Reflections on Black Hollywood

Truthfully, this article hadn’t occurred to me until I read a blog written by Trevon Free. I had quite a strong response to the piece – entitled Why Hollywood Doesn’t Take Black Audiences Seriously (And How You Can Make Them) – and Amy decided the best way to really get some things off my chest was to dump it all on you guys, so here goes.

No more gilding the lily, I’ll just come out and say it — the state of Black film in America is deplorable.

I know it may catch a few people off guard, a Black woman commenting negatively on the Black film industry, but it’s the fact so many people would be shocked that actually enrages me. It also enrages me that so many people of color fail to see the retroactive position we’ve been plunged into.

From the cakewalks of New Orleans – a form of entertainment in which Blacks would parody Whites who used Blackface to interpret our culture, the person who impersonated a White person’s impersonation of Black person would win a piece of cake… ingenious, yeah? – to the big screens of Hollywood, there’s no denying that Blacks have always had creative ways to tell our story.


As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

17 Responses

  1. Rodrigo says:

    Really great post, Camiele. You make your article worth a read as usual.

    Surprised you didn’t rant against BET. But I guess posting the Boondocks video works against BET.

    • Camiele says:

      @Rodrigo, Actually, no. This wasn’t a rant against Black music, though I could’ve done as much. BET hasn’t been right since the late 90s/early 2000s. But, this was strictly a rant against the Black film industry. Maybe the one against BET is for another time.

      I’ll think about actually doing a post about Aaron McGruder…the man’s a genius for dreaming up the Boondocks. Since the comic strip, the Boondocks has forced people to look at their own foolishness, though I don’t know if people actually get that/see it that way. The man should be winning awards SOMEWHERE. Oh well…HaHa.

      Oh, and thanks for reading :) I’m glad you like my articles.

  2. amy says:

    I actually… don’t know much about the black film industry. I mean, I know The Wiz – was on TCM one day last year. But besides Love & Basketball and Bamboozled, I know little of it.

    I remember I watched Bamboozled when I was about 15 or 16 on TV, I think it created a big impression on me. It’s just one of those films… I think it made me reconsider my thoughts on the Wayans – LOL, you know, I liked Damon Wayans in My Wife and Kids. I saw that show as a show about a family, instead of a show about a black family.

    I think this might deserve a Part II and Part III haha – music and television xD

    I read a lot of people hating Lee Daniels’ Precious and For Colored Girls, though – what did you think of them?

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, This is my take on Lee Daniels. I didn’t see Precious because my mind saw it as another movie sensationalising Black women struggling… yet again… but things just come out all rosy in the end. However, my brother, who has similar tastes in everything to me, said it was actually a good movie. It made me watch Monster’s Ball, which Daniels worked as producer on. I didn’t want to see that because I don’t believe Halle Berry’s an amazing actress as everyone else seems to, she portrays Black people in hard situations the same way in every film. But Monster’s Ball was a gritty, raw piece of film and Daniels fought tooth and nail for it. As a man and as a director, he’s a brilliant mind.

      I didn’t see For Colored Girls for the same reason I didn’t see Precious… it had Tyler Perry written all over it. But Daniels is an artist first. His goal is to tell his truth/show his perspective the best way he can. That’s not always going to be a path for success or for people to actually enjoy the films. But seeing as I’ve not actually seen For Colored Girls, I can’t really pass judgement on it. I think I’d like to as a means to get better perspective on his work. From what I can tell, it wasn’t that bad of a film. But you know how it is with any artist in any genre… if you make one thing that many people love they want the same exact thing every time you produce work. It could be a matter of that happening for Daniels. You never know.

      I’m thinking about actually doing a Part II and III. There are many things that I know I need to talk about and get off my chest. I’ll think about doing it here. Black entertainment is no different than “mainstream” entertainment… it has incredible highs and devastating lows. The difference is how much people expect the lows and feed off of it. It seems Black people are always content to bury the past, no matter how beautiful or painful it may have been… but let me stop before I say something I know I’ll get in trouble for. Especially since not many people will be able to see it from my perspective, it may be seen as me bashing my people… which in a way it is. But it’s mostly attempting to let off some steam and highlight the beauty instead of hyping the let downs, you know? That’s why so much emphasis was put on the history of Black film… because there’s so much richness to draw from and it serves as a great way to see how far the apple’s fallen.

      Sorry this comment’s so long. People shouldn’t let me speak. I get all standing on a soapbox-y and it’s just bad…HaHa.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, I didn’t think For Colored Girls was all that bad – it had faults, of course. But I’m pretty sure it got a very low rating on RT (just like Flowers of War, LOL). In an interesting contrast, A Better Life has a very high rating despite Bichir being the only good thing about that film.

        I don’t even know what people consider condescending or racist on film any longer, considering a vast majority of film critics are white males. LOL

        I dunno if you’ve noticed, but our website has a vast majority of minority writers LOL – we’re pretty much mixed in everything xD

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, Look, I actually don’t put too much stock into RT. I don’t know why so many people do. I probably don’t because half the time I disagree with the rating. A bunch of pretentious people who think they know what a film SHOULD look like. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

          I don’t know, I feel like if you know something doesn’t sound right, and you can feel the intention in the writing, you know what’s racist/condescending. A lot of people try to pass things of as parody and fail miserably. So, I guess it depends on the spirit of the film.

          Yeah, did notice the multi-culti-ness of YAM..haha. But, you know, I’ve pissed Black people off just be existing so…HaHa

  3. Great post. I’ve posted it on tumblr; I hope people read it:

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, this is off-topic… but your Tumblr is… like the Matrix. xD

    • Camiele says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, Thanks, Diandra. You’re a real star. And… THE MATRIX HAS YOU O.O

      • @Camiele, I just remembered- have you seen “Ballast?” It’s an example of an independent African-American film made outside the system that I think is relatable to a variety of people (especially those struggling to make money) but isn’t easily marketable for a number of reasons – low-key tone, bleak setting, etc. I thought the movie was good- not mindblowing or perfect, but it really affected me by the end.
        I can’t find the exact place I saw this criticism, but others say it’s part of a recent trend in independent films, focused on low-income African-American characters, that falls into an ~uninspired and uninspiring~ “realist,” often blue-tinted, depressing rut. I wish I could remember the place (I checked MUBI but didn’t find any link there) so I’d know the other titles referred to in this trend.

        • Camiele says:

          @Diandra Rodriguez, Oh wow. No, I haven’t even heard of “Ballast”. That sounds like something I should check out. It’s beautiful to see this kind of work being done — good or bad, as long as it’s creative. It’s just a shame that it has to be done, you know? Why CAN’T these minds get the financial help they need to excel?

          But, I’ll have to see if I can do a search. Thanks for the head’s up :)

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, Ballast is a pretty good movie – but yeah, it was an indie film very few people heard about (it was nominated for a Indie Spirit, I think)… and even if they had heard, it was a really REALLY hard sell because it was such a bleak depressing movie. It’s not like white people are flocking to see every little bleak indie film either. Winter’s Bone was successful, but not in a mainstream level.

        It’s even more depressing for the Asian-American movie industry. xD Asian-Americans are too American to play Asian and too Asian to play Americans! And while women have access to screens easier by being pegged as sex symbols, guys are never chosen to play lead in a romance, because “Asian guys are not hot” – if only they could see some of those idol imports xD I’m a tiny bit excited by some of the Japanese actors making their Hollywood debuts…

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, Oh wow. That’s something that I think also needs to be discussed. What it boils down to is what White America pegs as marketable/sexy/attractive. It’s a shame, really, that so many ethnic groups depend on the approval of a White audience. But it’s the truth of the industry, I suppose.

          Of course, it’s no secret here that I think Asians in general are gorgeous. I think all people are gorgeous and the fact that one ethnic group is pegged as something undesirable is as old as Imperialism, but as sad as being told that you’re useless because of where you come from. It’s a tragedy that this is how “advanced” the world has become, when we can’t even accept all beauty as beautiful.

          Who are some of the Japanese actors that you’ve seen trying to make it?

        • amy says:

          @camiele, Ronin 47 (starring Keanu) is gonna be debuting Kou Shibasaki (whom you might know if you’ve seen Battle Royale – she’s the crazy one), and then there’s Jin Akanishi. Okay, I’m not that excited over Akanishi because I’m not a big fan, but I think he’s been in activities for a crossover. Anyway, the cast for 47 Ronin is rounded up by Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), Tadanobu Asano (he’s awesome and was recently on Thor), and Hiroyuki Sanada who was on one of my favorite movies – Twilight Samurai.

          Also, Li Bingbing is appearing in the new Resident Evil sequel, and she made a big splash on my 2011 movie viewings. She actually became a name instead of “that actress…” LOL

  4. you definitely bring up some interesting points. really sad how the evolution of black cinema became the dissolution of black cinema, but there are many many great black flms being made that don’t see the light of day because hollywood is afraid to release out into thepublic real shame.

    • Camiele says:

      @Candice Frederick, Indeed it is. The saddest thing about it, though, is that the “mainstream” Black audience (meaning those buying the tickets) doesn’t seem to care. All they want is the loudness, crudeness, utter tomfoolery that is the new era of Black cinema. And even with films that depict successful Blacks (a.k.a. any Tyler Perry film), the underlying message is that the success ruins Black foundations. So, it’s like, don’t aim too high or you’ll lose your way. It’s…I don’t know. There’s so much about it that just bugs me…as you can see…HaHa.

      Thanks for reading :)

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