Please go see Red Tails this weekend. It’s opening January 20th. So either the 20th, 21st or 22nd is fine. Any time after that and it really won’t matter.
But what is this exactly? A “film recommendation” would be me saying “hey, here’s a cool movie, go check it out.” But that’s not what’s going on here? Well I’m asking you to go see a movie, good or bad, to help with the box office performance. So why is this important exactly? Well, African Americans-black people-do NOT have a great deal of power in the Hollywood film and tv community. And projects that feature black people don’t have an easy time getting made. ESPECIALLY if there isn’t a white person who’s the “real” star of the movie.
Well, George Lucas went on the Daily Show recently and said some stuff that shocked the audience about this situation. The Daily Show audience went deadly silent as he laid all this out. Not only couldn’t HE, a super famous power player in Hollywood, not get this movie made for 23 years-and ended up having to pay for himself. But even after all that, NONE of the studios would distribute it. Even in the wake of Tyler Perry; they still told him that his move cost more to MAKE than a Tyler Perry movie MAKES at the box office. You might want to re-read that. But bottom line; no distribution. That’s how we stand in Hollywood. In 2012. Here’s the clip from the show.
(I’m just sticking all this space in here so the widget over there —> wont block the video)
I myself was a struggling actor from about 1988 to 2003 when I finally had to take a “break” and joined the Navy Reserves for the war. The economics of black people in film and TV is much nastier than you think. Like, you PROBABLY think you see a lot of people on TV and the moves-but in reality, you don’t. What you do mostly see is people from other industries like music, sports and comedy who have been ALLOWED to be in the movies. And that give you the ILLUSION that there are a lot of black people making it. It’s not a lot. Trust me. I was there for 25 years. Those people were already famous. And that is why they’re invited into the film and TV.
And we’re not even talking about “working actors,” the people playing small roles or supporting cast. If you think about it the number of famous actors (people actually trained to act and who didn’t come from another entertainment field) working today is really only about 25 people; and I’m being generous. Try it yourself-count who you know and see how many you can think of that didn’t come from music like will smith, comedy like Eddie Murphy or sports, like The Rock.
And even stars STILL have to get paired up with a white person. Check out this new Queen Latifa movie. What the hell is she doing with Dolly Parton?! That doesn’t even make any sense. And I love Dolly. It’s about Gospel music, so it was originally probably about black people, but to get the movie MADE they had to put in a white star. In fact, Eddie Murphy was on Jimmy Kimmel a couple of months ago talking about that comedy he made with Ben Stiller. ORIGINALLY it was gonna be Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Eddie, etc. But with all black stars it couldn’t get made. But put in Stiller and Matthew Broderick and you have a completely forgettable but MADE movie.
So I’m not here telling you to make up some giant signs and go picketing outside some place. All I’m asking is that if you can-go see the movie between Jan 20-22. Opening box weekend is the ONLY language they speak. And Hollywood makes is decisions about FUTURE projects based on BOW (box office weekend). So speak to them. No fire hoses, no arrest, no German Sheppards biting you in the ass-just go see a movie. That’s civil rights activism in 2012. Pretty civil right?
So Wow. Tonight. Some episode huh? Wow. It’s title is “Operation White Shadow”. The episode has the Black character, Lem, played by Brooklyn born poet and improv comic from New York University, Malcolm Barrett, not being able to get the machines in the building to acknowledge his presence. I actually have a REAL LIFE case in a video down below. But where do I start? Well, if you don’t have a copy of the show you might want to either get the DVD or do a download from Amazon by clicking on this giant picture, because I don’t think the show is going to be around too long.
Well, ok, let’s look backwards for a second. So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new show Better Off Ted. The premise of that piece was that the show is pretty much guaranteed being canceled in the first season, probably in the next few weeks (Just so you know that didn’t happen, I talk about Better of Ted Not Canceled in a June article). But why did I think it was on thin ice? Because it’s too weird. Creatively “weird” is good, but for TV? No. No, no, no, no, no! Not anymore. TV networks are NOT playing around anymore. They are NOT experimenting with new ways to loose money. No matter HOW much people like shows, if ENOUGH of them don’t watch a show it’s gone baby.
Early January 2010 update; looks like my original prediction was correct, looks like they ARE going to kill the show. They’re going to run double episodes for the rest of the month and after that it’s anybody’s guess. This IMDB forum is where people are voicing their opinions.
But people have been talking “cancel” talk from the start. Just as an example look at the stats from this article within 24 hours of me writing the piece.
Networks are dumping good shows so fast now it’s like watchingone of those old 3 Stooges shorts where the row boat springs a leak and all they have are teacups to get rid of the water. Dead Like Me, Pushing Daises, My Own Worst Enemy, Kings, Kyle XY, Battlestar Galactica, Scrubs, Cavemen, ER(!), Knight Rider, Reaper, Prison Break. I mean, damn!And those are just shows I either watch or know about, there’s a whole bunch of crap I don’t watch that’s getting the axe. Meanwhile, every single DAY this blog gets traffic with people trying to find out if the awful Kath and Kim is canceled because of a piece I wrote talking about how NBC is being loyal to Molly Shannon DESPITE how gloriously terrible it is. It defies all logic. It’s otherworldly how bad it is.
Which brings is to ABC and Better Off Ted. The piece I wrote described how I think there are 2 factions at ABC. One group who keeps pushing the envelope, in terms of programming, and another group who has the power to kill shows IF they get either numbers too low or too many complaints. I predicted the show would be killed off because ABC is going to reach that fork in the road and do what they always do-kill the show. So tonight’s episode, clearly indicates that at least one producer of the show is aware they’re not coming back and has decided to just go for broke. (See my piece on Morel Orel on Adult Swim for a show that followed that strategy)
Tackling “Black Issues” is something they don’t really do on TV. Unless it’s a news piece of course. Old school news was all about “the Black people are running wild, so be scared.” They would do it in both overt and subtle ways. Then after Islamic terrorists became the new bogey man (and so much white crime became entirely too noticeable to ignore) the Black thing took a backseat in news. And then news shows switched the coverage of “Black Issues” to “These poor miserable wretches.” On the surface it was all about casting us in a sort of Sally Struthers surrounded by fly-babies sort of light, but the CODE was “They are such a drain on our resources, God, if we could just get rid of them America would literally be a place of milk and honey.” Never mind the fact that we spend such a disproportional amount of money that the country would collapse if we stopped-or the fact that entire industries are built on our work. Ok, ok, I know; you didn’t come here to hear the guilt trip plus you’ve heard it all before, yadda, yadda, yadda…
So the episode! Black guy isn’t picked up by motion sensors in the office; hilarity ensues. Now let’s just talk about how I perceived what was going on; your mileage may vary. I still haven’t posted this EXTREMELY long Obama piece I wrote about what it meant with him getting elected etc., but one of the points was that the BAD news was that “white people” were finally gonna get what they’ve DESPERATELY wanted; the opportunity to say “We’re cool right? The whole slavery thing is a non-issue because, see, we voted Black!” No, you didn’t. You voted for reason and intelligence. In response to Bush. That’s what happened. Now yes, I’m all for peace and harmony but a BUNCH of things needed to happen before we were gonna be “cool.” Nothing crazy like reparations (I know who much that very idea freaks white people out “but I didn’t even do anything, my family didn’t even get here until after WWII”). Trust me I’ve heard it all.
By the way here’s that REAL LIFE version
But ABC clearly felt in the “era of Obama” having one or two Black guys on staff (and who probably came up with the plot) would give them the free pass. But the SAD fact is, Black people are on the lookout every single day for a slight or offense they can take to their keyboards and spout off about. (Yeah, we finally closed the digital divide. But we’re also too damn lazy to take to the streets unless you actually KILL one of us in an unarmed and blatantly racist-cops scenario). So what elements of the show might get Black people riled up?
*The idea of putting this issue in a comical light. Anybody remember a comedy set in Civil War era with Lincoln and his slave butler having “crazy” times a la Benson? It was The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer
*The idea the of the white shadow in the show where a white guy has the magical powers to “open doors” the Black characters cant (that’s a two-fer by the way; a literal and figurative)
*The idea that it took MULTIPLE white people to get the Black guy motivated enough to stand up for his rights
*The idea that too many Black men in an elevator would cause white flight (again, a two-fer!)
*The episode is called Operation White Shadow which references ANOTHER “white man’s burden” type show from the 70’s. And at some point they assign white guys to follow the Black guys. This of course is like the real life adventures that I and most Black men (and some women) have to go through ALL THE TIME being followed around if we go ANYWHERE that’s not 75% or greater Black people. Neighborhoods, malls, stores, theme parks; basically any Goddamned where. And in the show, they kind of give off a slave vibe when the Black guys compare the white guys they’ve been assigned. AND like in real life; even the most remedial and barely functional of white guys has more access than the most educated Black men
*The fact that even the commercials were pre-planned. A Verizon spot with a Black man being ominously lorded over by a train conductor. Followed by a “chocolate” flavored breakfast cereal.
Here is the cereal-I think it was “Special K”
And here are those “spooky” guys in the elevator
Turned out NONE of that matter, not enough people watch the show (of any color). So we never had a big outcry of any kind.
So to conclude; I like the show, I liked the episode, but for all intents and purposes it was really something that should have been on cable. Network TV, and the people who don’t live in cities with a population over say…2 million can’t really digest a farcical and intelligent look at race-and survive. I mean they can air it, but they’re not going to survive the Black people online assault AND the white viewers who were on the fence falling onto the “not coming back to this show” side of that fence. PLUS they’ve got one of the only 4 or 5 openly gay Hollywood actresses with Portia de Rossi on the show? Come on! They’re asking to get kicked. Obviously time will tell. But TWELVE HOURS after I wrote my thing saying Kyle XY wouldn’t make it-it got killed. I’m giving Better Off Ted…3-5 more weeks. And 5 is being VERY generous. I’ll miss it.
One final unrelated note; I used the word Blackisode in this piece, and it’s not the best example. But I INVENTED this concept of contracting words you wouldn’t normally contract-at least in modern culture. Let me rephrase that. Obviously I didn’t invent the concept of Portmanteau words, but I DID bring it to the forefront of modern American culture. Having spent the last 25 years in LA, NYC, and Chicago and been in showbiz and around advertising execs for all those years I can guarantee you some of those people heard me doing and started throwing it into commercials, sitcoms and movies. Just had to put that into print somewhere-and why not here?
If you watched The Daily Show this week, aside from President Jimmy Carter making a visit, maybe you saw the montage of Reverend Jeremiah Wright “clarifying” his various statements. I cringed and cringed and cringed. As a Black man, to see an adult, ex-military, presumably educated black man go into multiple media venues and express himself with seemingly no regard for the impact it would have was mind blowing . And I’m not even running for President! God almighty, what must life be like for Barack Obama these days? Watching Wright do a Stepin Fetchit routine in particular was so upsetting I had to just turn the volume down. I couldn’t take it. Well of course, Obama came right out there and said what he was supposed to say “I denounce his actions…”
But most (white) Americans are probably scratching their heads and have no idea what happened. Hell, I’m sure even some BLACK people are wondering what the hell would make a man do that. What would make a man, who says he’s the friend of another man, go out in public and cripple him? A Black man. A minister no less. To destroy by association, another Black man-who’s running for President? First time in HISTORY that a Black man might have an actual snowball’s chance in hell of winning . So how could this happen? I’ll tell you. As it happens all three of US are from Chicago. (Barack is an import, but he’s put in 25 years so we’ll call him a Chicagoan). And most people do NOT know what being Black in America is like. And most people REALLY do not know what being Black in Chicago is like. That. Is. A. Unique situation. I kid you not. Keep in mind, I had been out of town for nearly 20 years, and when I got back almost 3 years ago I had to RE-learn what being Black meant around here.
By now I think it’s become part of the lexicon to talk about “Black on Black crime.” It’s one of those platitudes people throw out there whenever yet ANOTHER crime takes place “in the city” and gosh darned, they just wanna make sense of it all! But have you heard about the crabs in a basket analogy ? I’ve heard that when crabs have been captured and they’re all piled in a basket if one tries to claw his way out the other crabs will pull him back down. None of the craps escape. The fishermen don’t even need to put a lid on the basket; the other crabs will do the work for them. Can you see where I’m going with this? And so it is with Black Americans; especially in Chicago. Did you know that the 1st generation children of African immigrants (and even Jamaican immigrants!) tend to do better in education and economic growth then most long standing Black people? Say, isn’t Obama’s dad an African? And aren’t Colin Powell’s folks from Jamaica? Yeah, the Black people in this country have a problem . And that problem is NOT White people; it’s other Black people. Shhhhhhh!! This is kinda secret. I mean it’s the worst kept secret since…well, no this is the worst.
There used to be a rap song in the 80’s where the refrain was “Self destruction, you’re headed for self destruction!” Well that’s us! And Chicago is like a petrie dish for me. It is easily the largest grouping of Black people, unbroken by other races, in America. In other words it’s the biggest Black neighborhood in the world. And because of that, all of our bad habits are MAGNIFIED here. So let’s just say on any given day on this side of town (that’s the South Side y’all) you’re very likely to hear “man them niggers is crazy” at least a dozen times. Oh yeah. It’s a VERY popular expression around here. And the reason for that is…well them niggers IS crazy. What can I say?
Reverend Wright is not only a product of this environment, but he’s a product or our cultural flaw of crab-like behavior. Rather than see another Black man move in an impossibly lofty position he’ll ruin him. He’ll ruin him. NOBODY else has it in them like us; sit down for a moment and reflect on the one step forward, 2 step back hokey-pokey the Black population has been doing for all these years. We are broken on such a deeep level that a guy whould make himslef look like an ASS on the world stage (and it’s going in the history books folks) out of vindictiveness. I’m asking you to consider the SCALE of what he did and then try to imagine some other group of people doing that. Especially given how often we do it. It’s unimaginable for ANY body else except Black people. We knew what it was right away.