To View Or To Turn Up Your Tail On Red Tails
Living while black is such a broad topic these days. Once upon a time it mostly just related to racial profiling & how dangerous it was to exist anywhere outside of your home where you could be spotted by police officers & mistaken for a brown crayola, a brown streak, a brown smudge, a weed-laced brownie, a vodka brownie shot, or EVERYthing ever done wrong by a brown person or a person wearing brown. It really was just that ridiculous. I know I said "living while black" but we really do just come in a color wheel that features nothing but shades of brown.
Now, living while black extends to your entertainment. Well, it kinda always did but now it's a hot topic. No Wendy Williams. No, seriously...I'd like it if there were no Wendy Williams [show], but I digress. Everything we do is so politicized; from the ways we wear our hair to...the movies we view. I am admittedly a card carrying Tyler Perry hater who also screams loudly about how important it is for us to tell our own stories. Contradiction? Depends on what conversation & with what group of people. I think it's important for black people to tell our own stories because Da Man has built a country & several industries on our backs & in countless number of stereotypes & caricatures of us. It's necessary for us to tell our stories so that we can balance the perspective, impact the take-aways about our real or perceived experiences, contribute a more realistic view of the multifaceted people we are. Monolith we are not. I don't remember the last time I had dinner with a jiggaboo, a porch monkey, a mammy, a maid, a slave, a drug dealer, a basketball player, an illiterate child who'd been saved by a white person, a crack ho, step or fetchit, or any of the other ill fated characters we seem to play. Does this mean we've been none of those people in real life? Not at all. But we've been so much more & this seems to be the majority of not only what we see but what gets celebrated. Why? Because we still live in a country where the existence of Precious, an obese & illiterate young black woman who's a bit much on the eyes & even harder on the spirit makes many feel a lot better than say a Ms. Celie, who was an average black woman, who some also considered a bit much on the eyes, & who overcame the sexism that had held her down from birth, also showing her attempt at putting her family back together in love. In simpler terms--Hollywood is a racist tool. I got it.
Politics enters the picture now, when our stories are told on the silver screen, by people other than ourselves [read: Da Man] & we have no control over how we're seen, yet again. Some of us feel we're stronger than imagery & can withstand any covert or overt blow because we don't identify with caricatures. Others of us feel our collective psyche has been damaged by the subtle & not so subtle messages about who we are. Some of us just live lives so damn dark &/or damp that we will turn tricks for a laugh of any kind or some sort of escape into somebody else's world--especially if it looks worse or more absurd than our own. #therapy So, we battle amongst ourselves over whether it's right to support these films. We band together to boycott them or we band together to support them. We say that if we put no money in the pockets of execs off of these films that they'll go away. We say that if we boycott, black actors & actresses will get to be considered in the pool for more 3 dimensional characters who aren't necessarily written into the script as "black woman" or "black man" but chosen for real roles about real people doing real shit. There's a couple of problems with that. First, our account at the First Bank of Umoja is in the negatives. My bad. We ain't that unified. The second thing is, Hollywood ain't payin us no mind cuz...well...they don't have to, or we haven't found a way to make them. But lemme address this unification thing.
The biggest way to bish-slap anything in a capitalistic society is hit it in the pockets. Did anybody else just hear Tabbi Boney? Sorry. The pockets. We can't come together on this for any of the other reasons that have been suggested, so we won't do this either, but if we simply stop going to see these movies... Well, that's not true. We're talking about the movie industry. The WHOLE industry. & if we wish to make our own movies & be considered for all kinds of movies, we're going to have to collectively agree not to support the entire industry. If you want to stop George Lucas from making the latest incarnation of the Tuskegee Airmen, we're going to have to stop going to see ANYTHING Lucas makes. We have to abandon ALL of our favorite genres with casts of any race. We have to, dare I say it...STAY HOME. & while we're there we can't Red Box it, Netflix it, steal from abandoned Blockbusters or even watch this stuff on cable. You gotta put the DVD Dude at the barber shop down. We're going to have to eff around & go hit up a museum exhibit. Make some actual phone calls to the people we love. Visit an elderly relative. Hell...TALK TO YOUR OWN KIDS! We're going to have to shut down our viewership of all kinds & let the industry see just how many WE happen to be. What'd Jay say? Women lie, men lie, but numbers don't. A long attention span is required for this & y'all ain't got that. Sacrifice is often a long & arduous road & we left our good walking shoes in the Civil Rights Era when we were able to rally together around that which we agreed to be important. Remember, while this may not be at the top of the heap of important issues, we still can't agree whether it is or isn't so it doesn't matter.
In the meantime (though it should be in addition to the aforementioned prescription)...consider gettin' your Issa Rae on & create your own isht. Those of us that write can connect with those of you who know how to freak a camera. We can do crazy stuff like ask people to donate 1 month of their McDonald's or Starbucks budgets to PayPal accounts or donate to Kickstarter & plane train & automobile our movies to these film festivals or put them on the Innerwebs so they can go viral & force notice. Just the people I'm surrounded by alone are talented enough to create these dope artistic ventures. Multiply that by the talented people you know... It's impossible to fail.
But who am I? I'm just a crazy lady who doesn't find Madea funny, refused to read or see The Help, just learned to tolerate watermelon a couple of years ago & doesn't fry chicken. Oh, & I read. Makes me an unreliable source.
Go see Red Tails because you're going to anyway; but don't be mad about what it isn't. Somebody did the best they cared to do with a story they didn't live & gave some folks who like those of you reading who are brown a chance to eat for another few months. I've been told that I'm supposed to be satisfied with that so...
& just so it's clear...I will more than likely make a point to see this movie in the theater.
Watch me move.
Check out Issa Rae, if you haven't already.