"I've been away from Hollywood for a couple of years now, but this piece stirs a few thoughts based on what I'm up to now. First off, I think it's great that a diversity of Black-influenced productions are getting made, and the fact that it's becoming more difficult to define what is a "Black film" is a good thing.
But being down in Miami and working on a specifically Hispanic-targeted project, I was struck by the statistics on the consumption rates of theatrical releases as compared to the actual population percentage. The Hispanic community is at this point about 40% larger than the African-American population, and yet delivers more than double the percentage of ticket sales.
The thing that struck me about this statistic is that the article seems to have an underlying presumption that commercial forces are a significant portion of what drives the support, or lack thereof, of Black projects. But I had a fascinating conversation earlier this week with a colleague about the ongoing debate around the upcoming release of the Eva Longoria and Mark Cherry produced series "Devious Maids." Granted that is TV, and not a film project, but the source of the debate is salient - a powerful sense of alienation and misrepresentation of the Latin community in Hollywood productions, whether on the silver or small screen.
If Latinos make up a full quarter of all ticket sales, why do they feel so poorly represented by Hollywood? The implication in the article is that market forces are at play here. If so, then there should be a flood of films portraying amazing Hispanic characters, since they are buying 1 in 4 movie tickets sold.
My point is, I think what's happening is based on another dynamic. Hollywood has had a hard time embracing the idea of Black film, because Hollywood has had a hard time embracing Black people, not only as an audience, but as producers, writers, distributors, studio executives etc. And I don't even know that this is because of some form of conscious or pernicious racism per say. I think given the choice to take a chance on something unfamiliar or to go with the "tried & true," most people in a risk-averse industry would go with the latter. There is a world of evidence that mainstream America has a fascination with Black culture, whether we're talking about the works of James Brown or Ira Gershwin.
I don't think Black stories have had a hard time being made because audiences are not open to stories featuring Black characters, or produced by Black artists. I think Black films have a tough time for the same reason, films not called "Transformers 22" or "Die Harder Than You Died Before the Last Time You Were Dead: Starring the Ghost of Bruce Willis," have a hard time. Hollywood is fundamentally risk-averse, and in an industry with such a relative paucity of Blacks with the power to greenlight projects, "Black projects" will be seen as disproportionately risky, regardless of whether there's demand for them in the marketplace.
This is why Latinos still wind up playing maids, even in a project Executive Produced by one of the most prominent Latina stars of our day. Because Hollywood still hasn't figured out how to draw outside the color lines. And it probably won't, until more people of color are doing the drawing..."
So the world didn't come to an end today. This is kind of depressing for those of us who haven't bothered to do any Christmas shopping since it didn't really matter this year. I also have no idea what I'm gonna' do with all these "The Mayans were right" T-Shirts I planned to share with my ancestors after the apocalypse (having cleverly bought them on a payment plan, it turns out I'm actually gonna' have to pay full-price for all this crap now).
At a mournful moment like this, where for once it looks like tomorrow actually IS promised, the only thing that cheers me up is reminiscing about the year gone by, and the magic and wonderment that the Republican party has brought to the unwashed masses of our nation in these difficult times.
It all began with the presidential election season, which featured the surreal spectacle of the GOP primary debates in which grown men and woman showed the entire world why Saturday Night Live will never go off the air. By the time the "inevitable-nominee" Mitt Romney emerged victorious, it was clear that the shining lights of the Republican Party would not be willing to accept a 10-to-1 package of spending reductions to tax increases, had little to no respect for the troops (if they happened to be gay), and were willing to consider "self-deportation" as a serious approach to solving our immigration problem.
Despite my own dashed hopes that a few of these candidates would engage in the age old practice of "self-shut-up-already," the general election revealed a GOP just as beholden to magical thinking as it was to invisible billionaires with bottomless checkbooks. From fabricating imaginary attacks on welfare reform, to leveling incessant broadsides against an imaginary President Obama (and I'm not just talking about Eastwood), to the oft-repeated-never-proven assertion that lowering taxes for the wealthy increases revenues - embracing the GOP platform this year required a certain belief in elves and faeries, worthy of anyone embarking on a quest for the Ring of Sauron, or bipartisan compromise in Congress.
And when that magical thinking failed to transform the president's persistent lead in the polls into a landslide victory for Mitt Romney, the world witnessed the meltdown of the modern-day Republican party personified in the antics of Karl Rove during FOX News' election night coverage. Apparently the 47% of Americans comprised of women, youth, people of color, and all manner of other freeloaders - turned out to be a majority of the electorate. It's the kind of math that only the GOP of 2012 could imagine.
And today, when the world should have been busy ending, we instead witnessed two more memorable moments. First, House Speaker John Boehner's failure to win enough support from his own caucus to bring a vote on his proposed "Plan B" fiscal cliff solution to the floor of the House of Representatives. While this was a surprise for most who've been observing the back & forth from a safe distance, in the end is it really so surprising that Congressional Republicans weren't willing to pass a bill that would put them on record as supporting a tax increase - a bill that could never become law even in the imaginings of its sponsor?
Yet the good times were only beginning to roll. To cap it all off, this morning NRA chief sharpshooter Wayne Lapierre held a half-hour news conference in which he single-handedly managed to convince the entire nation of the absolute necessity of keeping firearms out of the hands of people as mentally disturbed as Wayne Lapierre. After what many would argue to be the single most tragic mass shooting in our nation's history - it's horror marked not only by the number of people killed, but by the incomprehensible fact that most of them were children - the NRA declared it's position that in order to solve the problem of mass shootings at schools...we need to have more guns at schools.
I look at all of this and can't help but think that the imaginary world the GOP has created - one where brown people, women, gays and youth either don't exist or don't matter enough to speak to - is drifting apart before our eyes. While most of the country is still pondering how we can sensibly preserve the rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment while keeping assault weapons off our streets, and out of our malls and schools, the Republican stalwarts at the NRA have determined that video games, movies, music and other fictional works are the sources of the real-life violence we've grown so accustomed to - which is clearly why video-game loving nations like Japan, the UK and the maple-syrup-snorting madmen to our North have a fraction of the gun-violence we do.
In the end it's been a big year for the American imagination. And who would have thought that ultimately the Mayan calendar predicted not the end of the world...but the end of any connection the Republican Party once had with reality.