By Tyler Lewis
“I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk (with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions). I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that (lower-budget) mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there.”
I understand what Lucas is saying here, but I really think people put too much pressure on films like Red Tails and Bridesmaids to magically change the way Hollywood does business.
Every time a movie about black people or white women comes along and makes a lot of money, black people and white women get all excited and think that finally things will change. It happened with Sex and the City…and again with Bridesmaids. And it happened in 2005 when Diary of a Mad Black Woman was a “surprise” hit. Needless to say, seven years later a Perry film is pretty much the only film for (for the most part), by, and about black people that gets made. For black women, it’s worse: People haven’t heralded a movie for sisters since Waiting To Exhale.
Real talk: I ain’t putting the future of my representation in the hands of George Lucas. Y’all remember Jar Jar, right?
Oh, I get it. It’s a sexy headline, of course. But I’ve seen far more articles online about this quote than I see commentary about the need for Tyler Perry to use his studio to give other black filmmakers, writers, and actors an opportunity or Oprah Winfrey to do the same with OWN – the two people who could actually do what Lucas is doing. In fact, let’s have this conversation when Perry or Winfrey finances on their own someone else’s vision and puts it out like Lucas.
We are so easily duped into having the wrong conversations or framing success and progress in ways that actually hurt us. The conversation about minority filmmaking has got to switch to redefining what a successful black, white woman or black woman, or even gay film means. Given our relative populations, should $100 million really be the threshold for success?
I’m reminded of the wisdom of Anthony Mackie:
In my mind, Mackie’s comments are the rallying cry. Not the likely success of Red Tails.