George Lucas Touches Something, Manages Not to Poison It

Especially given the conversations we’ve been having about Captain America: The First Avenger’s whitewashing of the history of segregation in the armed forces in World War II, I’m moderately excited about Red Tails, the movie Lucas executive produced about the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black Air Force unit that served with distinction in that conflict:

A lot of this looks like it will be a fairly standard enthusiastic integration movie, which is fine. But I’m glad to see the trailer, at least, give a nod to the extent to which the military resisted accepting the service of talented African-American pilots, even at a point when the air war wasn’t going well for the States. “I don’t believe your boys have scored a single arial kill,” a white officer says with the air of having won some sort of argument, only to have Terrence Howard bat back at him “It’s damn hard to shoot down the enemy 100 miles behind the front lines.” I hadn’t known this before looking into it, but apparently the reason the school was at Tuskegee in the first place was because after a campaign to force Congress to allocate funding for training black pilots, the Defense Department responded by shunting the money to civilian programs. It’s an impressive demonstration of racism that the normally acquisitive Defense Department would turn down an opportunity to take money if it meant taking black people. In any case, given the reverence normally attached to our military in pop culture, it’s a good thing to see this kind of internal critique show up in the movies, particularly prestige ones.

And as much ill-will as I have stored up about Lucas, this actually looks kind of in his wheelhouse. He’s always been better at the flyboys-with-destiny stuff than anything else.