Hollywood Only has itself to Blame for it's lack of Blacks in pre-Vietnam era War Movies
by Chris Stevenson
The new movie "Red Tails" came in at no.2 it's first weekend. Recently George Lucas-the maker of the "Star Wars" double trilogy said in an interview on the "Daily Show" that race was the reason that prevented this project from hitting the screen for over 2 decades of his pushing it, and much longer for other producers. Of course this is old news, except this time a big name white filmmaker said it. I get the feeling Lucas didn't expect to meet with such blatant refusal of this project. After all 1-He's George Lucas. 2-The movies is about some war heroes. 3-They're WWII heroes. 4-Aviators (fighter pilots. "Top Gun"-style footage). 5-Action Adventure (i.e. "guy movie").
Well, there was just one problem. The guys starring in it are black. All black. Unlike black characters in Lucas' best-known work-with the exception of Billy D. Williams and Samuel L. Jackson-they're faces and/or voices won't be hidden inside of an alien costume like that big black 265 lbs durasteel armor with mask and cape and voice augmented with heavy breathing sounds. To many Hollywood financiers, just the lack of a white hero ala Gregory Peck, Robert Conrad, Robert Lansing, Paul Burke, or even Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer pretty much makes it a horror movie. Don't get me wrong, Hollywood ain't mad, it's just that they were in the middle of a very intense 70-year-project; the unrealistically exaggerated glorification of the white male image as hero, and the simultaneous concentrated slanderization and marginalization of what they have set apart as their onscreen antitheses; the black male. It was nothing new to decision-makers in the film industry to cast blacks in roles onscreen that went contrary to the real world outside. They been doing it for decades, especially with their highly-cherished war movies. War movies back then were a white man's paradise, pivotal battles by actual black soldiers, were whited-out of major movie scripts. It was bye-bye black birds and hello BAA BAA Black Sheep.
After this hard effort to create the American wars won only by white suburban males, effectively brainwashing a huge chunk of the American public, Hollywood would blame it's viewers for the lack of black roles. According to them no one-including blacks wants to see a black hero interpreted from the standpoint of the blacks. And as is always their unwritten motto; 'If it's not on-screen, it didn't happen.'
Some of you reading this will try and say I'm the one who's racist for saying these things. The previously mentioned Samuel L. Jackson uttered similar words a few years ago in Charles Barkley's book (yes that Charles Barkley) "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man" to much less publicity than what Lucas received. During an interview with Barkley he takes you almost directly into a meeting room with himself making a movie idea pitch while surrounded by some very rich and very dishonest industry big-wigs: "I had an issue with HBO way back when. I read this book about a brother who started a town. He left the Louisiana Bayou, went to WWI . He and some brothers came up on some Germans raping a girl, they saved the girl's life, protected the town... At the time HBO was doing "The Corner." Here I got a cat that's a positive role model and they say 'it's a little too violent for us. I said it ain't 'OZ' it's historical, they said 'we don't want to do a period piece.'"
Like I said before, Hollywood producers are busy. If they weren't going to tell Jackson or Lucas-arguably both at the top of their respective fields-the truth about themselves, then it would be silly for us to expect them confess their true nature to us. Follow the Blaxploitation, Hollywood views their mission to be more sacred than the original Tuskegee Airmen; they are fighting for the right to cast blacks only in films like "Precious," "The Color Purple," "Exhale," and "The Help." Writer Playthell Benjamin posted a quote on his Facebook page by Albert Murray that leaves little room for doubt: "Whenever white editors and producers have a choice between a story of black heroism or pathology, they will always choose pathology." They can do this because they know that many African Americans are so brainwashed, that when they see actual black heroism, or even spurts of it advertised on TV, they will go from being doubtful, to skeptical, to outright angry, as if they've been fed a constant diet of Reality TV. And why shouldn't they? Who did the brainwashing?
Over the past two weeks some blacks on the social networks have expressed venom against Lucas based on what I see as much over-rationalizing and blacker-than-thou fronting (it's all pretty pretentious really) over Lucas' words to Jon Stewart, and literally accusing him of trying to be an "authority" on the Airmen or black history. Now understand these were just comments in response to just the TV advertising of "Red Tails." I saw where two pretty-irate blacks dubbed the film "regurgitation" simply because there was a previous movie on the Tuskegee Airmen back in '95 and it had a couple of the same actors involved that are currently in "Red Tails." In other words they were complaining as a form of protest against the "Lucas Hype." It's as if Tuskegee Airmen movies have been hitting the theaters every other month since the '95 movie. A movie featuring some young black men flying state-of-the-art airplanes of the the day, and shooting down Hitler's German Jets (ME262) is evidently too deep for a young black audience used to spending their money on Baby Boy Movies; "Baby Boy," "Above the Rim," "The Brothers" etc., and are known to have spent almost $1 trillion dollars in 2010 (figures range from $799 billion to $913 billion) on God knows what; entertainment, electronics, shoes, hair extensions, and footwear. All of a sudden when just the ads for "Red Tails" comes out, they're black tails suddenly have it all figured out. Not! These youths are only the result of a carefully-crafted mind-sifting by white Hollywood suites that even Adolf Hitler himself would envy.
I do not consider it a jump on "Lucas' Bandwagon" to advocate that as many of us as possible go see this production since he had some of the Airmen as advisers working on it over the past couple decades. I know I will. If a white author/producer etc., does a black story or historical-related story and gets it right, then give credit to where credit is due and find a new target (you need suggestions just hit me up). It's not Lucas' fault that major media chose to broadcast his statements that Hollywood refuses to do stories about positive blacks after discrediting or ignoring complaints from blacks like Jackson's all these years. That is the fault of mainstream media.
Truth be told Lucas has a history of experimenting and I just don't mean "Star Wars." Back in 1980 I went to see a little-known Japanese flick co-produced by him and Francis Ford Coppola, as well as Akira Kurosawa and Tomoyuki Tonaka called "Kagemusha." Compared to that, "Red Tails" is really far from being a stretch. When the Japanese studio ran out of funding, Lucas and Coppola went to 20th Century Fox to make up the remaining balance. Fox had no problem doing it, generally when white filmmakers get bored filming white soldiers, plans for scripts to show understanding the "foreign" soldiers are drawn up (see "Letters from Iwo Jima"). Even back then "Kagemusha" was made on a whopping $19 million budget and was mass-marketed and earned $68 million at the box office. That was one instance that Hollywood gave themselves away, I've always felt the secret to making a successful movie be it black or white is how it's packaged. "Red Tails" got all the quality advertising exposure as if it were a white blockbuster, and so far it's working.
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, Political Affairs Magazine, and a syndicated columnist. He also contributes to his blog the buffalo bullet. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don't have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary & interview show Policy & Prejudice and The Network with Pat Freeman for clbTV. Sign his Petition to permanently Abolish the Death Penalty @ Change.org.