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Monday, January 21, 2008

More Hollywood Shenanigans....

I'm only gonna do a couple of short posts was my berffday weekend (me and the King!) and I have been practically bathing in lemondrop martinis, topped off with a Jim Beam-sponsered party last night. I don't know how those hillbillys drink that stuff. Needless to say today I am feeling the full effects of it.

I just wanted to mention this, tho, and was wondering if anyone else has noticed a trend. I saw the movie "Cloverfield" (which by the way, was a very fine piece of filmmaking.....if anyone tells you it wasn't off the hinges, they are too jaded to be going to the movies).

The previews were extremely interesting to me....there were four, and they all seemed to star the same white, bland, faceless, 23 year old girly-man as the main character. I'm serious. I could not tell if the dudes were different or the same. But what was more interesting/disappointing was that there seems to be a new type of "magical negro" sprouting.

For those of you who don't know, the "magical negro" in a film is a black character that exists solely to give the central or main white characters advice, life lessons, help, or come-uppance in a film. They seem to have no other existence or pleasure in life other than helping said YT in their journey. Examples of this are Will Smith in Bagger Vance, MCD in The Green Mile, and Scatman Crothers in "The Shining".

Anyhoo--there seems to be a new league of these coming up, but they are the "heavy"-- intimidating rather than subservient. They give the white character their come-uppance, albeit in a violent way, and they are:

-dark (which I'm fine with)

-super violent and/or menacing in every way

-completely second banana to this bland, faceless white dude

-actors that should have their own films with top billing.

The ones seen in the previews were Laurence Fishburne, Djimon Hounsou, and Samuel Jackson.

I must say that I don't believe I was making too much of viewing these previews, and what really gets me is the trailers probably contain about 10 to 15 seconds of each of them, regardless that you can tell they are very central to the story and probably get tons of screentime in the actual films themselves. What value are they placing on some of our communities most loved male actors? What kind of message are they sending out by making these films? Why are these major actors playing second fiddle to some kid I've never seen before and don't care about? WTF is up with this type of marketing in the trailers? Who are they marketing to, cause it most certainly doesn't seem to be us.

We are invisible even in the movie trailer realm. What do you guys make of this? What action should we be taking besides "witholding our dollars" which is a start, but imho not that effective of a message?

On a lighter note, for a funny caption on Digimon aka Djimon, click here.


aulelia said...

I do agree with you totally on this new type of magical negro! It is sad in a way though about Djimon Hounsou because I could have seen him doing edgier films to an extent because of his accent and his presence.

Larry Fishburne is a really good actor; Samuel L. Jackson could have had a career that orbited out of this world but instead...Black Snake Moan? Hmmm...

happy bday! said...

Maybe we better apply the Korean model (to successful business ownership).

I figure, for starters, we'll have to prolly look at pooling our money in some form.

I wonder what their model is and if it's applicable. I do know it's insanely successful.

Happy Bday! Mine is Saturday. LOL!

Whatever the solution is, I believe it will involve money: withholding it and/or pooling it.

Sergio said...

You made the exact same comments that I made in my review of Cloverfield (which I liked very much too) But C"MON, in a city like N.Y., which is the most ethnically diverse city on the planet, all they could come up with in the movie are a bunch of white Gen X'ers? O.K. yeah sure these that bi-racial chick and that black army soldier who gets like 2 minutes of screen time. BUT THAT'S IT?????

Regina said...

Happy belated Birthday!
I have been reading that this movie is a hit on other blogs. Havn't seen it yet, so whatever.
I have noticed the super negro being seen more and more in movies. I think the most fresh super negro movie in my mind is "The Island" the super negro here also was Djimon. I like the movie but wasn't that thrilled with his big, little part...

Qadree said...

I don't know if I would call this a new trend. Hollywood always updates the archetypes to keep them relevant, but this particular archetype was born along with the rest of them in the days leading up to "The Birth of a Nation". I guess what your referring to could be called the newest wave or variant of the violent/dark archetype, often referred to as the "brutal black buck".

There are many books that breakdown the archetypes, but I prefer Black Manhood on the Silent Screen, by Gerald R Butters.

Many other people seem to prefer the books by Donald Bogle and Thomas Cripps.

Another good book that looks more at the trends surrounding the archetypes and includes some very good research on film criticism from black film critics is Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949, by Anna Everett.

As far as creating change goes, my biggest emphasis right now is supporting the independent filmmakers and finding ways to make certain ideas common knowledge.

The way I see it there is a hierarchy of knowledge when it comes to cinema. At the top are the scholars and critics, followed by reviewers and people like myself who admire the scholars level of knowledge and want to either be critics, filmmakers, or both. Beneath this is a whole range of people from hobbyists on down to those that just want to be entertained.

I mention this because I think it's important to have outlets at each level where people who are interested can go to learn. If this doesn't happen I wouldn't expect the quality of cinema to get any better because there won't be anything to fuel it once it reaches a certain level. I'm going to start posting to my blog again next Monday, the goal being more critical discourse with an emphasis on black cinema, and I don't expect people who just want entertainment to get much out of it.

Danielle said...

Maybe I'm just pissin' in the wind, but why not take it back in time. Oscar Micheaux and all those great black film makers during the turn of the century held it down because we weren't represented.

Why keep knocking on H'Wood's door when we can make our own? What's up w/the lack of entrepeneurial spirit in the community? Why not just creat our own production companies/studios and make the films we want to see our damn selves?

BTW, IW Happy Belated Birthday!

Invisible Woman said...

@aulelia: I must say, I'm not pleased. And Digimon does deserve better.

@blackactor: how could we do it to fund a film or studio? let me know and i will definitely post it.

@qadree: i'm gonna post your comment today.

@danielle: it's funny you bring that up, cause I have an interview with an actor/director coming up tomorrow, and I feel like he has some excellent suggestions inlined with yours.

@everybody: thanks for the B'day wishes :-)

Leslie said...

They're (roles) like the male version of Mammy. White people like the comfort, always come to mammy to take care of them. Goes back to slavery. Shame, but true.

Invisible Woman said...

Good point, Leslie.