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“Marshall”, “Black Klansman”: Why Are Blacks the Only Ones Fighting Racism in Movies?



by G. Brown

Hollywood like fashion, history and life circumstances seems to flow in a perpetual metonic cycle where genres and trends repeat themselves every 20 years or so.  The current trend for Black actors, directors and writers seems to be race relations.

Chadwick Boseman is starring in the title role of powerful biopic about the first African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Long before he changed history by winning the landmark Brown v Board of Education case which outlawed school segregation, Marshall was challenging racism as an attorney for the NAACP.  Here’s a look at the official trailer for “MARSHALL” which opens in theaters next month…

Admittedly, the film looks intriguing especially since it gives us a look at a side of Marshall that few remember or ever even knew about the civil rights icon.  But the movie seems to be one of a slew of projects created by or starring Blacks that all have a common theme dealing with racism, segregation, Jim Crow etc.

A movie that was  the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival is headed to streaming service Netflix.  “Mudbound” is another period piece that centers around a time when Jim Crow laws kept Blacks and Whites separated often with a violent hand.  “Mudbound” is based on a novel by the same name and tells the story of White farmers and the Black sharecroppers who worked for them.

The film stars Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund and cost Netlix a hefty $12.5 million price for the privilege of streaming to audiences this fall.  Like “Marshall”, “Mudbound” is being heralded as a cinematic triumph which is already creating Oscar buzz in the Best Picture category.

While both of these films bring to the big screen stories that are compelling, powerful, beautifully crafted both in photography and dialogue, they are hardly stories that have not been told over and over again in some fashion.   “Selma”, “Mississippi Burning”,  “Malcolm X”, “Django”, were all brilliant stories and hit movies that still brought us the same story of Blacks struggling to overcome a time in history when Blacks didn’t equality, freedom or the law on their side.  It’s like Hollywood can only see Blacks in one facet–sadly one where we are still the downtrodden and underdog. It’s almost as if that’s the only story Hollywood has to tell us about Blacks.  Movies like “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” prove through their success with critics and at the box office that audiences want stories about people overcoming life circumstances period.  Racism isn’t the only obstacle Blacks face, but it’s the only one Hollywood seems to frequently acknowledge.

Actor, director Jordan Peele broke out of  the mold with his hit movie “Get Out” which flipped the horror genre upside-down by showing us racism as the horror that it truly is.  Now Peele is collaborating with director Spike Lee on another film inspired by real life events about a Black detective who infiltrated the KKK in “Black Klansmen”.  True, there’s an angle we haven’t seen , be we can expect dialogue peppered with racial epithets all of which we’ve heard over and over.

Hollywood’s liberalism has led the way to breaking down so many barriers for Blacks, gays, feminists, physically and mentally challenged citizens and I get the only way to do that is by exposing on a big screen what has happened or is happening to oppress people.  But it would be a relief to see Black actors not just type cast in films always about oppression or the fight to overcome oppression.  Yes, these stories are necessary, but it feels like those are the primary roles for Black actors.  This may be Hollywood’s idea of diversity, but it’s a poor execution of the idea.  Diversity is hiring an actor no matter his or her color.  A good example, Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer” or Will Smith in “Legend” roles that were character and plot driven.  No one expects a White actor to be cast in the starring role in biopics and biographies about Martin Luther King  or to see a Black actor  in the lead role in a movie about JFK.  But there are plenty of movies where race is not central to the lead character, yet Hollywood still seeks out Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks or Robert Downey.

Most of us go to the movies to relax and get away from the anxiety and pressure of real life.  I don’t have to pay $15 for a movie to see Blacks being mistreated or hear them called racial slurs. I can just watch the news unraveling in Charlottesville, Virginia or where ever the latest White supremacists are protesting for that.

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  1. Shawn Jordan

    September 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Welcome to “Trump’s America”

  2. William Collins

    September 13, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Frankly, I like seeing good topical, and historical movies about the struggles of Black folks against racist oppression. Heck , I even watch some of the six or more new movies about the (Jewish) Holocaust that are produced every year. If you do not like ‘Black folk struggling against racism ” movies, well, just do not go to see them.

  3. Nyabinghi Djehutti

    September 12, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    * I meant “racial epithets” lol

  4. Nyabinghi Djehutti

    September 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Theater reflects and depicts the human experience. Traditionally, it was intended to educate and cultivate higher consciousness, be it the oral traditions of the Griots or the bard Shakespeare. However, in the modern age people desire to be entertained as a relief or an escape from the realities of life.

    Sure, there are plot driven movies that do not deal with heavy issues or struggle, but not many of substance. I really can’t think of a recent movie staring a white actor that I would have rather seen cast with a black actor. Though it’s possible that may be because I haven’t seen enough movies.

    Personally, I think that the apathetic masses of black folk need to see representations of their history in film, because they didn’t get it in school. Black folk suffer from a lack of continuity in their awareness of the struggle, a struggle that is by no means over. That is why so many think it is. Seeing ourselves being called racial epitaphs is the LEAST of our problems. Unless and until we can get over being offended by that, we will be distracted from comprehending the more poignant aspects of the struggle. Some would say that any other type of film is a distraction, serving to lull us to sleep and complacent assimilation into our oppressor’s culture and value system. My only problem with films about black struggle is the weak writing and dialogue. This will improve when more skilled black people write and create their own movies.

    When people see white folks cast in movies that deal with the struggles of their culture, I don’t think they necessarily see it as representative of “white struggle,” but that’s probably because their culture is dominant, so it’s just a movie. However, I think most serious movies deal with struggle of some sort. However, the struggle of black people is unique due to centuries of racist oppression and white supremacy, that’s just reality, so it would be odd to me to see a movie about black people with white people problems. Lol, ijs.

  5. NBA is fixed

    September 12, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    Liberal white people are just as racist as conservative white people. If you disagree with me, ask Bill Maher. He said the N word several times to Anne Marie Johnson.

  6. NBA is fixed

    September 12, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Until we begin to finance, produce, distribute and own our own movies, we will continue to have this problem. Black people integrating into any white owned organization or industry doesn’t work. If you depend on white people for work, white people will dictate how you work and what work you do. We need to stop begging racist hollywood for chances to act and direct. We need to start directing our own movies and owning our own movie studios.

  7. NBA is fixed

    September 12, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Hollywood doesn’t make movies like Selma or Loving for us. Racist hollywood makes those types of movies for white people. They love to see us playing the slave, mammie, the help, coon, or the jezebel. White people want to bring back slavery. In their eyes, that’s when America was great; hence the catchphrase “Make America great again.”

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