Did African American’s go MIA in Hollywood? Part-1

1 Mar

By: Open Book

Did African American actors go “missing in action” in Hollywood last year? Obviously the Academy Awards thought so and sprinkled a few into their broadcast for good measure. African American past Oscar nominees and winners were presenters this year but none were nominated? Mainstream news media reported a few weeks ago, why they thought people of color weren’t nominated for an Oscar this year. The big story by the New York Times entitled Hollywood’s Whiteout[1] was an attempt to goat African American’s into screaming foul play by Hollywood. Yet, African American audiences did not fall for it. Why? Before anyone get’s excited!!! This is not another article about African American’s being discriminated against in Hollywood. No! Instead this is about recognizing African American’s influence, business savvy, creativity and achievements in Hollywood. Also, Part-2 of this series will focus on how well films featuring African American stories and actors perform domestically and internationally. 

The African American community is a very lucrative demographic for the entertainment industry according to Allied Media Corporation[2] (a market research company) states:

“The African American population is now more than 37 million. African Americans have spent $719 billion in income on apparel, entertainment, food, beverages, toys, computers, cosmetics, automobiles, travel and dozens of other categories.”

Many feel this is old news to Hollywood because they have long since gone after black actors, directors, writers and producers hoping to appeal to black consumers.  The barriers that once existed in Hollywood for African American artist are believed to have been broken according to actor Anthony Mackie who was in the Academy Award winning film The Hurt Locker. In a recent interview for his latest film The Adjustment Bureau he was asked (by reporter Todd Johnson of theGrio.com). “Why are there no African Americans nominated this year for an Oscar?” Mackie states;

I think we need to make more films. I think we need to make our own films.  I think the barriers have been broken down. I think we have been lazy on our game. Right now there are enough brothers with distribution deals and production deals.” To see the entire interview go to: http://www.shadowandact.com/?p=40234

So as much as mainstream news media wants to fall back on past hot button issues to insight conflict between Hollywood and African American’s, many black film developers are being more constructive. The truth is African Americans are not getting resistance in Hollywood because (some say) they have the means to produce and distribute the films they want to see. Actor and producer Will Smith has numerous films in various stages of development over the next three to four years through his Overbrook Entertainment label housed at Sony Pictures.[3] Also, Tyler Perry has numerous films in development as well.[4] Yes! The 2010 Oscar nominations were abundant with African American actors, writers, directors and producers and the absence of people of color this year was really felt and unfortunate.

However, the reason for their absence was not due racism which some have tried to imply. Instead it may have been due to slow output by African American producers in Hollywood.  If we assume that African Americans did not watch the 2011 Academy Awards out of lack of interest, than the low television ratings are an indication African American consumers do have power in Hollywood. Maybe last year the ratings for the Oscars were considerably higher because of numerous black nominees? So the conspiracy theory that the Academy Awards did not nominate blacks to prove white dominance in Hollywood does not add up. In reality, perhaps the bigger problem facing African American consumers and producers is lack of communication? Is there a conflict over what African American consumers want to see versus what artists want to produce? Are African American producers not meeting the demand of black consumers? Are artists taking their time in efforts to produce new and diverse quality material? Why do you think there were less quality films produced by African Americans in Hollywood last year?

Please join us for a discussion: Wednesday, 3/2/2011@7pE/12UTC

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94 Responses to “Did African American’s go MIA in Hollywood? Part-1”

  1. kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 6:55 PM #

    Hi all I’m here and I would like to start this out with something that I have noticed and feel bad for the African American community regarding movies made for them or with them in it.

    Expect for a minor few most African American type of movies always seem to show drugs, weapons, swearing, rap music, broken homes, and either they live in low income housing or they are extremely wealthy bc they are selling drugs, weapons or are rappers.

    This to me is a sad stereo-type and shows that things really haven’t changed over the years with how we look at other races in a stereo-typical view.

    I know Tyler Perry really seems to be trying to break that mold with his more serious type of movies, but I am curious why there are not more African American artists trying to break the stereo-type?

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

      Great questions and observations.

      Some African Americans believe films like Precious and The Blind Side catered to liberal white audiences because some believe that’s what they will pay to see. Where as African American’s are tired of these kinds of films, that depict them as low income uneducated, prostitutes, drug addicts, and dope dealers etc. Basically these stereotypes do little to elevate African American’s negative image in our society and in the long run singles them out. How do u think African American producers can please both?

      • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:07 PM #

        Well I would hope as a people we have moved away from those stereotypes. As a producer I would keep doing kind of what Tyler Perry is doing putting out the good movies that show African Americans are just the same as any other race dealing with the same kind of problems. I think eventually people will start to realize that we are all the same.

        I do feel bad for the minorities out there because there really are no superheroes that are a minority, usually they are the sidekick or villain.

        Very interesting article and situation. I think this is a great market that needs to be established, not only for the African American, but all minorities.

        • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

          Well I so agree with you about this Kneon. Even though you have made some great observations. Movies featuring these themes typically get Oscars. For example Denzel Washington did not get an Oscar for playing Malcolm X but he got it for Training Day where he plays a drug dealer? His performance as Malcolm X was far more superior by comparison.

          • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

            I totally agree, I person didn’t see Malcolm X until I saw it in an university history class and I was blown away by his performance (which I don’t know why Denzel is an extraordinaire actor the Sidney Poitier of our generation).

            I feel that the Academy would be a great start and recognizing the more realistic type of minority roles so that main stream movie-goers would take notice.

  2. Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:00 PM #

    Welcome to our discussion tonight! All new and returning visitor’s, please feel free to voice your opinion on this issue. Everyone’s opinions are welcomed!! Although, you don’t have to agree, we ask that you please respect others opinions if you disagree.

    • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      Hi everyone!

      Let me say that my opinion may be a bit jaded (since I’m already researching the Part 2) article for tomorrow.

      However, in the 1980′s Eddie Murphy seemed to break the mold. Was it because he was a comedian?

      Comedian and parody’s seem to cross the boundaries a bit.

      • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

        Yes! So as not to give away your article because I somewhat know the end outcome. Comedies are typically the only films that appeal to both African Americans and mainstream white audiences.

        Dramas and Sci-Fi are risky!!

      • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

        Yeah sadly (and don’t get me wrong I loved Eddie Murphy’s earlier roles not so much lately)it was comedy and everyone didn’t look past the comedy and see that there is something real about those characters.

  3. Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:11 PM #

    Kneon!!

    There are a few arguments happening currently regarding Tyler Perry’s Madea films. Although, these films have a spiritual message and try to show more diverse characters etc… The Madea character they believe emasculate men and vilify black women. So there is a lot of debate going on over that.

    • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

      Okay when I talk about Tyler Perry’s movies I am talking about the ones other than the Madea films. I’m talking the serious ones he does as a director (For Colored Girls, Why Did I Marry you?, etc.)

      I would sadly put the Madea films in the same category as the typical African American film.

      • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

        I agree with u. I’m not a fan of the Madea films.

        However, For Colored Girls did poorly at the BO.

        • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

          Well I am not surprised. This is not going to be an overnight process it will take time.

          Look how good The Color Purple did? That I am thinking did well at the BO and won awards. It had some stereo-types in it but it was still a very dramatic movie.

          • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

            So you what other movies that are drama’s would you classify this same way?
            Would you classify Ray as an african american drama or a period piece?

            • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:40 PM #

              ooh that is a good question, because you have a point it seems that the period pieces of African Americans do quite well, don’t have the BO numbers but I would think they would be right after the comedies.

              In my opinion Ray would be a drama, only because he is still alive. Like Lady Sings the Blues (one of my all time fav movies) I would put as a period piece. I do have to say because of that film I became a Big Billie Holiday fan.

              • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

                So whats your feelings on period pieces like Ray and The color purple who do depict the stereo types?

                In my opinion I think you have to in order to accurately reflect the time. Can’t really re-write history.

                • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:52 PM #

                  IMO: I think there just needs to be more diversity. I don’t think African Americans dislike seeing stories about legendary figures like Ray, Ali and Malcolm X etc… There just can’t be all biopics and comedies I imagine.

                • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

                  No I’m not saying that if its a period piece like The Color Purple or The Lady Sings the Blues and even Ray, you need to show how it was during that time period (you know me history is something that should never be fooled with).

                  But, why do the dramas of today have to have only Caucasian actors being the good guys and the minorities as the bad. Or the minorities play the roles that are lower than the Caucasians? That’s what bothers me. I mean we all can work side by side with a minority in the real world but in a movie that minority has a lesser type job.

                  • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

                    This is well said!!

          • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:38 PM #

            Well I think it was a first attempt. But this did not appeal to African Americans audiences either. It was poorly reviewed by critics. Also, I think this was such a depressing film. There were many problems with it.

            However, what I do like about TP is that he will make films that feature African American women. He has a really great eye and sensitivity to their issues and concerns. That’s why the Madea films are so off putting.

            • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

              Yeah I would agree, I know he uses Janet Jackson a lot in his films, which she can be a rather good actress in the right situation. I think Tyler Perry does shoe African American women in a whole new light, which is refreshing. I just think that there needs to be more of these type of films and give it some time.

              • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

                What about Diary of a mad black woman?

                • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM #

                  I’m not a fan of his Madea films unfortunately. However, this one was the best one of the lot.

                  • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

                    I actually have never seen any Madea film that I can think of, mostly because they don’t look like something I would enjoy.

  4. kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

    Its kind of the way that most people picture other minorities. Most would label the Crouching Tiger type of films how they relate the Asian Americans, except for a rare few like The Joy Luck Club, which is quite good and older now, they are all in that kung fu type genre. Native American films usually are depicted as against the U.S. government living on the reservation drinking and owning casinos.

    I personally believe that HW needs to step away from those type of stereo-types and delve more into realistic type of movies it would sure help the pre-conceived attitudes a majority of at least Americans have of these minorities.

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

      Standing Ovation!!!!

      Really great comment K!

      Do u like seeing films with more multi racial casting like in Avatar?

      • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

        I have to say I was the last person in my house to watch Avatar (they all went to the movies I waited until I was forced to on t.v.) but to answer your question yes, we need more multi-racial casting. We live in a multi-racial world not everyone is Caucasian, we work, shop, and play with other races in our daily lives why should are movies be all one race or another?

        • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:36 PM #

          I am in agreement with you, and I think that the TV networks seem to do a better job than the movie industry.

          • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

            I think films are riskier and cost more. So films studios like to go with what proven success. That why African Americans need to produce it and take the risk.

            • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

              Well producers like Spike Lee seem to be trying to produce pieces. What’s his issue with the films then?

              • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

                Well he’s been doing a lot of documentary films. However, the problem that is going on within the black community films like Madea and TP sitcoms are popular among some African Americans and African Middle class are against them. So Artist like Spike, Will and others are caught in the middle of this debate. This is JMO!!!

                • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

                  See that’s why I think it has to be a subtle transition to carry over dollars from the stereo-type films or even tv shows to more of a main stream variety. I’m not even saying get rid of them totally, because lets face it, it has become part of the African American culture and ours in a sense, but without variety life gets boring. Plus, it also shows the younger generations that yeah they can have this too.

                  • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

                    Honestly!! I believe that’s why African American’s output was so low last year. I think they are trying to be calculating about they produce.

          • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

            See I see some TV shows that still fall into that stereo-typical formula for the African American that really frustrates me and I can’t imagine how it does frustrate the African American public.

            Yes, films cost big money but it wouldn’t cost anything more or less by placing a minority in a role that would normally be played by a Caucasian. I’m not talking lead or principal, but even the minor roles and not in the typical roles.

  5. Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

    What films produced by African American’s do u like and why?
    Here are a few of my favs!!

    I am Legend/2007
    Inside Man/2006
    The Hollywood Shuffle/1987
    Lightning in a Bottle/2004

    • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM #

      I am Legend we watch a lot in this house, I think every time it is on we watch it, plus we own the film.

      Inside Man was also very good.

      I haven’t seen the other two movies.

      • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

        What other films do u like? Can u think of any other than the ones I named?

        • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

          Dreamgirls?

          • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

            Excellent!!! My fav!!

            • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:03 PM #

              Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.

              • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

                I wanted to see that movie, but it was on HBO or Showtime and we don’t subscribe to those channels. Then usually by the time they hit the dvd rentals I forget about them or get out voted.

              • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

                HB did a great job!! Loved her in this!!

          • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:04 PM #

            I have to say I didn’t like Dreamgirls. Maybe because I was expecting something more. I mean I lived Diana Ross and the Supremes with Motown in my backyard practically.

        • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:03 PM #

          No I can’t I didn’t even realize that Spike Lee directed Inside Man until I went to IMDB and saw it.

          I am not the type of person that can remember a movie by who worked on it or by a line from the movie, unless it is a real famous line.

          I remember films by the feeling, topic, look and music.

          • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

            U are not alone!! I remember the name because I like the art and production design. LOL!!!

    • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

      I’ve only seen I am Legend which I catch when it’s on.
      I like it because it’s that genre of end of the world type movies.

  6. kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

    I think part of the problem is America has made great improvement on race relations compared to how they once were, but has a long way yet to go. Yes, we have an African American President, which speaks volumes, but when HW movies still stereo-type films depending on the minorities in them that shows we have a long way to go yet.

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

      I really agree. However, BO don’t lie and there is a great number of audiences that paid to see Precious and The Blind Side and they both were nominated. How do African American producers get around that issue and still turn a profit?

      • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

        Didn’t see Precious, I was kind of wishy washy on that one, but I loved The Blind Side.

        If I knew the answer to your question OB then I would be in HW making a ton of money and not where I am at right now.;)

      • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:07 PM #

        Well if these two movies are a good basis, then it still comes back to a compelling story, with actors who can deliver on a rich well developed character.

        • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:10 PM #

          I would agree, but why can’t there be more movies like that? There seems to be many for the Caucasian actor why not for the minority?

          • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

            I agree with u both. U both make really great points.

            I think it boils down to.

            Diverse characters that don’t single out minorities from society.
            Realistic compelling stories that audiences can learn from
            I would even say forward thinking stories that show a multi-racial cast.

      • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

        OB, you would be shocked at what I just found on I am Legend. Remember the previous article on Battle of the Box office regarding domestic/international movie genres.

        Don’t you know that I am Legend hit close to the same type percentages Domestic and international!

        HUM, seems the international box office likes these end of the world movies. They need to make more of these.

  7. Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

    Hi Ladies! So sorry I’m late!

    • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

      Oh good I was wondering your point of view, especially with your background of acting.

      By the way ‘HI’

      • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

        Hello!

        • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

          HI!

  8. Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

    I think that Blind Side did so well because he ended up in a white family but that’s JMO.

  9. kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:19 PM #

    Here is another question for anyone. Obviously we are talking HW meaning the US market, but what about other countries like UK or other European countries do they make minority type films and what are they like?

    • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

      I think they are more open about it. Especially the French, IMO.

    • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

      Anyone have any sites that reference foreign films?

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:29 PM #

      I really like Guy Ritchie!! He seems to feature African Americans really well in his films. They are not looked upon as unequal or below whites. IMO!!

  10. Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:19 PM #

    What about Sidney Poiter in “To Sir with Love”? or “Look who’s coming to Dinner?” I think he did an excellent job in TSWL.

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

      Excellent, Excellent!!!

    • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

      To Sir with Love is one of my favorite movies and if I am not mistaken that was a British production.

      Sidney Poiter was a groundbreaker for the African American community in some of his choices of movies. Not only To Sir with Love or even Look Who’s Coming to Dinner (which had to be scandalous in the 1960s) but also Into The Heat of the Night.

  11. Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

    Hi Paris!!

    Glad to see u!! Waves!!

    • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:24 PM #

      Hi Open Book!

      Good to see you too! Waves Back!

  12. Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

    I know this might ruffle some feathers but I think that the african american community today is still looked down upon by Caucasians in the US because they were forced to come here as slaves. I don’t know anything much about other countries like the UK or France or anything regarding race but I have never heard of those countries having African American slaves.

    • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

      Actually the slave trade was part of the British commerce even before the U.S. was the U.S. The U.S. slave trade was just a continuous after the revolutionary war.

      • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:29 PM #

        Thank you for the information. I didn’t know that.

      • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

        Yes, and because it was around for so long, it was even more difficult to stop because the slaves were the labor system for products and goods that made the british empire and the colonial era days of large farms possible.
        Economically change would crush the system, even though it was horribly wrong. That’s why there was so much resistance to change. It really did take a crippling war to break the economic backbone that made slavery possible.

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:35 PM #

      Here is some info!!

      “The Slave Trade Act (citation 47 Geo III Sess. 1 c. 36) was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed on 25 March 1807, with the long title “An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade”. The original act is in the Parliamentary Archives. The act abolished the slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself; that had been abolished in England itself in Somersett’s Case in 1772, but remained legal in most of the British Empire until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_Trade_Act_1807

      This is Wikipedia not a reliable source!! So take that into consideration!!

      • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

        Thank you for the info and the source is duly noted. :-)

  13. Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

    Not to get to political/racial but why do you think that African Americans are not treated equally in film? No race is ever seen as treated equally in any film but why do you think they get the brunt of it?

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

      IMO: Films like the Matrix and 2012 were somewhat of a stab at featuring African Americans as equals. But both films had a white person saving the human race. So it’s a problem that still exist today of seeing African Americans as reliable contributing members of society. Will white US audiences pay to see African Americans as equals, superheroes etc…… It’s a risk IMO!!

      • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:50 PM #

        What about Will Smith as Hancock?

        • kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:53 PM #

          Yeah but remember Hancock did everything wrong and wasn’t it considered a comedy.

          • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

            yeah.

        • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

          I liked Hancock, he was the superhero in that movie.

          • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

            I did too. :-)

    • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

      I think movie genre’s that are military type movies do a pretty good job of diversity. Maybe because the real military they can embody?

      • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

        that’s true.

      • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

        True!! Great Observation.

        I think it allows equality to be supported and believed by all but only if it’s a contemporary military story. IMO!!!

        O.k. I’m really saying goodnight now!! LOL!!

  14. Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:41 PM #

    I’m getting a history lesson tonight. :-) This is awesome.

  15. kneon65 March 2, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

    Well ladies great topic and discussion, but have to get going. Talk to everyone soon.

    • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

      have a good night!

    • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

      Bye!

    • Open Book March 2, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

      Goodnight Kneon!!

      Thanks for joining in on this discussion.

      Everyone! I’m going to call it a night as well.

      All our visitors thanks for joining us.!!!!!

      • Parisienne March 2, 2011 at 9:02 PM #

        Me too! have a good night everyone!

      • Lurker March 2, 2011 at 9:02 PM #

        Night all, great discussion!

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