One would think that my critique of how black folks have been portrayed in Hollywood comes from some sort of militant background of mine, visions of a baby HumanityCritic wearing an over-sized beret as my parents, with their matching Afro's and black Panther attire scream "Power to the People!!" as loud as humanly possible in unison. Some people think that my strong opinions come from the time I dated that black Muslim chick and had to be knowledgeable about all things black in order to feel her up under her dashiki and handle my business after I lifted up her sarong, while whispering impromptu spoken word poetry in her ear mid-coitus.
Actually you'd be surprised to learn that my militant attitudes about the portrayal of African Americans in Hollywood comes from me attending predominately white Catholic and private schools growing up, I'm not shitting you. Even though I was a kid and didn't notice how I was being used at the time, I can recall more times than not being asked by some ass-hat teacher to break-dance for them, or perform some other dance-step of the time like I was some trained seal and shit. I won't play the race card and blame my race for being the deciding factor as to why I never got the juicy roles in the school plays that I was in, but the fact that my acting resume consisted of "Robber #1", "Ned the homeless guy", "the black cloud", and a slew of other dark colored inanimate objects, you can see why I'm so critical of the roles black folks play on television and on the big screen. Granted, I was delighted when I learned that I got a lengthy role in the play "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", but when I learned that I was playing a runaway slave, one who's broken language in the script would be funny if it wasn't so sad, you can imagine that I was none too pleased. I'm probably the only 9 year old who'd say, while holding a script, "You want me to recite gibberish?? This is so beneath me!!" moments before throwing a 40 page play in the air as high as possible.
Listen, I know that there are fine lines that black actors, directors, and writers have to maneuver based on our deplorable history in film. There is a fine line between comedy and "cooning", a fine line between gritty realness and the glorification of violence, a fine line between uplifting and being preachy, the black artist I feel has more things to consider when putting out a work than anyone else. As for the actors, I know that many of them have families and have food to put on the table, being a single guy with no children that I know of, I don't have any experience with that to be completely honest. But I still maintain that your integrity and self respect should always come before any check, something that I wish would be remembered whenever a movie like "Soul Plane" comes around again. Anyway, here are some commonly used themes that Hollywood has used for black folks that I just wish would come to an end. What do you think??
Captain "Save a Negro": There have been many white people that were instrumental in my life growing up, two in particular were my track coach who lit an eternal flame under my ass to out-work any miserable bastard in my path, and my High School History teacher that forced me to be a critical thinker and see all sides of an argument. Lord knows that I cherish those individuals, I truly do, but if Hollywood were to make a film about my life I'm sure that they would merge both influences into one person, and have that character come into my life and save me from the impending life of doom and gloom that I'm sure I would be destined for. Movies like "Dangerous Minds" and "Hardball" are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the shitload of Hollywood flicks that expressed the opinion that black folks need one white person to come into town and save the day.
The Magical Negro: The term "magical negro" is by no means is my creation, but it highlights a very telling motion picture device used over the years. It seems that Hollywood, when uncomfortable having a person of color seem knowledgeable and smarter than his/her white counter-parts, they suddenly give the character some sort of "powers" to explain their superiority in the I.Q department. Examples include Whoopi Goldberg in "Ghost", Will Smith in "The Legend of Bagger Vance", Don Chedle in "Family Man", and as much as I love and am a fan of Kevin Smith, Chris Rock's character in "Dogma".
The Jive, hysterical soldier: Growing up I thought that my father hated Vietnam era movies because it gave him uncomfortable memories of his time in that war, the friendships he had that were cut short because of a Vietcong grenade, or the way his own country treated him like dirt and called him a "baby killer" when he returned home. But as I really watched these movies I really understood why my father hated them so much, they did a disservice to every black man that ever fought for this country. In most of these movies, if a black soldier isn't acting like some sort of sniveling coward with his tail between his legs, he is a jive talking embarrassment who only seems good for talking shit and inventing some ultra-Hip cadence that he coerces the others to learn. Jesus fucking Christ man..
The Sassy Black friend: Not every time, but I hate the fact that they have to make a female character's black friend as sassy as they come. I mean, its as if the writer and director locked that black actress in a room for an entire weekend, and forced them to study Jackee Harry's performance on "227" and take notes the whole time. Its usually hard to take anything that these characters say seriously between the constant "OH child!!", "Oh, no he didn't", "Nah-uh, a sister don't play that!", and other incoherent drivel you would have thought were transcripts of a conversation that Lil Kim was a part of..
Show me how to be cool, black man: I think that I've been asked advice on how to pick up women and fashion advice based on this very dangerous character in Hollywood history. It never fails, from as far back as I can remember up until now, you'll see a geeky white guy ask the "coolest" black guy in school tips on women, fashion, and(holding my head) 'how to walk". What is even more painful is when the black kid specifically teaches the white kid that using broken English and calling a woman "baby" is a sure fire way to win her heart. Right wing pundits want to believe that Hollywood is a bunch of tree-hugging liberals, but based on the fact that they regurgitate this same tired stereotype, I take issue with their stance to be completely honest. Last month I was chilling with a friend and he asked me, "HumanityCritic, I don't have any game, why don't you go over to those ladies and work your magic!" I agreed, so I went over there, and like any cool black man I said, "Hey ladies, I have a crisp 20 dollar bill.. Who's trying to fuck??" I guess that showed him, huh??