The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Sunday, July 06, 2008

More on "Hancock"

Back to Hancock, both because a reader asked it, it came up at a 4th of July party, and because I've decided that I actually am angry at Will Smith. I think it is reasonable to hold people who have his wealth and power responsible for their actions. How else can we control and guide our society other than expressing approval for the behaviors we approve of, and disapproval for those we don't? He didn't create the game board, but he's playing at such a level that there is no way that he, his children, or grand-children would be hurt if he decided to make nothing but small movies from here on out.

But there is a balancing view: that Morgan Freeman's spiritual guides, Sam Jackson's emasculated bad-asses, Denzel Washington's noble neuters, Eddie Murphy's prosthetic camouflage and Smith's harmless Vunderkind personaes have set the stage for Barack Obama. And when (I think it was) Butterfly McQueen was asked "why do you play maids?" she replied "Honey, If I hadn't played one, I would have been one." So I don't resent Halle Berry whoring herself to get an Oscar for "Monster's Ball"--there is a tremendous insult if one applies McQueen's comment to Berry's screen personage, but I'll let you work that one out for yourself.

#

Back to "Hancock", those caveats aside. At the 4th of July party, a lady made a tremendously insightful observation that I will amplfy a bit.

"Iron Man", "The Hulk", "Fantastic Four" "Spider-Man" "Bat Man" and so forth have a common thread running through them: the heroes are all brilliant scientists who are courageous if not also wealthy and sexy. In other words, they express the healthy self-image of white people, especially white males.

"Hancock", the first major film with a black superhero, is about a foul-mouthed, alcoholic bum who is occassionally useful but destructive. He is rescued by a white man who, in order to rehabilitate him, demands he go to prison (!) to "serve his debt to society." Irresistably drawn to a white woman forever out of his reach, she is his Delilah, and he weakens if he touches her. They cannot have sex. He can't have sex at all (they cut a scene where, shades of "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex") he blows a woman through the side of his trailer with his super-sperm. On the other hand, the white woman, who has equal powers, appears to have no trouble at al having sex. Her involuntary vaginal contractions seem to have no real bizarre attributes. As Superman can have sex. Hancock cannot.

We learn that he lost his powers because racists didn't like him holding hands with a white woman.

At the end, he sacrifices everything so that the white couple can continue to screw happily ever.

In other words, Hancock matches the most negative stereotypes imaginable that whites have of blacks. And the film was ruined when half-way through, I think someone realized the road they had accidentally traveled, and tried desperately to stop from saying what their subconscious was so eager to reveal.

#

Smith probably knew, just as he knew that "Wild Wild West" was off the rails. But it's hard to resist 20 million dollars. How many of you wouldn't have appeared in that movie for twenty million dollars? Be honest. But I can still be angry.

#

Casting the white woman? Just the toxic frosting on a rancid cake. The fact that she is South African is just an incredible "coincidence", in a universe that has none. In all likelihood, not one person involved in the project consciously thought about this, but think about it: this movie will probably be Smith's biggest bomb in a decade. The subliminal message? DON'T TOUCH WHITE WOMEN.

Now, most people will probably stop with the interracial aspect, without grasping that black men don't have sex with ANYONE. It isn't just white women. And sisters, I feel you on the discomfort you felt when she appeared. I hear about it on the radio, in conversations, in magazines: you don't want Denzel or Will boffing white women. But, and I say this with all affection, you do NOT complain as loudly when Halle screws Billy Bob Thornton or Pierce Brosnan, or Thandie Newton screws Tom Cruise. You remain curiously quiet. As black men weren't likely to complain much back when Jim Brown screwed Stella Stevens in "Slaughter" forty years ago. That's natural. Every group wants all the advantages, and every group wants all the advantages for themselves. I remember back in the 60's I heard black radical males saying it was better for black men to screw white women than for black women to screw white men. I thought they were full of shit, and said so.

And I know black women now who say that it is better for black women to marry white men than for black men to marry white women. This is exactly, precisely, the kind of self-serving nonsense that allows any group to claim they have the right to control what others do using judgement and shame.

So when you flinch to see Will Smith approach Charlize Theron, I empathize. I hope you flinched as much watching "Die Another Day." If you did, bravo.

#

Denzel and Will both understand the game, and both lie about what they're doing. Denzel supposedly refuses love scenes because he's "promised the sisters he won't screw white women onscreen." Note what was left out there? Think about it. All right, what's left out is: then why don't you have love scenes with black women? Eddie Murphy? After "Boomerang" (God, I had hopes!) America bought him off by offering him obscene amounts of money for PG family-friendly movies. Don't be dangerous, Eddie. Don't drop trou, and we'll make you incredibly rich. All you have to do is leave your dick at home.

Will Smith talks about making family movies, and the fact that he and his agents sat down and calculated the most successful films: science fiction action family films. So that's why he doesn't have sex in these movies? And what explains "Bad Boys II"? If you cut out all the R-rated material, you'd have a short subject.

I first noticed the game Smith was playing with America during "Bad Boys." The lead woman was sexy, and Smith played a playboy detective. The natural outcome? Sex, of course. Because the lead was white, I KNEW that wasn't going to happen, and sat in the theater wondering how they were going to work around it. Oh! Martin Lawrences' character was married, and the two characters got 'confused" so that the woman was with Lawrence while Smith was with Lawrences' wife. Hilarity ensued...for anyone who didn't see the naked manipulation.

Step back. "Six Degrees of Separation". He's gay. Hmmm. "Independence Day"--BIG leap forward. Love that movie. He gets a big, juicy kiss. I have no complaints, and rub my hands, anticipating nookie to come. "Men in Black"--some "sexy" double entendres, but nothing.

"Enemy of the State." Well, his wife wears negligee in one scene, although they're nowhere near a bed. Still, I have hope. Maybe next time. "Wild Wild West." He's kissing a nameless woman in the beginning, so I had hope. Then...another kiss or two, and he ends up riding into the sunset with Kevin Klein, who appeared in drag, and was also in "In and Out" as a homosexual. Hmmm. Nice way to make the threatening Black Male unthreatening, no?

"The Legend of Bagger Vance" pure, humiliating spiritual guide. "Ali" Ah! Smith's only love scene. But even though played with his own WIFE, (could you get more non-threatening than that?) the film failed at the box office. Coincidence, of course.

"Men In Black II" Nothing.

"Bad Boys II"? A "Clever" situation where he's dating Martin Lawrence's sister, see, and Lawrence can't know they're dating...so in the entire movie he gets exactly one kiss.

"I, Robot"? Nothing.

"Shark Tale"? Well, I believe his animated character kissed an animated Renee Zellwegger. Yum.

"Hitch"? The most interesting yet. An actual relationship, although non-sexual. This script went through vast re-writing, and I can bet why. A bunch of things made this film possible (from my perspective)

1) the lead was Latina. Since "Bandolero" with Jim Brown and Raquel Welch, Latinas have been a safe middle ground. Not a white woman, and without the genetic threat of watching a black man and woman indulge in reproductive behavior.

2) The entire (unusually strong) B-Story involved helping Kevin James get a white woman. No cock-block here!

3) The coming attraction PROMENENTLY featured Smith kissing Kevin James. Again, emasculating the scary black man. No threat here!

4) No sex

#

Honestly, I loved 'Hitch" and again my hopes raised...

"The Pursuit of Happyness"--never so much as kissed Thandie Newton.

"I Am Legend" --the original book by Richard Matheson, "The Last Man int he World" with Vincent Price, and "Omega Man" with Charton Heston all made much of the lead's encounter ith the last woman in the world. Heston screwed Rosalind Cash (a black woman). In contradiction of the original story, and all biological and sociological impulses, when the "last man in the world" meets the "last woman" in Smith's movie, he is completely uninterested in sex, and commits suicide as quickly as possible. NOT ONE WHITE CRITIC NOTICED. Of course not. These images work to the advantage of white males, who, as long as they don't consciously notice, get to bask in the myth that they are the hottest, smartest, sexiest, deadliest critters on the planet.

And then Hancock. Knowing Smith's history, and the game he's playing, it is glaringly obvious what went wrong, and why it did: nobody was honest about the game they were playing: giving white people the image of black men they're comfortable with, while SLOWLY increasing the range of roles available to black men. God it's slow, and painful. And twenty years from now, Smith will probably be honest about what he was doing. Right now, he's making bank, and in his one way, changing the face of Cinema.

I still bet that he'll be the first to break the barrier. My guess: the movie that features him as sexual might cross the 100 million threshold...but his FOLLOWING film will take a big drop. Just my suspicion. "If Will Smith Can't Get Laid, Obama Can't Get Elected" is actually a reflexive social equation: "If Obama can get elected, Will Smith can get laid." With his half-white heritage, his African last name (he is not a product of slavery, and therefore doesn't hold the anger and fear that black American men feel, and doesn't trigger the same guilt reactions from whites) Obama has a real chance of his blackness not working against him as strongly as it does for most. And if he makes it, that changes the image systems in a heartbeat--you watch. Within one year of his taking office, there WILL be images of black men being sexual, and those films will be successful. And everyone will wonder what the fuss is, and try to pretend the last 50 years didn't happen.

But they did.

73 comments:

Michelle said...

"So when you flinch to see Will Smith approach Charlize Theron, I empathize. I hope you flinched as much watching 'Die Another Day'" If you did, bravo. "

I saw Hancock this weekend...I came out crying because the line and lesson on intolerance throughout the movies was incredible. I thought that lesson well played out. Other things I agree with you on...there were supposedly funny moments that should not have been. They have chemistry and it should have been consummated.

But that line up there...your line. So are you saying HOW DARE THEY CAST A WHITE WOMAN?

I'm gonna point something out and you can feel free to call me names later.

IT SHOULDN'T MATTER. I know it mattered to the filmmakers...I think it's clear it mattered to you. But it's not our men or their women...for godssakes. It really shouldn't matter who is with who as long as their happy.

The truely saddest part of Hancock was that at the end they still couldn't be together because of what they looked like. Not because of their powers or their origins.

That's the bullshit. Really. It's hateful that folks can't get past who shags who. It really shouldn't matter. I know it does but it's the stupidest thing around me at the moment that continuously rears it's head. Will Smith should have gotten the girl in Hancock. I take it as a comment on society that he didn't...and yes that comment is a four letter word.

But their's no reason she couldn't have been white.

Pat Logan said...

I haven't seen Hancock. It doesn't sound like a very good movie, so I might not.

Re: Independence Day -- So the fact that Will starts the movie off in bed with an incredibly hot woman means nothing? Or that their relationship and struggles was a huge subplot? It seems that to you, none of that matters, unless they're shown having sex.

I guess I might be old-fashioned, but I'd rather not watch people banging, white, black or otherwise. It adds nothing to the movie for me, and in a lot of cases, is awkward and poorly done.

Steven Barnes said...

Michelle and Pat--

ya both seemed to miss the point. The reason they shouldn't have cast a white woman is that it made it commercially impossible to develop a romance. If you think I don't love watching black men have sex with white, black, or Asian...heck, people are people. But commercial realities are realities.
#
Pat. I loved Independence Day, and said so. But it doesn't count as a film with a love scene. I have a quantifiable phenomenon going on here: white males have sex in 100 million-plus movies, black males don't. If you said: "isn't it interesting that we see men driving cars, but never see women driving cars" and I said: "well, there was a woman looking at a car in a showroom. There was a woman getting out of a car in a parking lot...why doesn't that count?" You'd know I was missing your point. Some percentage of people don't like sex scenes. Fine. But that has nothing to do with why black actors can't have sex without dooming their box office. That suggests social and economic pressure, which is my only point. It used to be "black men don't survive horror/action movies" to which white people said "but he died honorably" or "but some white people died, too", or "but the white lead avenged him..." once again, missing the point. There's SOMETHING going on here, and I have proposed a mechanism that has allowed me to predict film images for over 30 years. Until someone suggests another, simpler mechanism than innate human tribalism, I'll stick with my interpretation.

Steven Barnes said...

Or to put it another way, if I said: why don't you ever see black men in color films? No matter how many black and white films you discuss, no matter their quality, length, popularity, or subject matter, you haven't addressed my issue. I'd guess that the same percentage of black people like sexuality in films as white people. Black actors are just as eager to do them as white actors. The pressures are external, social, financial, and (in my theory) indicative of discomfort on the part of whites, especially white males--even if unconscious. But don't take that too personally. If positions were reversed, blacks would keep white male butts off the screen, believe it.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

If positions were reversed, blacks would keep white male butts off the screen, believe it.

A "positions reversed" on the getting killed first by the monster thing: My husband decided to show me a snippet from early in the Korean film The Host (which is one of the ones you can Netflix online). He didn't tell me anything about it before showing it, so, I was watching this snippet with a blond American guy prominently running around (along with a Korean guy) trying to rescue people from the monster. And, I'm wondering, is this going to turn out to be a Korean movie, or is it going to be one that sees Korea through American eyes?

Then the blond American got munched by the monster and I realized - Korean movie, and I've just watched a blond American guy in the "black guy who gets killed first by the monster" role.

Of course, Korean movies, however good, aren't going to beat out Hollywood and reverse the positions globally any time soon.

It was a good monster movie, though, when I watched it in full later.

Steve Perry said...

""Hancock", the first major film with a black superhero"

Um. Does X-Men count? Storm ... ?

Long as we are talking about whoring around and all.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I'd like to see someone do a movie on the Black Panther.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Are there movies that do justice to black characters that never hit it big in the box office? Would it be feasible to at least have direct-to-DVD movies? I realize that wouldn't address the evidence that too much of the white audience and money side of the movie industry wouldn't be comfortable with such movies, but at least black people would have movies that were sane for them, and if those movies did at least fairly well, it would be a clue that there's a market. Is it just that no one's gotten around to trying it, or are there external barriers?

Just while I'm thinking about it-- "Talk to Me" was a very good movie, and the lead had a girl friend who was clearly a sexual force of nature, but the black executive who has his life together and has a second career as a DJ showed a mysterious lack of girlfriends.

I second all recommendations of "The Host". Weird, funny, intense-- rather like "Little Miss Sunshine" in that a weird family doesn't need its weirdness toned down.

Steven Barnes said...

Steve: I meant star, solo. X-Men was a decent team film...but even there, if I'm not mistaken, Storm is the only main character with no connection to another human being. Even Xavier had Magneto.
#
There are lots of smaller movies that go to video. Like I said, the point is that I believe it reveals what Adam Smith might have referred to as the "Invisible Hand" of racism in the market place. Meaning: on an unconscious level, whites don't want blacks or Asians to breed. That part of the hindbrain wants us dead. And it's scary to see how persistent that rejection has been.
#
The Black Panther has been talked about for years. Wesley wanted to do it. My understanding is that a treatment exists, but he is no longer a Prince of the Wakanda. Honest to God, I do believe I heard that someone rewrote the character as an avenging janitor. I kid you not. Hmmm...I wonder about the ethnicity of the writer. Whatcha think?

Christian M. Howell said...

I think you should arrange a coup (I volunteer to be coordinating General). After all, white men don't give a shit.

I personally feel that no one deserves the beauty this world has to offer(reminiscent of your desire to eliminate all white men born before 1950).

If white men want their women exposed for everyone to see let them (the barefoot and pregnant thing works for movies too). I, for one, don't want to see anyone's tits or ass in a movie.

I have yet to watch a Halle Beery movie after Monster's Ball, the worst crap I ever thought would see an Oscar.

I really never thought about the racial aspects of the movie(Hancock). Perhaps I should have my black man card revoked. I thought it was an enjoyable movie.

I don't really think about discrimination because I take what I want. If there were more people like me, there wold be no racial arguments.

But then I guess we negroes should consider ourselves lucky as when was the last time you saw ANY OTHER MINORITY in a major tentpole?

I'd say never.

Of course, I don't appreciate the orphan black (one black man with no family) that is so common in mainstream movies, but again, we only write Do The Right Thing, Boys in The Hood and other movies where we celebrate our "blackness."

If I see one more movie based on someone shot in the 'hood, I'm going on the warpath.

Aaaah, but there is another being made about police in Brooklyn.

FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!!

They could have really embraced us and had him sagging with gold chains and had a chick with tattoos on her tits.

Why should white Hollywood change our direction? They shouldn't and won't.

After all, Hancock almost took Spiderman ($115M weekend) with $107M domestic and $185M worldwide.

I hope they make a sequel. I REALLY hope they don't have any sexual tension.

As far as the intellect of "other superheroes," black men that I come across would be offended if they were cast as straight-laced scientist types. At least that's what Lee, Singleton and Fuqua think.

Sure, it maybe an uphill battle to get a non-ghetto film about black people made but it would be worth it for me.


But back to the sex angle; what difference does it make? I don't want anyone looking at my ass on a 100ft. screen. Anyone who does is over-compensating.

I guess, sometimes, just because the other guy does it, it isn't the best course of action. But then again, I have yet to write a character that smokes, so I may be a bit of a prude.

Well, maybe not since I have very nearly had sex in a dance club.



Anyway, do what you gotta do.

Josh Jasper said...

I'm curious now - You've spoken to black actors - have you ever had the chance to talk to anyone about your observations who's been in part responsible?

I find myself wondering if it's isolation and submersion in a white dominated culture that doesn't even let Will Smith realize what's going on.

I'd bet good money that Avery Brooks knows exactly what you're talking about. But he's never had the stardom that Smith has. Does Hollywood select for black actors who're brilliant enough to make great movies, but unaware enough to realize the disparity of what Steve is talking about?

Do black actors who make enough of a noise about racial issues just not get the big roles?

Mark Jones said...

I have plenty of reason not like Hancock all on my own. But Steve's point is valid. If we'd had, I dunno, Daniel Craig playing Hancock, with Will Smith and Halle Berry as the PR guy and his wife, Craig and Berry would have been all over one another even if the story weren't otherwise changed. Still can't be together without losing their powers; Hancock still leaves the city. But we'd have seen some hot kitchen action that we definitely did NOT see in the movie as filmed.

Steven Barnes said...

Jeeze. I never said I want to eliminate all white men born before 1950. I said that the racial situation on film won't change until they're dead, and I think it's worth the wait. I wish them all long lives: it ain't their fault. No hard feelings. Death is the great equalizer.
#
Overcompensating to want to see images of yourself reflecting the full human experience? I think not. I also enjoy watching guys who look like me drive fast cars and program computers. And yep, an aesthetically filmed love scene is wonderful.
#
Yes, I've talked to black actors about the situation. And they hate it, but have to work. And like most people, they go where the money is. I don't blame them for being no more courageous than people in any other field.
#
Film production is now multi-national. There are virtually no independents, and none who can both produce, distribute and exhibit films. Things will change, and are on the verge of changing. Remember: I'm using this as a social barometer rather than saying "sob, sob! I need a sexual role model." I look at it as a way of measuring the hand of racism in culture and economics: there are others, but it's one I can point to and allow others to quickly research by hitting IMDB.com, a way to shut people up who think the playing field is level.

Steven Barnes said...

Oh, and as for other minorities in tentpole movies, Asians have been almost as excluded. Hispanics (Antonio Banderas?) do have presence, as long as they look white. But the fact that blacks are doing better than other minorities means what? That I should feel grateful? Or I should agitate for them? I've made the point that NO non-white males get to be sexual, but my special interest, of course, is the impact on my own life, and the life of my family. Everyone's world revolves around their own self-interest. So long as mine doesn't unfairly come at someone else's expense, I see no problem.

asha vere said...

I follow your point, but I'd add Wesley Snipes's Blade to the list of black superheroes. He got a couple of craptastic sequels, too.

Anonymous said...

The Black Panther appears in the direct-to-DVD animated feature Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006) as a central character, voiced by Jeffrey D. Sams.

In June 1992, Wesley Snipes announced his intention to make a film about the Black Panther.[20] By August, Snipes had begun working on the film.[21] In July 1993, Snipes announced plans to begin The Black Panther after starring in Demolition Man.[22] Snipes said in August 1993, "We have a wide-open field for comic book characters on the big screen and we've yet to have a major black comic book hero on the screen. Especially the Black Panther, which is such a rich, interesting life. It's a dream come true to originate something that nobody's ever seen before." Snipes expressed interest in making sequels to The Black Panther.[23] In January 1994, Snipes entered talks with Columbia Pictures to portray the Black Panther in the film adaptation of the comic book superhero.[24] The following March, Stan Lee joined the development process for a film about the Black Panther.[25] By May, the film was in early development with Columbia Pictures.[26] In January 1996, Stan Lee said that he had not been pleased with the scripts he had encountered for the Black Panther.[27] In July 1997, the Black Panther was listed as part of Marvel Comics' film slate.[28] In March 1998, Marvel hired Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti to work on the Black Panther film adaptation.[29] In August, corporate problems at Marvel had put the Black Panther project on hold.[30] In August 1999, Snipes was set to produce, and possibly star, in the film featuring the Black Panther.[31]

In Marvel's June 2000 deal with Artisan Entertainment to develop big- and small-screen products, the Black Panther was one of the four names (among Captain America, Thor, and Deadpool) that surfaced.[32] In March 2002, Snipes told Cinescape magazine that he planned to do Blade 3 or Black Panther in 2003.[33] In August 2002, Snipes said he hoped to begin production on Black Panther by 2003.[34] In July 2004, Blade 3 director David S. Goyer said that Wesley Snipes would not likely be Black Panther. "He's already so entrenched as Blade that another Marvel hero might be overkill," said Goyer.[35] In September 2005, Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad announced Black Panther as one of the ten Marvel films that would be developed by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures.[36] In June 2006, Snipes told Men's Fitness magazine that much work had been done toward a film adaptation of the Black Panther, and that he hoped to have a director soon.[37] In February 2007, Kevin Feige, president of production for Marvel Studios, stated that Black Panther was on Marvel's development slate.[38]

In July 2007, director John Singleton said that he was approached to do Black Panther.[39]

Vincent S. Moore said...

Steve,
The idea of the Black Panther as vengeful janitor actually comes from the 1970s.
As I understand it, a producer approached Stan Lee and then Editor In Chief Jim Shooter with the idea of making a Black Panther film. This producer said the story of an African prince wouldn't sell to Americans. But said that something like a New York garbage man that puts on a costume probably would work. Needless to say, both Lee and Shooter rejected the producer's pitch.
Given the Black Panther will hit airwaves as an animated series on BET, it will at least have a chance to capture the imagination of the public. Provided that anyone bothers tuning into BET to watch. Including the intented target audience of black people.

Anonymous said...

NOTE: David S. Goyer wrote all 3 Blade films & can be heard, along with Snipes, on the Blade 2 DVD commentary track, talking about how Blade is the most powerful & important character in a world full of hyper-sexual predators, and the closet he comes to sex is a graphic sex-analogue during which he drinks (nearly to death) from the intelligent black woman (who'd recently broken up with a white colleague) whose life he earlier saves, to restore his own power (she's absent from both sequels; and holding an incurably infected, hot-as-hell vampire chick as the morning sun dusts her in his arms. There are a couple of obviously post-coital deleted scenes as well.

Goyer also directed the pitiful Blade 3, in which Snipes becomes almost entirely asexual, and is relegated to growling straight-man (in his own movie!) for the two new hot, white, obviously sexually possible (check out the layers of clothing Snipes wears compared to everyone else) vampire hunting replacements. That was Goyers plan, by the way; to use Blade 3 to start a new franchise without Snipes.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post as always Steve. You're absolutely correct
Michelle. It shouldn't matter, but as long as WHITE SUPREMACY and it's effects are the LAY of the Global land, it DOES . I'm not sure your racial or ethnic background, but THAT line of thinking is part of the problem. As one who does work with ACTIVELY anti-racist WHITE folk (an organization called AWARE for example), I can tell you that your statement represents a cultural thought that makes it virtually impossible for meaningful, cross-cultural, interracial coalitions to form. Assuming you're NOT a Black person, your words are typical of folk who since birth experience the privilege and amenities of being white. Whites have little impetus to consider the effects of a system designed and perpetuated by White folk to oppress, malign, and destroy our images. I often hear and read from white folk who get indignant, possibly because of white guilt, when Black people talk about race. And I understand that even Poor WHite People don't have to even THINK about race, the WORLD constantly validates and supports who and what they are as WHITES. An excellent book I'd recommend, if you SINCERELY are interested in meaningful dialogue on race is called Witnessing for Whiteness: http://www.witnessingwhiteness.com/
It was written by one of my closest friends. I love her unabashed white-ness: born and raised in Orange County, curly blonde hair, blue eyed, non-hip hop lovin self! She's a Phenomenal human being, an anti-racist activist. I mean I feel you sistah, I really do; race is a man-made construct, but the EFFECTS of racism are all to real... peace and blessings!

Steven Barnes said...

You are absolutely right about Blade being the first real black superhero on film (I ain't gonna count "Meteor Man" or "Steel"). I think I forgot Blade because it was another, very painful example. Worse, it contributed to Wesley's exile from Hollywood. He was promised a love interest, but then after he signed the contract, Goyer reneged. Wesley flipped out, and the production on Blade 3 was a contentious nightmare. He's damned near black-balled in Hollywood, and makes most of his movies overseas, and they go direct to video. He stood up for himself, and see what happened. I hope Goyer needs a pint of my blood one day.

Anonymous said...

And I love Black Panther, got a slight issue with Luke Cage (!!) and Misty Knight. Storm in the comics is my girl, NOT feeling her in the film portrayed by Halle Berry. Have been hoping that someone would make a book called Shades of Memnon into a film. Apparently Bill Duke was thinking about it at some point...There are three books written of what is to be a 6 part series I believe. And then There's the matter of Aubry Knight! Hint hint...

salina said...

sorry, those two anonymous comments were from me, salina

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Well, good for Stan Lee turning down the vengeful janitor version, anyway; a Black Panther who isn't an African prince seems like a Hulk in which Bruce Banner isn't a scientist.

Anonymous said...

agreed! Kudos for Stan, because THAT would have been an affront of the WORST kind to us T'Challa fans around the world! -salina

Shady_Grady said...

Steve, since Goyer was born in 1965, I'm not as optimistic as you may be that the racial situation on film will change once the pre-1950 generation starts to relinquish control or pass on.

Blade 3 was an abomination but I remember thinking the avoidance of a love interest was REALLY obvious in Blade 2. The script had to do backflips to avoid having Blade and Nyssa(?) have a scene together.

I don't really know if this is ever going to change in "mainstream" movies. I think the only long term solution as far as imagery is for Blacks to produce, write, direct and attend our own movies. Such movies probably won't earn $100 million in one weekend.

On the other hand, perhaps some of the story lines would be better. I would like to see Jeff Stetson's "Blood on the leaves" or your own "Blood Brothers" made into films.

Marty S said...

Steve: In one sense you are 100% right. The answer to the question do we currently live in a colorblind society is no. Do Hollywood producers still have to cater to mostly white audiences preference for a white cast definitely. When my wife and I saw Tyler Perry's 'Why did I get married' we were the only white people in the audience, which was a shame because it was a good movie. But, I tend to be a glass is half full person and being a white male who was born in the forties I have been around to see a lot of positive change. I know it doesn't make things perfect for blacks today, but when I watch a TV commercial showing a black couple and their kids selling some everyday product I am amazed at how far we've come.

salina said...

well, Hancock is definitely the talk of the town. SHOckin when my aunt who often tells me: You need to let that Black stuff go! and Regularly refers to Black folk living outside of Middle Class as being "ghetto", especially when in the company of her upwardly mo-bile (bile lol) friends, agreeeed with me! A sad day in Hollywired! On the converse however, a Black male i know stated: "As far as mindless, salacious fun, I enjoyed it! There I said it!" His perspective? Since he KNOWWS and expects mainstream and blockbuster movies to be "propagandic, mindless, b.s that's generally used for money laundering..." he doesn't see the issue. Otherwise he said he'd be "flyblasting theaters everywhere" if he was anticipating them to have redemptive qualities. hmmmm...(my thinking sigh)

Christian M. Howell said...

Steve, don't get me wrong. It is f'd up, but the only thing to do is take those chances.

Again, I don't think sex is appropriate for a movie unless it's porn. I will never say that what white men do is what I want. So what they screw their women onscreen. A lot of them get sex changes or practice alternate lifestyles.

I won't be doing those either. I still liked the movie for what it was. A fun piece of fluff.

Just last night I was Die Hard 4 and McClane was still the same drunk who can't keep his wife happy.

I guess Hancock could have just been depressed but that would have been boring.

Michelle said...

"The reason they shouldn't have cast a white woman is that it made it commercially impossible to develop a romance."

And after watching the movie...it think that was the point of the movie right there...which made it a wonderful lesson. The movie states imo, that we still aren't ready. I came out crying for Wil Smith in that movie. An yes I think that point has been lost on the majority of people.

As for my background: white but apparently I was born and raised on another planet where I was taught it didn't matter who you boinked or married as long as the person had your back. I do have black and hispanic cousins. My daughter's step sister is black.


"Assuming you're NOT a Black person, your words are typical of folk who since birth experience the privilege and amenities of being white."

Now you're assuming that I grew up privileged. I grew up dirt poor, in a school that had one black person who was more popular than me but at least was nice to me. Most of the kids literally beat me down. I grew up in a town owned by a corporation. I grew up telling folks I was owned by the Texans, then the Japanese then the dog food company.

So let me make some assumptions...you never knew any poor white kids? I'll assume you've been told that you can't play with so and so because they are white? When I was a child in Denver I had my first encounter with racism when I was five. A young black boy and I played everyday together on the playground. One day he came up to me and told me that he couldn't play with me anymore because I was white. That memory has stayed with me all these years. Nearly twenty-five years later my daughter had her front teeth knocked out because two black kids on the playground because she was too white, that was the reason they gave the principal. I still can't explain it her. Is it racist for me not to want my daughter to understand that people can hate for the way someone looks? This girl has black, white, Asian and Hispanic friends and family...how do you explain to a child that someone hates her because of her skin color?

Minorities go through this every day and it's not right. But don't assume I have no understanding.

Steven Barnes said...

Of course I know poor white people. But that doesn't mean there aren't privileges to being white. Poor Southern whites clung to racism so hard because they were trying to protect those privileges. To see yourself reflected on every stamp, piece of money, member of the Senate, every President, every hero presented in the media...that is an incredible advantage, one so pervasive that most people don't even grasp it. Much like there are incredible advantages to being an American as opposed to being a citizen of most countries. Poor or not, the advantages are there. Back in the 80's it was estimated that if you were black, you would need a net worth of about half a million dollars to compensate for the automatic advantages of being born white, in terms of social mobility, life span, and opportunity. In other words, a poor white person had about the same life advantages as a middle-class black person. That's advantage, hon. Isn't as bad now, certainly.

Josh Jasper said...

Steve: Yes, I've talked to black actors about the situation. And they hate it, but have to work. And like most people, they go where the money is. I don't blame them for being no more courageous than people in any other field.

I think it's good that you're allowing yourself to be angry about it, and to express that in a public place.

It must drive them nuts to have to put out a public persona that says nothing about hating racism that's obvious to them, but invisible to white people.

Smith makes millions, and in some way that's a compensation, but in some ways, it might even feel worse to get that much money for in part denying that there's a problem. For being silent.

Anyhow, it might interest you to know that, in the Role Playing Game industry, even the white editors were aware of a race problem in the artwork, but were overruled by marketing until there was a change of management

Monte Cook blogs about it

Steven Barnes said...

Of course I know Goyer was born post-1950. But that doesn't change my position. I play statistics, not individuals. I don't see Goyer as a racist, just a coward and liar. He'll go with the crowd.

Steven Barnes said...

And Salina: look in the mirror, sweetie. It is the easiest thing in the world to get politicized black folks to admit they consider themselves superior to whites. That's how everyone is. It's a natural human tendency. When you combine that with the power to control resources, you have a potential nightmare. Only by monitoring our own thoughts and tendencies to think "we" are better than "they" can we move beyond it.

Shady_Grady said...

"Of course I know Goyer was born post-1950. But that doesn't change my position. I play statistics, not individuals. I don't see Goyer as a racist, just a coward and liar. He'll go with the crowd."

Steve, I guess my question is why do you think that things will change for the better as the pre-1950 generation passes? Have you statistically had or seen better experiences with younger directors, writers, producers, etc?

If the pre-1950 generation is responding to ugly tribalism why would the next generations coming up not end up the same way?

Ronald T. Jones said...

Being fully aware of Hollywood's hand in the intentional neutering of Hancock by denying he and Theron's character the consumation that their relationship warranted, I will presume to offer a perspective from the other side. Imagine how this film looks to a white racist. Imagine the hateful thoughts circulating through his head when he beholds the sight of a black man with superpowers.

What!! A n----r with powers!! Hell no!!

What!! that boy is disrespecting white people...mistreating them, calling them names!! Where the f--k is that upstanding white man Superman? He would teach that black boy a thing or two!!

What the f--k!! Is that boy making eyes at that white woman??
What!! You mean to tell me that woman was actually paired with the likes of HIM?!?

What!! Did he try to kiss that white woman!!

Damn Hollywood for forcing miscegenation down the throats of decent, respectable white folks!

I tell you this country is going to hell in a handbasket anytime a movie is allowed to come out depicting an uppity superpowered n----r consorting with white women!!

The idea of a movie with a black superhero is an assault on white manhood I tell you!! An assault!!

What you have just been subjected to is a sample of how an irredeemably racist segment of White America most likely would have perceived Hancock.

Steven Barnes said...

The reason I think that post-50's whites are less bigoted is for a few simple reasons:
1) Institutionalized bigotry made sense during slavery, an economic institution. Mythologies that justified it survived the institution itself. By 1940's and WW2, blacks entered the military in large numbers, and proved that they were just as heroic and capable, and large numbers of whites came into contact with them. After that, racism became less an accepted social pattern, and more of an OCD.
2) Younger people have more behavioral and perceptual flexibility, and are more capable of learning new things.
3) Younger people have less feeling of responsibility for the sins of the past. Therefore, less to protect.
4) Every year there are more positive media images, imprinting the consciousness of those who receive them.
5) Every poll I've seen suggests that younger people are more accepting of other races than their parents and grandparents were.
6) While there are fluxes, I've been watching this scene since the 1950's, and have seen nothing but overall forward progress.
7) All of this leads me to conclude that as those whose attitudes were rooted in the pre-civil rights era die out, they are replaced by those who grew up being told all men were equal. Programming is programming.Unless you take the position that the basic nature of Mankind is evil, or that whites are in some way uniquely corrupt, I see no other conclusion.

Steven Barnes said...

Of course a White Supremicist would be offended by Hancock. I fail to see the relevance: such people are a minuscule proportion of the population. Most prejudice is just ignorance and fear. Straight-out white Supremicists, at this point in our history, strike me as being actually mildly insane.

Steven Barnes said...

"If the pre-1950 generation is responding to ugly tribalism why would the next generations coming up not end up the same way?"
##
Most specifically, sure they respond to it. But less than their parents and grandparents do. Watching Hollywood product from its inception to today is a telling mirror for the evolution of attitudes: from total exclusion, demonization and total subservience to images of power and possibility. There is NO comparison, with the exception of a brief period in the late 60's-early 70's, when a huge amount of social activism produced a bloom of extraordinary films. We're getting back there.

JBlue said...

I like Will Smith but almost passed on this film after reading your review and fully understanding your disappointment. But my curiosity and need for eye-candy got the best of me so I finally checked it out.

I liked it. I liked it more than I expected to, especially the FX. Now I don’t know what this says about me but I didn’t cringe at the closeness between Will and Charlize. I actually wanted them to get together. I’m a black woman by the way. The tension and chemistry between them was driving me crazy.

In hindsight, I realize it hasn’t bothered me much or at all to see black actresses kiss non-black actors. I think it may have a lot to do with what you expressed: “Every group wants all the advantages, and every group wants all the advantages for themselves.”

But I clearly remember how wonderful it was to see Nia Long and Larenz Tate in Love Jones. I would love to see that now between two black A-list actors. I might pass out.

For me, the racial aspect in Hancock was slightly overshadowed by the aloneness Will’s character felt. I think everyone can understand or relate to being alone or feeling different at one point or another in their lives. Everyone can’t relate to being a black man or being a black man who can’t get laid. Will has said his choices are based on connecting to human emotion. That’s where he got me. The neutralizing of his character in I Am Legend was a slap in the face particularly because of the obvious circumstances. The end of Hancock is all kinds of wrong but I’m not sure if this is the movie I’d want to see him get laid in.

Ultimately, I think he probably will be the black guy to have a love scene in a big box office film but I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve also noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I don’t like love scenes in movies as much. I’m not turning away from them but often they feel forced; just an opportunity to show two (preferably) hot people getting it on. And I absolutely dislike the introduction of a female character just for the sake of the male/female tension, flirting, vulgar male banter with buddy or get laid just to remind audiences how ubermale and heterosexual he is.

Steven Barnes said...

I don't think Hancock should have been the sexual break-through. I DO think there should have been a natural romantic thread, and that casting Theron made it impossible. That the filmmakers were in denial about what was going on. I'll bet anything the kiss was cut after test audiences squirmed.

JBlue said...

Oh yeah, the characters talking of a kiss that the audience never saw was a poor decision. Either rewrite, reshoot or don't bother.

They are concerned about those that cringed but are not concerned about the general audience asking WTF happened? Did we all collectively blink too long?

There should be some interesting deleted scenes on the DVD release.

I wonder if those that squirm do the same when they see gratuitous violence

Michelle said...

About that kiss...

When I saw the movie it seemed they were talking about the kiss just before she threw him through the wall.

Josh Jasper said...

I wonder what my generation will be less accepting of that future generations will look back on us ashamedly.

Islam, probably.

Steven Barnes said...

Homophobia. Eating meat. Driving SUVs. I suspect future generations will cringe at some of our present attitudes.
#
I think cutting the kiss was last-minute desperation by well-intended people who listened to groans in test audiences and were horrified, trying to salvage their 150 million dollar investment. Nobody ever lost their job for buying IBM. And nobody ever lost their job for denying a black or Asian his sexuality. It takes serious courage to go beyond. This is one of the reasons I so admire the Jewish Liberal directors who, in the 60's and 70's took real chances with actors like Poitier, and changed the face of cinema. And make no mistake: it was deliberate social engineering, and they were taking HUGE chances. I applaud their courage. Frankly, that's one of the reasons I support Israel. Jews understood.

Ronald T. Jones said...

Just wanted to provide a cool twist to the forum. Anyway, check out Taye Diggs in Daybreak. His character gets to make out with his girlfriend numerous times.

Now, mind you, Daybreak was unjustifiably cancelled. (The series is available on DVD)It was a particularly imaginitive contribution to the string of continuity series that hit the airwaves in the wake of 24's success.

I liked the show for other reasons than Taye Diggs' trysts. That was peripheral to how the actual relationship with his character's girlfriend tied in neatly to the plot's development. Having stated that, it was nice to see a brother get down!! LOL!

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

So far, of the Will Smith movies I've actually seen, the one I thought had the best love interest subplot was Independence Day; it was the one where the whole romance arc felt most natural.

I actually kind of liked the love interest in Men in Black, even if the "she keeps being given amnesia" plot device kept it from going very far (even in a PG-13 way), because I found the double entendres entertaining, but then the filmmakers annoyed me by, first, making it look as if he does wind up with her at the end of Men in Black, but then getting her out of the way with no explanation in Men in Black II so the Will Smith character could have a doomed crush on a different woman.

salina said...

ummm Michelle, white privilege is not the same as being privileged and white. As a white person there are privileges you are afforded. Period.

I LOVED Daybreak, though again, wondered why they couldn't have found a Black female lead.

The notion of ANYONE'S supremacy is built on false ideology. My unapologetic Blackness is a way of countering the hegemony and replacing it with a new construct. I am wholeheartedly against the idea of Black supremacy, which often puts me at odds with many of my "revolutionary" friends. A very very difficult position for me: a Proud Afrikan woman , fighting tooth and nail against White Supremacy (especially in pop culture and media) while being vigilant in my battle to keep the oppressor possiblity from rearing it's ugly head in me. Self-love and cultural pride without the hierarchy... it's a tight rope walk sometimes.

Steven Barnes said...

Salina, I love it when you post. Your honesty is refreshing--we should sit down and talk some day.
#
"Daybreak" was interesting. I was recently at the apartment complex where it was filmed. Television has many, many instances of black men being sexual (how could they not? There are about 200 hours a week of original programming, compared to about 10 hours of movies released.)
While I want to see more of this, the real point of the discussion is how it reveals the market pressure, which in turn reveals the hidden psychological b.s. clogging up the gears of progress.

Shady_Grady said...

"All of this leads me to conclude that as those whose attitudes were rooted in the pre-civil rights era die out, they are replaced by those who grew up being told all men were equal. Programming is programming.Unless you take the position that the basic nature of Mankind is evil, or that whites are in some way uniquely corrupt, I see no other conclusion."

Okay, I see where you are coming from. As I mentioned I just tend to be more pessimistic on this. I don't think that humans are basically evil or that whites are uniquely corrupt. But there is still massive (de facto) housing segregation in America. In some areas it's equivalent to what it was in the fifties. This is especially the case in the Midwest and Northeast. This is not just being driven by people that were born before 1950.

If people don't grow up together they will have difficulty seeing their common humanity. So the sorts of writing or casting choices that took place in Blade or Hancock or what have you will likely continue.

I have no doubt that eventually a blockbuster will be made with a Black hero/heroine that gets to have the full range of human emotions.

But in a country that is still 70% white, I think for better or worse most blockbuster films are going to cater(pander) to that demographic. It pisses me off but it's just life.

wraith808 said...

I'm going to post an unpopular position, and let me say that to an extent I'm playing Devil's Advocate, since I'm still working through the whole thing. While it is true that the script is one of the better examples of what happens when you call someone in for massive re-writes, and try to angle a script towards an audience that it was never meant for, is this necessarily an allegory towards unresolved, unacknowledged feelings of resentment towards interracial relationships between black men and white women or is this just something perhaps misplaced since it *is* Will Smith and Charlize Theron?

I'm not saying that this makes the whole thing forgivable- just like Lucas/Jar Jar, it's very obvious that it could be taken this way, so they should have been more sensitive to that fact. However, I've seen a couple of different slants placed on the interaction, and I must say that their arguments are just as valid. Does this mean they set out to alienate every different group that they could with their writing? Or does this just make it an unfortunate juxtaposition of elements and insensitivity?

Anonymous said...

Dear Steve,
I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now and I am a big fan. Your critique of the black male image in film is brilliant. I’m not aware of anyone else who has analyzed it to the extent that your have. You should compile your observations into a non-fiction book, seriously.
I do want to comment on the following statement though. “And I know black women now who say that it is better for black women to marry white men than for black men to marry white women.”
I am one of those black women, and I would like to explain to you exactly why:

1st - The pool of marriageable Black men has become so limited, there is so little competition, even the most desirable women are left wanting. The law of supply and demand applies to mating as well as economics. I’ve heard a lot of crap about black women being too picky. To the contrary, our standards have become so low, we have been so brainwashed by the nonstop “gold-digger” refrain in rap, it is now considered bad etiquette to even ask a would-be-suitor if he has a job or not! When Black men can no longer take the Black woman for granted, he will have to step up his game. Black women don’t even know what courtship is anymore. Go ahead, ask around, you’ll be amazed how many young black folk have never been on a proper date.

2nd - Black men measure their success by the extent to which they have what the White man has, hence the OJ syndrome. Mind you, this doesn’t always apply, Cuba Gooding Jr. married his high school sweetheart, I view that differently. But like it or not, the white run media sets the standards. They decide who the trophies are. They have only recently decided that some of us qualify. You’ll notice that only recently do you see black male celebrities marrying black female celebrities. I believe that is because only recently have Black women been allowed onto the Most Beautiful/Sexiest lists. Black women have been considered the ugly ducklings of the human race. I’m asking you to make a serious attempt to imagine what that’s like. If you don’t look like a European with a permanent tan, you are in trouble. You aspire to see yourself up there on the screen as fully human. I’ll settle for fully desirable. When I see a Black on a White man’s arm, whether on the screen or on the street, I feel validated. Why do I feel that way? A better question would be, why haven’t Black men made us feel validated?

P.S. And I daren’t look for relief from black filmmakers or I’ll be severely disappointed. Spike doesn’t believe in love, the Wayanses just wanna clown, and the rest are only interested in Gangsta’ stories. When is Smokey Robinson gonna make a movie that’s what I wanna know?!

Thanks for listening
Kim

Steven Barnes said...

Wraith:
I don't think anyone started out to make a statement, or offend anyone. They started with a script, signed Will Smith, began the rewrite process, signed Charlize Theron and said "huzzah!" and nobody dared speak the obvious problem...at first. Then somewhere down the road during the re-writes, the more sexual aspects were snipped away, partially out of fear of the audience, and partially because the writers WERE the same demographic as the audience, and had similar unconscious prejudices, and being unable to admit it to themselves, tied themselves in knots trying to unravel a social Gordian knot. Nobody was malicious, but no one was particularly conscious, either.

Steven Barnes said...

Kim--

there is nothing you can say that wouldn't be balanced by some black man's equal and opposite observations: that black women have always had sex with white men, that black men have been lynched for desiring white women, that it is therefore a "political act" or whatever. And the two of you could sit across a table and yell at each other. I've heard your line of reasoning before, and respect it, but have to remind you that everyone makes up the world to be to their own advantage. If you were to say: "and therefore I think it unreasonable for black men to be unhappy with me for dating white guys" I would cheer for you. But to say it gives a black woman MORE right to date or marry white than a black man has to do the same thing is, in my mind, just a leeetle bit self-serving. I disagreed with black men who wanted me to agree that they should have the say in who dates what. And I take the same position now. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. Either we are human, with the natural attraction to other human beings regardless of race, creed, or color, or we ain't. And no one has the right to tell another human being: "I have more right to judge you than you have to judge me" or "I should have freedoms I can withhold from you."
I think nothing in the world is more precious than love, and however you find it, bless you, and long happy life to you and your beloved. We don't become more free by denying rights we ourselves demand.

Charles said...

Hmmm... I guess where I'm going with this is that sometimes when things look offensive there is no intent, and the possible interpretation could be very far away from what was intended.

To give an example, I've seen analysis of Hancock to be an allegory of the United States vs the World (with Will Smith representing the boorish, powerful US, and the world that he saves destructively being everyone else, and Bateman representing the average American who wants his country to do right, but doesn't have an opportunity to under normal circumstances) and they seem just as valid as the interpretation that you posit.

From everything that I've seen, Hancock the movie is as different from Tonight, He Comes as night and day- the only similarities being the presence of a superhuman and him dealing with a normal family. To get from there to what was actually shown on screen took many hands in the pot, snipping and changing, and I just don't believe that the final script had much more direction than a room full of monkeys pounding on typewriters, if I may invoke Thomas Huxley.

So would the collective intelligence of all of these writers have produced such a thing, even unconsciously? Or did the audience put this label on the final work?

And in your response above, you state that the writers were of the same demographic as the audience. I don't know enough about Hollywood to say if this is true; I'd think they would be representative of multiple races/origins. Is the world of scriptwriters stratified in such a way?

Charles said...

Just to clarify... wraith808=Charles. I associated my old blogger account with my gmail account between responses and thus you have two different posting screen names... :-/

Pat Logan said...

"Pat. I loved Independence Day, and said so. But it doesn't count as a film with a love scene."

Granted. Most SF movies don't have them anyway.

"Some percentage of people don't like sex scenes. Fine. But that has nothing to do with why black actors can't have sex without dooming their box office. That suggests social and economic pressure, which is my only point."

I think Christian M. Howell expressed how I feel better than I did.

"It used to be "black men don't survive horror/action movies""

Ha ... that's become somewhat of a running joke in our house, because it's so obvious my kids picked up on it.

"There's SOMETHING going on here, and I have proposed a mechanism that has allowed me to predict film images for over 30 years. Until someone suggests another, simpler mechanism than innate human tribalism, I'll stick with my interpretation."

It sounds as though you misunderstood me. I don't disagree with you, I think that you put too much psychic energy into this. I've been reading you rant on this for weeks now, and you sound close to obsessed on the subject.

I might be totally off base with this, but that's how you're coming across.

Steven Barnes said...

Hey, as long as movies keep coming out with such images, and no one else seems to talk about it, I will. Again, not because of the movies themselves, but because I believe it points toward a phenomenon that costs black people life, freedom, and money.
#
Yes, writers at very high levels in Hollywood tend to be white.
#
Nope, I don't think it's deliberate at all--I think its unconscious, which in some ways makes it more poisonous.
#
Obsessive. Hmmm. I can understand that. But remember: I make my living in the creative industry. The manifestations of this phenomenon, I truly believe, inhibit my ability to interface fully with my industry. Until there is a break-through there, I'm like the town cryer screaming that there's a fire at midnight. I'm quite sure some would rather I shut up and let them get sleep--after all, the fire isn't on YOUR side of town, so what's all the bother? If I believe that this is a symptom of the same thing that causes racial cop shootings, it is hardly "obsession" to concern myself with something that might cause my son his life one day.
#
Saying "most SF movies don't have sex" is still avoiding the point. When they DO have them, the male stars are still white, out of proportion to representation in such films. You just can't wiggle away on this one, and it amuses me to watch people try.

salina said...

I have to get this last thought out about the movie:



The characters kryptonite: when Charlize and WIll are in close range, THEY LOSE THEIR POWERS?!? According to the film this allows them to become "more human" and "fall in love" ?! NOTHING romantic about that notion. NOTHING.

Charles said...

It seems then that if there is a subconscious drive to make things acceptable to the status quo, with the belief that such an approach will satisfy the mainstream enough that those marginalized by such views will be an insignificant statistic, that the drive should not be to place Blacks in front of the cameras as a primary goal, or even as producers, but as writers. Perhaps this is obvious in hindsight, but truthfully, I never looked at it that way, and I don't think that *most* people look at it from that perspective.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

On interracial stuff: the way I see it, when it comes to real life relationships, your obligation to yourself to go for the best love relationship possible to you inherently trumps any reason for respecting racial boundaries, so the only good reason to complain about other people's consenting interracial relationships is if they're handling it in some way that actually mistreats people - Strom Thurmond hiding his daughter, or someone using their interracial relationships as some kind of way to diss the people they're passing up in their own race (which, you know, some people do, but shouldn't be assumed till they actually do it).

But, a little more sympathy for some sorts of complaining, whether from black men or black women, about interracial relationships in the movies, because those same movies aren't showing ordinary romance between black men and black women in anything like the same proportion. So, flinching at seeing Will Smith approach Charlize Theron and not seeing black men on the screen in big money films admiring black women's beauty with anything like the same frequency that you see the same with white women, yeah, I can kind of see, even though, obviously, being a white woman, I'm not getting my personal buttons pushed here. And flinching at seeing white men sleeping with black women on the screen and not seeing black men sleep with black women in the same level of budget films, yeah, I can understand that, though I'd be totally against judging a black woman for being involved with a white man in real life. Because there's the matter of the skewing of what gets represented in the movies, and that's fair game for comment and complaint.

On whether movies are better off showing people getting laid at all, well, I neither have strong feelings for or against - I don't have moral objections to simulated sex, and it can be done well, but one can also do a love story (or love subplot) just fine that doesn't even get to PG-13 sex, and never goes farther than, say, kissing. There's even the rare movie that has a compelling romance and doesn't even let the characters kiss (say, Remains of the Day, where the guy's repression is kind of the whole point). But, there is a certain level of avoiding sexuality where you risk crippling your story telling options; I think it limits stories a lot if you can't at least have some sort of recognized love interest in there where the characters can, you know, hug and touch and kiss somewhere in the course of the film. Not a problem with, say, Independence Day, but it is a problem with some of the other movies mentioned.

Lis Riba said...

I think it's good that you're allowing yourself to be angry about it, and to express that in a public place.

And, I'll add, you are opening eyes.

We caught Hancock before you posted your review.

Having read your blog for a while, I was watching for the romance (or lack thereof) and not only saw what you were talking about, but was able to explain the problem to others such that they recognized the issue and perceived it as the problem it was.

As an aside, don't know if you read the Harry Potter series, but for much of Book Six, Ginny Weasley (Harry's love interest) is dating Dean Thomas, a black classmate. [Skimming the text, at one point Dean and Ginny are described as "locked in a close embrace and kissing fiercely as though glued together."] Harry's jealousy over their relationship is what finally clues him in to his feelings for her.

Now, the movie versions have been heavily edited for time, but I'm now wondering whether the filmmakers will retain that interracial romance, even as a background element... I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for it, that's for sure.

Lis Riba said...

They started with a script, signed Will Smith, began the rewrite process, signed Charlize Theron and said "huzzah!" and nobody dared speak the obvious problem...at first. Then somewhere down the road during the re-writes, the more sexual aspects were snipped away

Still reading thru the comments, so don't know whether you've answered this further on, but...

One of the other obvious flaws of Hancock was that it was an R-rated story cut down in order to receive the coveted PG-13 rating.

Do you think some of the romance might be restored in the DVD-release, either as deleted scenes or even an extended unrated directors' cut?

Lis Riba said...

BTW, just noticed The Times of London's review: "The director Berg and his two credited screenwriters tie themselves in knots trying to keep Smith and Theron from an interracial romance (still, bizarrely, in the Obama era, a nono for studio blockbusters)."

Lis Riba said...

Sorry for rambling, but one further example from children's literature (& film) to raise hopes for the future.

Are you familiar with Louis Sachar's book Holes?

If not, I highly recommend it.

It's a tightly intertwined story crisscrossing three different time-periods, but the heart of the tale is driven by an interracial romance (black man, white woman).

Pagan Topologist said...

Relevant to Steve's comments about the changing climate of racism and its effects in decades to come: According to some students I have spoken with, in at least some high schools it is now a major status symbol to have a boyfriend or girlfriend of a different race. Since the schools in question are mostly white, black girls are finding themselves to be extremely popular. This would never have happened only a few years ago.

Steven Barnes said...

Frankly, I see nothing (on average) other than progress, even though it can be slow and frustrating.
#
note that the British review concentrated on "Interracial," never noticing that black men get no play at all, either way.
#
I am quite certain that black women have, in many ways, been more marginalized than black men. But there are other ways that black men have been more marginalized, and it is impossible to weight them to come to a conclusion. The only thing that makes sense is to allow people to be people, find love where they will, and keep your bile to yourself.

Pat Logan said...

"I make my living in the creative industry. The manifestations of this phenomenon, I truly believe, inhibit my ability to interface fully with my industry. Until there is a break-through there, I'm like the town cryer screaming that there's a fire at midnight. I'm quite sure some would rather I shut up and let them get sleep--after all, the fire isn't on YOUR side of town, so what's all the bother? If I believe that this is a symptom of the same thing that causes racial cop shootings, it is hardly "obsession" to concern myself with something that might cause my son his life one day."

Well, yeah, if I made that particular connection I'd be screaming about it too. I'm trying to understand how sex in a movie connects with racist cops, but I guess I'll have to take your word for it.


"Saying "most SF movies don't have sex" is still avoiding the point. When they DO have them, the male stars are still white, out of proportion to representation in such films.

I'm aware of the racial makeup of movies; the reason I said that is because there aren't many SF movies that do have sex shown, and if they do (ala Terminator), there are undertones that are pretty disturbing (is the Terminator going to show up in the middle?). A sex scene in Independence Day wouldn't have made sense, no matter who the protagonist was.

"You just can't wiggle away on this one, and it amuses me to watch people try."

I wasn't trying to wiggle out of anything, I was trying to have a discussion. (although being white, perhaps there's some subconscious thing going on, I dunno)

It seems beneath you to resort to ad hominem remarks, though. Obviously I touched a nerve, and I apologize.

Steven Barnes said...

Pat--

No apology necessary. I should have made it clearer that my attack was on what seemed a tactic in argumentation, not on your character. If I say "women aren't shown as President in movies" and someone answers "well, most MEN aren't shown as President, either" I then have to answer, "in those instances in which Presidents are shown, the gender is exclusively male."

My sense is that arguments like that are used to slow the baud rate, rather than deepen understanding. My guess? That was no part of your intent, but I do react when I hear replies structured like that. I may owe YOU an apology.

Fanon Che said...

Steve:

I am new to your site. Wonderful wonderful piece--you were dead on. I am looking forward to more.

Peace,
Fanon

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for butting in like this - I was searching for a friend called Hancock and stumbled upon this blog. I became totally absorbed in the erudite, balanced and civil discussions. Well done for that but I think you are all missing the most blindingly obvious point which is so obvious to most non-Americans we feel like shouting with laughter.

Any person with the slightest pigmentation is called Black, regardless of his ancestors, his religion, his upbringing, his education. And, it seems, he is automatically assumed to identify as a "Black" - whatever that might be. What pressure - why should he!

I have a "white" skin - actually it is rather pink in places - and I have no opinion 'as a White' - I wouldn't know how to begin. There are some 'Whites' I definitely do not identify with - why should I!

To coin an American phrase 'enough already' - grow up - get mature - get some perspective - the American psyche needs to get past playground prejudice
(PS I am posting this as anonymous for now because I have to figure out how to join)

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve
Very cool blog here glad I was hipped to it and thank you so much for mentioning Slaughter I was trying like CRAZY to remember the name of that dang movie. And no need to apologize to black women many of us are hypocrites and DON'T walk it like we talk it. It's like yeah we refuse to watch Denzel with Meryl Streep but will knock each other over to watch Megan Good with Zac Efron. And all that about how 'black men don't worship us' crap that cuts BOTH ways honey. It really gets me how black women act like they don't pull racial shit with black men when it comes to who is or isn't more 'desirable'. Please you had dummy Sherri Shepard gushing over Nate Burkus a man who isn't even very attractive or Queen Latifah calling Garth Brooks 'fine' HUH?! Ok fat/double chin/ugly/bald/clothes from Wal-Mart is fine. Or the writer from Racialicious who went on and on about Tim Wise as if he were Matthew Mcougnahuey well he AIN'T! And I agree about Latinas it seems like damn near every movie of late if she's not racially ambiguous then she's Hispanic. It's a best of both worlds thing she damn sure isn't white but at least she's not black either no she's right down the middle. And why all the hating on Will Smith it takes a COLLECTIVE effort to change things and some people want to hate on him like it's his and his alone responsibility to make HollyWEIRD change it's tune almost overnight. As for your comments about superheroes many of them don't get the girl and have messed self-esteem issues. I get 100 percent what you are saying just wanted to throw that out there oh and Halle sucks and so did that crap movie I can't believe she won an Oscar for that. Then again anyone can get an Oscar these days but good blog I will definitely be coming back.

Anonymous said...

And what is wrong with having a sexual role model?! I just noticed people of color still get NO love even when we are the stars of the show! In Rush Hour and Romeo Must Die those movies had Asian and black leads yet there was still no hooking up what's up with that? I agree with shady it won't change until we change it in the 70's you had a myriad of characters and many were getting their freak on aka Slaughter now it's all change. And Hancock aside I was VERY pissed at who they cast for I Am Legend I mean damn what was she suppsoed to be anyway it was ridiculous. What Michelle said was right on the money.

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