tyler perry, best man: holiday, african americans in film, holiday movies

Allow me a moment to find a sturdy enough soap-box as I’ve put on a few pounds recently. As I left Tyler Perry‘s The Best Man: Holiday movie–which scored very well at the box office with some $30 million– and the saccharine holiday vibes had been replaced by cold cynicism I began to wonder, “Why are movies like this still necessary?” When I say “movies like this” I definitely am not referring to the American institution that is the Christmas Movie, nor am I referencing the even more prevalent Rom-Com, what I’m asking is why do we need movies that are quite plainly “black movies?” Don’t get me wrong I’m not wishing that this movie or movies like it were simply recast with all white bankable stars to garner mass appeal. I’m just posing the question Perry never wants answered.

Wait, let me clarify a couple things:

  • I am about as big a fan of the original Best Man as you are to find and thought that at the time it was a movie that was quietly, somewhat revolutionary.
  • I am an African American male
  • Though I think it comes up a little short in comparison to the original, I thoroughly enjoyed The Best Man: Holiday

When the original Best Man opened it was 1999, Bill Clinton was still President, Y2K was an actual concern for a certain sect of society and Napster made its debut. For those of you old enough to remember any of these things, vividly let that sink in. At this time, a romantic comedy that was centered on a cast of relatively unknown African American actors was surely met with some sideways glances at more than a few pitch meetings. This was a time when a hip, young, progressive group of FRIENDS living in one of the most heterogeneous cities in the world seemed to run into so few faces of color that someone devoted an entire YouTube Clip to listing all the speaking roles by black actors. This was a movie that was ahead of its time featuring what would become a veritable who’s who of the black actors for next decade and a half (especially noticeable was a scene-stealing Terrance Howard).

Flash forward to 2013. Barack Obama is in office, the most recent failed apocalypses being the end of the Mayan Calendar, and iTunes being the king of music downloads. Strangely enough, though, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For whatever reason, most black actors not named Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, or Will Smith seem to be lumped together in movies in which they sing, dance, say “DAAAAYUUUUUUUM”, have big family dinners, and inevitably espouse the virtues of family first. I recognize that film making is a business that the Tyler Perry formula has proven millions of African Americans will go to movies featuring African Americans. My question is, why can’t movies be a little more reflective of the world we live in? It’s the proverbial elephant in the room that’s been beaten like a dead horse, but I think its time what we see on the silver screen becomes more reflective of life in America.

Oh well, I guess there’s no stopping it. Madea’s Christmas comes out Dec. 13.

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