Column: Black film should be diverse
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 18:05
Film is an immediate and clear art form that depicts the nuances of human experience. In certain cases, film is the only chance for many to view the intricacies of other cultures. The absence of black people in film highlights this, and actors and filmmakers bear a tremendous burden to accurately depict them.
“I stayed with who we are, and what I wish I could get us to understand as a people is that instead of getting your education and running from us, you need to ground and root yourself in who we are,” said filmmaker Tyler Perry in response to criticisms of his inaccurate depictions of black Americans.
After centuries of being collectively grouped, we have been conditioned to think as a cohesive whole, and it follows that we should request a leader for this unified front. Yet the need to be outwardly unified must be replaced with a yearning for self-determination. Previous leaders belong in the past, and so do their methods of solving racial problems.
Perry capitalizes on the false notion of a universal black problem with an appeal to hyper-spirituality. Specifically, Perry manipulates the ideal of authenticity to gain confidence and support from many. However, the belief that anyone can be “truly black” is a naïve concept that plagues the mindset of too many. Perry’s notion of “real blackness” only highlights economic extremes, disregarding the middle class.
Perry is the McDonald’s of media: The experience is predictable, instantly satisfying and it has positive effects. It appears to be a suitable representation of a culture, but upon inspection the implications are disheartening. Sitcoms such as “The Cosby Show,” “Fresh Prince of Bel- Air” and “A Different World” prove that there is an audience that seeks professional, intellectual and diligent individuals that aren’t insanely rich or poor, a trend Perry routinely disregards. The recent success of “Think Like a Man” proves that there is a market that seeks middle-class characters. While Perry’s archetypal characters simplify stories to convey a greater message, “Think Like a Man” uses generalization to create characters to laugh with, not at.
In Perry’s case, the optimistic message of his films rarely manifests in everyday life, thus making his work inadequate. Art should not attempt to define anyone, because it can never portray the seemingly ubiquitous problems of black people. There is no universal black problem to be solved. Not all black people are uneducated, impoverished criminals. The explicit unity of all black people ceased at the enslavement of our ancestors, and there needs to be a de- conditioning of universal thinking. Reverence of our history should be limited to memories. We must not regress at the hands of the Great Black Hope, Tyler Perry.
Andrew Albert is a philosophy sophomore and can be reached at email@example.com