When I wrote “unrealistic blacks” a few days ago, something else crossed my mind but I didn’t have time to scribble about it then. It was this thing about black leading men and women in the movies.
You ever notice how black leads need to be supported by white co-stars but white leads can hold a movie on their own? Why is that? Are white audiences not comfortable with “black movies?” ‘Cause I think if a film has a black lead AND black co-star, it effectively becomes a “black movie” and that keeps white audiences (the main money spinners) away from the movies. Here’s what I mean:
If you give Will Smith the lead in Men in Black, you have to place Tommy Lee Jones next to him. If you let Will Smith do iRobot, Bridget Moynahan will whiten things out for the audiences. If Will Smith takes on Focus, throw in some Margot Robbie. It has to be Margot Robbie, it can’t be Gabrielle Union or Regina King because then you have two black leads which makes it a black movie….which, in turn, reduces its earnings potential at the Box Office.
Take Denzel Washington as another example. If Denzel does Unstoppable, you’ve got to have Chris Pine as the other guy. If Denzel takes on the role of Tobin Frost in Safe House, then Ryan Reynolds gets to play Matt Weston. If Denzel takes the leads in Training Day and American Gangster, then Ethan Hawke and Russell Crowe have to take the co-leads respectively. Ethan Hawk HAS to be the naïve rookie cop who later overthrows the rogue detective and saves the day. I repeat, Ethan Hawk HAS to be that guy, not Don Cheadle, not Anthony Mackie. Why? Because if you gave that co-star role to either of these very capable black actors, then you’d have a black movie on your hands…which, unfortunately, is a Box Office NO! NO!
Jamie Foxx is another decent black actor. In White House Down, he was capably assisted by Channing Tatum. In the brilliant Law Abiding Citizen he had Gerard Butler for company, while in Collateral, he had Tom ‘Cruising’ alongside him. But did Tom Cruise need a black co-star in Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, or Knight and Day? Did Channing Tatum need a black co-star in the Jump Street or Magic Mike movies? Or Gerard Butler – did he need a black co-star in Playing for Keeps or Olympus has Fallen? And please don’t say he had Morgan Freeman. ☺
I guess you can’t really blame movie studios, can you? They do millions of dollars worth of research and clearly white audiences aren’t as willing to take in a black movie as well as black audiences will gladly watch white-led movies with white supporting casts to boot. There is, of course, the odd exception to the rule here and there. Bad Boys is one such movie. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence carry the franchise exceptionally well and the movies both did fantastic at the box office. But like I said, it’s the exception. Usually, if you have too many black leads (two is too many), you end up with Brown Sugar, or New Jack City, or Bamboozled …all fantastic films, but films white audiences wouldn’t take too kindly to.
As for me, some (most) of my favourite movies are “black movies”. Dead Presidents, Juice, the aforementioned New Jack City, Higher Learning, Friday, Boy N the Hood, Menace II Society…I could watch them all day, every day, any damn day with or without the lily white Box Office numbers.
*just scribbling my movie thoughts*
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