-theater-going culture is conditioned to care for. There’s the young man brave beyond his years, there’s the funny hot shot who falls in love, and there’s the stoically heroic star secretly battling demons while trying to be a good leader. Was Red Tails a Good film? No. Was it horrible? No. Worthwhile? I guess.

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Which brings me to Terrance Nance’s Sundance selected masterpiece. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is a film inside a documentary, inside a film. It is a detailed exploration of the brain’s densely packed spaces that shape our understanding of fantasy, reality, and the unconscious mind. It is experienced through the eyes of an artsy guy who builds his own bed frame and plays the guitar in subway stations for money. Reflecting on a relationship with a woman for whom he cared, the film is at times hilarious, like Nance explaining his ancestrally inherited inability to be on time. At other points – like when we realize things will not work out as we’d hoped – the film is sad. And still at other points, the film is poignant, like Nance reflecting on his Cosby-esque childhood and the impact that has had on his appreciation of acute emotion.

Combining live action and various forms of animation, Nance doesn’t just give us a movie, he gives us an experience, a trip into his id that forces us to answer for ourselves, the question that refrains throughout the film: “How Would You Feel?” So while I immensely enjoyed An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, I’m also clear that this is not a film meant for the masses. It’s not something we can expect to see opening in 50,000 theaters across the country or pulling in millions of dollars its opening weekend. I don’t think that’s what Nance was going for. As much as this is a film made for people like us to enjoy and appreciate, it also seems to be a personal conversation Nance is having with himself that he happens to let us in on.

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It is in watching An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and reflecting on The Help and Red Tails that I came to realize the biggest problem facing black cinema: There’s nothing to occupy the space between. Somewhere between the big budget heroic war story told in Red Tails, the white-washed, safe for y’all but offensive for us story told in The Help and the extraordinary, eccentric An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, there exists room for the everyday stories of us living, working and trying to enjoy our lives. These are the stories I yearn to see brought to the big screen.

The biggest sign of the racial disparities in Hollywood is not just that it’s hard for us to make movies, but also that it’s nearly impossible for us to make movies that don’t feature extraordinary happenings. And that insistence, that unspoken rule that the only stories of ours worth telling are the extraordinary ones, robs us of our humanity and paints us as caricatures whose value is found solely in the emotional response our stories can illicit from those who don’t look like us.

Spike Lee made waves at the Sundance Film Festival for a pretty epic rant on Hollywood’s inability to understand and appreciate black stories after his “Red Hook Summer” received a slew of negative reviews. His point was that Hollywood had no idea what to do with “black” stories. He’s right, and because they don’t, our films must all be burdened by this external need for them to be these outside of the norm, unrealistically hopeful or extraordinarily depressing tales. That pushes beautiful, daring films like Terrance Nance’s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, or Dee Rees’ Paraih so far outside of the mainstream that they go largely unnoticed.  I yearn for the day when these films receive the same kind of attention and accolades as films like American Beauty, The Hours, or Sideways– films about what happens in life when there aren’t worlds to save or racist institutions to dismantle. I yearn for the day that black American stories- ones without agendas can be made and appreciated for their quality and nothing else.

Did you see The Help, or Red Tails? What were you thoughts on each? Did you, like me find one offensive and the other a little disappointing? What about independent films like An Oversimplification of Her Beauty? Does it look like something you’d pay money to see were it in a theater near you? What kinds stories would you like to see reach the big screen, what the hell is wrong with Hollywood?

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    Sure I'd see An Oversimplification of Her Beauty if it comes near me. Problem is that any type of movie in America that isn't a majority white/WASP (or straight for that manner) is deemed as "Special Type" of movie. Feel free to replace "special type" with Black, Asian, Muslim, Gay, or anything along that train of thought. I don't really care about Hollywood because I have the luxury of living in NYC and am part of several various film forms that give me access to all the hundreds of other movies that are released on a year to year basis not made in Hollywood. So someone in a smaller town, and by smaller town I mean isn't NYC or LA, I can sympathize with the frustration.

  2. I read The Help & it was such a great read. However, I dared not ruin it by going to see the movie. Knowing Hollywood/White America, I knew the movie would somehow change the seriousness of the situation into something “funny” and safe (making light of the situation and having a Caucasian woman ‘save the day’ if you will). Excuse my language but there wasnt sh*t funny about what went down in that town. I would suggest reading the book, but the movie I refuse to see. Thanks but no thanks. Now Redtails was NOT a good movie in my opinion. I could tell by the previews it was going to lack what I need to see in a movie to spend my precious 2 hours in a movie theater. It was pretty lame. A lot of action and not enough substance. Now I would try out that indie film because I’m a movie lover and I’m open to anything.

    1. I read the book beforehand and to me, it didn't do a bad job. the changes they made enhanced the story to translate to film form, IMO. and I'm generally VERY hard on movies that came from books.
      My recent post Zoom

  3. didn't watch the help. i thought red tails was good for what it was. never heard of the oversimplification of beauty but i'll be sure to check it out. i know we (or at least i) keep saying this but i'm tired of tyler perry-esq movies. i joked that red tails didn't do as well as i expected but i bet that think like a man will break records. the sad thing is its probably true. and the same people who dogged out red tails will find that movie (or good deeds) fantastic.
    My recent post This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free

  4. I think the problem with mainstream movies as a whole is that they are designed to overtitate an ADD society. They aren’t about deep, underlying messages or thought provoking discussion. It’s like they pitch an idea for you to either take and expand or accept a scintillating story then move on.

    It seems that the story organically isn’t enough so we have to add more drama, more action, more romance to be considered a good movie.

    Did I like Red Tails? Yes. I thought it was a good snapshot of a historical moment. Was it well developed? No. There were gaps. Seemed like the storyline mushed together. But I think it was a good try and a start for newer black actors.

    I didn’t watch The Help, but I read the book. I’ll save those comments.

    Thanks for the titles of new indie films, hopefully they come out here.

  5. Currently avoiding facebook/twitter/espn/newspapers/coworkers and I swore if this was a Superbowl post i was gonna throw my phone to a wide open Wes Welker and let him drop it…okay im getting off topic

    Always glad to see black actors/actresses get Oscar love (speaking of when is the academy gonna let Will Smith be great). I think the problem with black cinema is for one lack of quality mainstream actors and they seem to keep making the same type of movie. Its either a biopic/historical film, an ensemble cast film about family, hood flick, or ratchet comedy. They’re all safe and movies that step beyond that usually miss the box office and sit in the independent section of Netflix waiting to be discovered.

  6. I watched the help and I didnt think it was that bad. It was very typical of the black story of slavery and segregation that is always told so I wasn’t all that amazed by it but I don’t really understand what was so offensive about it. To be honest, the previews for red tails sucked and I haven’t heard anything great about it so I might just wait to buy it on redbox and save me some dollars. I’m definitely going to look out for ‘an over simplication of her beauty because it sounds worth my money. I am tired of seeing predominantly black or white movies. I want to see a movie that somewhat accurately depicts the mosaic of today’s mix of cultures instead of just the cliches because we are all extremely complicated human beings.

  7. Despite a few issues with the dialogue and the romance, I enjoyed Red Tails. I haven't seen, and don't plan on seeing The Help. I just don't see anything in it that appeals to me.

    There are plenty of stories out there, but we have to support them. You don't have to see every film that comes out, but if it's worth time and money to buy a bootleg, then go see it in the theater.

    Furthermore, we need to look at other genres. Westerns, sci-fi, mystery, etc. Between Tyler Perry movies and all the other films in that same vein, romantic comedies, hell, comedies in general have become a little played out. Why isn't their a fantasy film rooted in African mythology? There's material out there. How about a western? The story of Bass Reeves might make a pretty good movie. As for mysteries, the last good black private eye to grace the silver screen was Easy Rawlins. (I'm not counting Shaft. One, it's a remake, and two, his version of investigation involves kicking in skulls and shooting people. Entertaining, sure. But it's hardly detective work.)

    In short, we need to get more out in the theaters and we need to support the stuff that we like. If all we go to are Madea movies and gangsta epics, that's what we're going to continue to get.

      1. Well, it's probably good if the movie stays in the theater for over two weeks. Mario Van Peebles is still kicking around. Maybe he can make a third movie, and call Posse and Los Locos part of a trilogy.

  8. I hadn’t watched the Help or Red Tails, and I don’t plan on watching them either. Neither really appeals to me. I don’t knock them, but I won’t be guilted into watching them either.

  9. Did you see The Help, or Red Tails? What were you thoughts on each? Did you, like me find one offensive and the other a little disappointing? What about independent films like An Oversimplification of Her Beauty? Does it look like something you’d pay money to see were it in a theater near you? What kinds stories would you like to see reach the big screen, what the hell is wrong with Hollywood?

    Haven't seen The Help and have no plans to. Saw Red Tails, didnt think it was that bad but you're right there was some poor character development and I found it hard to identify with the characters until the end. I have a few comments on that subject: Lucas wrote 3 scripts for Red Tails. A prequel and a sequel so this movie naturally fell in the middle. I THINK this is why the characters werent that well developed – not that this is an excuse. Further, Lucas has been accused of poorly developing characters his entire career, even in his most critically acclaimed film, Star Wars. This may simply be a reflection of his director attributes. That said, I did think the movie was shot very well, which is what iiii expected of Lucas, not a highly or well developed story.

    I've never seen an An Oversimplification of Her Beauty but it sounds interesting. You were spot on with the Luther recommendation (I finished seasons 1 and 2 last weekend lol) so maybe I'll look into this as well. I do tend to like indie films and private releases. That is actually one thing Netflix is good for. I digress…

    I'll end by taking what seems to be the un-popular opinion on Hollywood and white folks in general. I dont think Hollywood or white folks in general are as racist as most would have you believe. I think Hollywood likes one color over all others, green. At best, I would think Hollywood is insensitive, which does inherently make them biased but not necessarily racist. They make movies they know will make money, period. If you target a movie to a black audience, you've largely alienated a majority of the population from the gate. That sucks but that's the reality we live in. Frankly, if African American movies made $100 million each release, every movie would be black and Caucasians would be complaining. But…they do not. Furthermore, Red Tails made like $20 million opening weekend. That's nothing compared to your typical Tyler Perry movie and/or likely what this Steve Harvey spin-off Think Like A Man will do.

    I don't begrudge anyone for their movie choices. People can do whatever the hell they want as far as I'm concerned but Hollywood is far more interested in how we speak with our wallets than how we complain and moan on Twitter, Facebook and the blogs with our hands – which does not equate to money. Sorry, true story. So if you slammed your wallet shut on Red Tails, whatever your motivation, but will open it freely for movies like Think Like A Man and Tyler Perry movies, you can't get mad when Hollywood continues to force feed you the latter when that is what you – and by "you" I mean you or the people around you – pay to see. That's just plain smart business, ECO 101.

    Personally, I don't understand why people get mad at Hollywood for not wanting to invest $90 million into a movie that will only make $20 million, Red Tails, when they can invest $20 million into ignorant or stereotypical movie that will gross $100 million – like a number of, albeit not all, Tyler Perry Movies. Is it fair? No, it sucks. I wish Hollywood would take more chances and take a loss on a few movies to give us quality content with movies that predominately feature African American characters because whether I like it or not, seeing Red Tails with a number of actors who resembled myself? I'm not going to lie, it made me a little bit proud to see because it is such a rare occurrence. However, when I looked around and saw a mostly empty movie theater filled with, ironically, a mostly Caucasian audience, I understand why Hollywood doesnt make more positively reflective movies for people like "us" – and sadly, I can't even really blame them.

    My recent post When Your Parents Become Mortals

    1. Black ppl are notorious for being full of it in regards to support eachother (see: ninjas complaining about hip hop is dead but aint bought an album since 2002, ppl not watching black sitcoms until its been cancelled and running in syndication). As easy as it is to blame hollywood they are simply following the market we create we rather watch Tyler Perry impersonate Grandma-ma and watch the inaccurate portrayals of black relationships.

    2. "I think Hollywood likes one color over all others, green. At best, I would think Hollywood is insensitive, which does inherently make them biased but not necessarily racist. They make movies they know will make money, period."

      + one hundid thousand trillion

    3. "So if you slammed your wallet shut on Red Tails, whatever your motivation, but will open it freely for movies like Think Like A Man and Tyler Perry movies, you can't get mad when Hollywood continues to force feed you the latter when that is what you – and by "you" I mean you or the people around you – pay to see. That's just plain smart business, ECO 101"

      ^^^^ It really is that simple

      Maybe it's my own naivete, but I think Hollywood wants to find its black Vincent Chase. It just seems like black actors don't take chances with their own careers. I mean, you can only portray the whole "guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy goes into simp mode to get girl back, girl realizes her life is incomplete w/out guy" but so many times before you lose that appeal for other projects.

      Even before you talk about budgets or actors, though, I look at the black cinema "problem" as something that starts w/ screenwriters. If you look back at the black cinema run from like 94-2003, all of those movies were pretty much the same and had an identical formula. They either dealt with the intricacies of a relationship or the dynamics of a family. Fast forward to 2012, that prevailing theme in black cinema has not change. Whereas our white counterparts have sought out to do book adaptations, supernatural and fantasy, and the horror genre. We put ourselves in the box of being 1 trick ponies. So we can't expect Hollywood to treat us any different than such.

      Sidebar: Matt Cherry's The Last Fall is gonna be showing at SXSW and hopefully branch out in major cities. It'll be interesting to see how black ppl will jump on that to support

  10. I’ve only seen Red Tails. It was agood entertaining movie. Not a blockbuster but worth the cost of admission. I think a lot of times black cinema wants every movie to to have every concept built into to satisfy every posible audience…not going to happen

  11. The Help was surprisingly good to me….I was not expecting very much from the film and I only went to be nosey and see what the hype was about. I had a perceived notion about what I felt I would get from the movie and was pleasantly wrong. Haven’t seen Red Tails yet and I want to just to show support but that story has already been told so many times already. I am getting more interested in independent films there are some wonderful black films that are independent that I have seen.
    My recent post Stupid Girl…Wise Woman…MY Testimony

  12. Saw "The Help" but that's it. It was…. frustrating. But I had just listened to the book on tape, so I really should have skipped it. I'm sick of the images and I think they're detrimental to my psyche.

    Red Tails simply didn't interest me. At all. And "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" I had simply never heard of.

    I see a ton of movies… even ones I'm not sure I will like… I probably see a movie in the theater every/every other week, including every Tyler Perry film. Usually, I see black films opening weekend.

    I think a movie that could have easily filled the "good and also heading to mainstream" gap was Pariah. I'm surprised it's not included in the post. It was excellent.
    My recent post Dating Challenge Week 3: The Final Chapter

  13. this is a really good post.

    i for one am just as tired of seeing movies about black folks in extraordinarily struggled situations, being beaten down by life, as i am reading about (black) women getting played, used, or being unable to get and/or keep a man.

    the everyday nuance is what is missing from the stories of black people, on big screens and computer screens. Melancholy for Medicine is one of my fav independent movies because there is no epicness. it's just a brilliantly shot movie about a day in the life of two normal black folks. i'll def be checking out An Oversimplification of Her Beauty now. i think Love Jones attempted to do the everyday life of Black Folks Like Us and they did it well, but that's the last i can think of a movie that got it right in that aspect.

    i enjoyed Red Tails in the theater, but i was more determined to enjoy it than anything. i noticed some of the flaws right away but chose to ignore them or not mention simply because it was a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. The Help i haven't seen nor read but i feel like i might have to just to see Viola and Octavia. last i saw Octavia she was playing a crazy woman that talked to the spirits of dead animals in Dinner for Schmucks, so i'm happy for her.

    historic tales are worth telling, but you're right, i think there is more than enough space in between the far left and far right to fit some normalcy in. it's so much easier to write a movie about something magnified than it is to write about "normal" brilliantly. maybe you and i should write it. lol
    My recent post Disheveled

  14. My sentiments exactly, does anybody make real ish anymore *yeezy voice*. Black Hollywood continues to bunt singles instead of going different. Cant an african american come up with a Narnia or Harry Potter or we just gonna keep biopicing every notable black person in history

  15. Good post.

    Its going to take someone to just make that movie, to fill in the space, in order for doors to open. ITs the only way

  16. I don't want to get into a conversation about black cinema here today, but I did want to say something and if you haven't seen Red Tails, there's some spoilers in this sh*t.

    That movie was horrible. I feel like they wrote a $200 million film and only had $75 million to shoot it, but didn't send it back to the writers, they just filmed it quickly and moved on. They never explained the necessary thing to make the character development work. The plot was horrible and all over the place. They left many things open, there won't be a prequel or sequel because nobody gives a damn anymore. Take for example, Easy, they did a horrible job with his addiction. It didn't make any sense because we could never tell it was affecting his performance. It just came out of nowhere. I don't know who to blame the most, but honestly, I expect that George Lucas would have watched the end product and then made sure that film never saw the light of day and shelved it. It will be on Starz-Black and played at 3AM when no one is paying attention and the movie will not receive anything higher than a half of star.

    People just give it credit because it was a good cause. And therein lies the problem with Black cinema, you have too many moviegoers with suspect as hell opinions about movies. That's the problem. And you have to get people on the same page. Because look man, white people know not to take Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson or old school Adam Sandler seriously. Black people take certain movies seriously that are dumb as hell and so think about it, the Academy has no reason to respect our films.

    And … just to end on this note, I agree with Denzel, "It's a statue of a white dude that don't look Black." Nobody should care about the acceptance of that Academy or the Golden Globes or the SAG. Who really cares? It's what we think. And the majority of Black people can't sit through a great movie. They need to laugh and sneak Bojangles into the movie theater.

  17. I haven't seen any of the movies but I will say that you and I are on the same page with this statement:

    "I yearn for the day that black American stories- ones without agendas can be made and appreciated for their quality and nothing else."

  18. I saw "The Help" when it came out in the theaters and "Red Tails" as well. I'm not a real huge movie critic nor do I get real deep in thought on the intricasies of film. Personally, I liked both movies. They weren't the best movies I ever seen nor were they the worst. I just remember when the final credits rolled my initial thoughts after both of them were, 'hmm…not bad…probably won't buy the DVD, but I liked it'.

  19. Now about all this Tyler Perry stuff….I don't think we necessarily need less of Perry, but more of other positive films to help represent black cinema. Obviously, Perry has a fan base and a committed one at that and I for one can't totally go all in and hate on man that built something from nothing and is making the kind of bread he's making. I often wonder, however, if there is a certain level of correlation between one's education level or willingness to learn and aspiration to progress to the type of art (movies, tv, plays, museums, etc..) they find entertaining/appealing. Do people find themselves too "smart" or too "good" to enjoy a Tyler Perry film, perhaps? I seriously doubt it, but I wonder sometimes

    1. …I don't mind people disliking a certain type of movie…but I feel some people expend way too much energy explaining why and how it shouldn't ever be watched. I would say those people should consider hanging their intelligence on more important issues/causes. I'm not a huge Perry fan…only really enjoyed maybe 2 movies he had made, but I know way more people who enjoy all of his stuff than those who like none of it. And I don't know….maybe that's the problem? Or is it really a problem? *stares out of window and ponders*

  20. I'm the writer/director of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and I want to thank you for your kind words about the film Mr. Spradley. I would say that the middle ground between my film and 'The Help / Red Tails' ARE films like Pariah, Middle of Nowhere, Gun Hill Road, Wolf, and The Last Fall. All films that accurately capture everyday Black life in a creative but accessible – to – the – masses way.
    My recent post Making the Movie Day 2058

    1. Thanks for the comment homey. Really appreciate you dropping by and offering further insight into the state of black film making – from the perspective of a black film maker.

      And also – thanks for giving the world such an amazing film. Best of luck as you move forward with it. singleblackmale.org and the whole SBM fam is behind you 100%

  21. Honestly, I just want one film featuring a Black woman that talks like me without it being made fun of like it isn't normal.
    I have nothing in common with Tasha Smith's characters in movies.
    I cannot relate to one Tyler Perry story.
    I just want someone to make an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with black people in it. I want a STORY with Black people IN IT. I don't wan't a BLACK STORY.

    1. I want a STORY with Black people IN IT. I don't wan't a BLACK STORY.

      Ditto. What I want is for deserving black actors and actresses to get as much of a chance to make it as their white counterparts. I don't need to see a screen full of black people, just like I don't yearn to see a screen full of white people. I simply don't want it to be a rare occurrence to see people of different backgrounds in major roles.

    2. If anyone were to ever make my book Savannah's Curse into a movie, I think you would be satisfied. My books, although the main characters are AA, are universal stories.

      In the end, the consumers and where they spend their money dictates that or the fact that some producer goes out on a limb and makes it happen by any means necessary 🙂
      My recent post Frances Harper and Contest

  22. Didn’t see The Help or RedTails – neither got my interest. Saw An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and I would pay to watch it again. Although movies like that I prefer to watch alone, I would still support it in theaters.

    As far as what I’d like to see on the big screen, I’d say more creativity, less ‘formulas that sell.’ But to name a specific genre, I’d like to see more sci-fi (well black sci-fi).

  23. Hollywood only sees green.

    There are plenty of good books by AA authors that would make great movies; however its rare that they are adapted into that medium because of what the powers that be think won't sell.

    My book Savannah's Curse or even my latest Ruthless would be great on the silver screen. One is suspenseful and the other is a modern tale of David and his ruthless behavior. The characters are three dimensional and it would be hard to mess that up in a film adaption.

    I wanted Redtails to succeed because the people who finance movies were watching and trying to determine whether they should invest their money on another AA film that isn't a comedy or romantic comedy.
    My recent post Frances Harper and Contest

  24. I’m not going to go all into detail but…I read enough of The Help on Amazon where my suspicions were confirmed. Poor attempt at dialect/colloquialism, cheeriness/angst of the young protagnonist; no helping for me. I had no desire to see the movie before or after my readings. I found the premise too unbelievable: black maids risking their livelihood telling how it was to work for white people to a white person who was their superior by birth. And in the end, one is empowered after LOSING her job. I must admit, I am curious about the coprophagous ingestion. Was that in the book? Why wasn’t the maid arrested?

    Anyway – Red Tails. Mr. Spradley, I agree with you. The movie was entertaining because of all the action (hyped further by Boondocks’ own Aaron McGruder) and the chance for women to see a lot of brothers on the silver screen who didn’t all die (Glory). A Soldier’s Story it was not. The main disappointment was there was not a hint of any of the men having women back home that they cared about or who were anxiously waiting for their husband, son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, boyfriend, lover to safely return home. All it would have taken was to show a man reading a letter, looking art a photo, seeing a man writing a letter. But nooooo, the ONLY love interest was an Italian, white woman. I thought that was realistic, however. Where was a brother going to find anyone who wasn’t white? I just feel it was so sad that we were totally left out of the equation. I’m from Detroit where one of our mayors was a Tuskegee Airman. We have a museum here for them. I have seen some of them speak at least twice. But…the last time I saw one (last weekend) and had a chance to voice my disappointment, he was telling me that it wasn’t pertinent to the story or something. We didn’t have much time to discuss it but he was talking about the way stories aren’t the reality when turned into movies. (Oh, really?) He told me they were never in Romatelli (sp?). Damn that. I will never excuse the absence of black females’ presence in the ENTIRE movie.
    Yes. I’d be interested in seeing the other movies mentioned. I get the feeling that another black woman will not victoriously walk off into the sunset with no job, her step-brother/son, or HIV, at the end.

    I’m not up to reading any of the comments because I don’t want to get any more deep into this since I should be doing other things. So, if I said similar things as those who have written earlier, please excuse me. Thanks for the article.

  25. If a movie does not appeal to to me or my interests, I'll pass on it regardless of genre, topic, actor, etc., etc…I go to movies to be entertained, plain and simple.

  26. I just recently had a movie night , just me and netflix, and watched some wonderful black films. I wasn't planning on having a movie night but when I asked my cousin whats a good movie to watch he mentioned Harlem Nights. I've never seen the movie and beside the wonderful black movies of the 90's that I dearly miss seeing (Love Jones, The Best Man, How Stella got Her Groove Back, etc) I haven't watched any good black movies in these past years that I would keep in my arsenal of "favorites". In the back of my mind and sometimes in causal conversation I speak of my disappointment with black films that have been coming out lately and them not having a relateable vibe..that makes me think "Hmm..I feel it!".

    But I digress…I was so excited watching Harlem Nights and went on a search on my Netflix account to find more. I ended up watching She's Gotta Have It…Paid in Full…basically anything with a African-American base and was some what of a classic. And I have to tell you it was so refreshing!

    I haven't seen The Help but I had a feeling I would have the same reaction as you did..I still plan to watch it eventually because I always find it interesting to watch these black movie that white people flock to…I feel like it's my job to know how they are depicting us…lol
    I also had that same feeling towards Precious…and all I can say is that I don't plan on watching that movie again.

    Me and African Studies teacher have discussed in great detail Red Tails.. another movie I haven't seen but was very skeptic as to how they would depict this movie. We discussed that fact that there were NO black woman in the movie and we both thought that was Crazyyyy…lol and the only woman was a white woman that some player turned himself around for…..*blinks in bewilderment* lol..like are you serious!! No images of black love in this movie..no one had a wife..a girlfriend…a boo…a booty call..lol..nothing (jk about the booty call)..Its not a good look and I think kind of bold for star wars guy to do..but I need to see the movie for myself………

    But yeah I agree I hope something changes…

    Great article!!!!!!

  27. as a side note… i just read how oversimplification of her beauty was released after being executive produced by jay-z…. a year later… and that is how Spradley tries to put people on to game


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