Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Secret Life of Stereotypes

Sassy; A word defined in the dictionary as "saucy" A word in our culture that may as well have a picture of a black woman next to it. Ya know, cause black women are "sassy". We're also wise. We also really like to help white people. In Hollywood film versions of us that pretty much is all we like to do. Case in point, in "The Secret Lives of Bees" starring our reigning-sassy-black-actress Queen Latifah, the Academy Award winning Jennifer Hudson (who won her statue for her "sassy" performance in Dreamgirls), Sophie Okenedo and Alicia Keys, these women get to be SASSY four times over. AND!!!! They get to save a white girl! (Dakota Fanning for God's sake) And of course these aren't modern women we're talking about. Heaven forbid. The story is set in 1964 because modern black women aren't half as interesting as those who don't exist anymore. And finally, to add insult to injury the G-D story is set in the South. Do black people in Hollywood movies live anywhere else but the South?!!! Oh yeah, Los Angeles. By the way, Sophie Okenedo plays the part of a woman-child. A WOMAN-CHILD! When I saw this character described in the Chicago Sun-Times I was incensed. Why do people who write black characters love to write about the WOMAN-CHILD? Or the MAN-CHILD? What the hell does this actually mean? Are they afraid to give them an actual conditon for fear that they couldn't create the most generalized, cloying, crowd pleasing character possible if they were confined by the actual specifics that would cause a person to be emotionally stunted? Boy, those pesky details would be a downer. Patooey!

I will not see "The Secret Life of Bees". I hope no one sees it, ever. I am not concerned that lack of attendance will send a message to Hollywood that black movies don't sell because if I never see another movie with black characters that keeps us locked in the same ole antiquated roles played since "Gone with the Wind" it will be too darn soon. Instead of seeing "The Secret Life of Bees" have a conversation with a black woman and find out what's going on in her life right now in 2008. See how see feels about Barack Obama. Don't assume she loves him because he's black. Or if she does love him give her an opportunity to articulate the reasons beyond the color of his skin. Listen to how she may not have a southern accent and does not actually work in a domestic position. Or if she does work in a domestic position ask her about it. I'm going to let you in on the secret to busting stereotypes. Let's stop "buying" into them. Money talks. Let's walk away from the cineplex with our money in our pockets and black women's dignity restored.

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