Along with happily letting the world know what they don’t really 'do' anymore (i.e.: “I don’t really do cold weather in March anymore.”), one of the favorite pastimes of the educated and bougie Black person is to bemoan the fact that Black movies need to do better.
According to them, while there have been quite a few entertaining Black movies produced in the last decade or so, the only ones that would be categorized as “very good” or “great” in the same way a “Boyz n the Hood” or even a “Devil in a Blue Dress” would be are films like “Precious” that deal with subjects so unrelentingly heavy and depressing that moviegoers should watch them with buckets of hot buttered Zoloft instead of popcorn.
As a (slightly) educated and (somewhat) bougie Black person myself, I agree. The last 15 or so years has been devoid of many Black movies that will be revered in the future the same way “Coming to America” or “Love Jones” are today. Honestly, the best term I can use to describe the last five Black movies I saw at the theater is “cool, but instantly forgettable.” *
Can that term be applied to all movies, not just Black ones? Sure. But, so what if the vast majority of all movies we see will be forgotten as soon as we reach the parking lot? I still want to see at least some movies featuring Black actors and Black themes that aren’t instantly forgettable; movies that make such an impact that we’re able to recite their lines the same way we do with “The Color Purple” and remember their scenes the same way we all remember the “Sit your five-dollar ass down before I make change” scene from “New Jack City.”
Anyway, instead of continuing to make the usual myopic and ambiguous remarks about the lack of “memorableness” synonymous with today’s Black films, I’ve decided to be a bit more proactive than usual and list a few of the many things that may need to happen for our movies to move us again.
1. Bring The Sexy Back
If the last decade or so is any indication, “Sexy” has become the Black movie’s boogieman, its most feared four-letter word as sex and anything having to do with it is usually regarded in one of two ways:
A) A comedic device
B) The evilest evil of all evils
Seriously, try to think of the last legitimately sexy scene present in a Black movie; any recent scene where the adult sensuality and positive spirit associated with sex was captured on screen. You can’t because, well, there just haven’t been any, and the latent asexual nature present in all of our movies today definitely contributes to their overall lack of resonance.
Also, “more sexy” doesn’t mean “more graphic sex.” “Love Jones” is one of the sexiest movies ever made, and it only had one (relatively tame) sex scene.
2. Chill With The Church Scenes
We all know that we love us some Christ, but does every. single. Black. movie. need to include five to seven perfunctory scenes in a (always) Baptist church? Do we always need for the main character to have a 10 minute long soul bearing heart-to-heart with her “to wise for this world” pastor? Do we really always need to see a man wall-sliding down a pew as he struggles to forgo his past and reconcile with God?
I’m not anti-church, btw. I’m Christian, and I do enjoy attending church on Sunday mornings. Sometimes. But, it seems like the people currently making Black movies have collectively forgotten one of the most important characteristics about service. It is booooooooooooooring. Actually, let me rephrase that. Church itself isn’t always boring, but I can’t think of a less interesting way to spend my time than to watch someone else attending church, and including 15 to 20 minutes of church-related scenes in a 90 minute long movie that has nothing to do with church is the surest way to make sure people remember your movie the same way they remember whatever the hell their pastor wore in service five weeks ago.
3. Hire Better Writers
Consider Angela Nissel, author and former writer for ABC's "Scrubs". If Angela Nissel isn’t available, hire Issa Rae of "Awkward Black Girl" fame. If Issa Rae isn’t available, hire Baratunde Thurston. If they're all busy, then hey, hire me!
My point? There are numerous witty, intelligent, irreverent and fresh Black writers out there who’ve proven they can create enjoyable and memorable content without putting Black men in dresses or Black women in tired cliches. And, instead of demanding and protesting that more mediocre Black movies be made, perhaps we should create petitions demanding that studios and production companies begin employing these types of talents instead.
Would any changes ensure that memorable Black movies start getting made again? Who knows? I do know, though, that I’m going to feel pretty embarrassed in 20 years when my kid looks at the movies stored in my hologram player** and asks “Dad, how come you don’t have any Black movies made after 1997? Did they stop making them after Obama was president or something?”***
*I realize there are numerous indie Black films that definitely fill that quality void, but today I’m more concerned with major motion pictures.
**It’s not a leap to assume that in 20 years, movie hologram technology will exist in all homes. It’s actually more of a leap to assume I’ll actually have a kid by then
***My (hypothetical) kid obviously won’t be very good with remembering historical dates.
Damon Young is the co-founder of the award-winning site Very Smart Brothas and co-author of Your Degrees Won't Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime." Follow him on Twitter: @verysmartbros