Posted: January 27, 2011 by Jay Rasean in Kasual

Apparently for the first time in ten years-since the 73rd Academy Awards, there were no African-Americans nominated in any of the 24 categories. The recognition of films fostering the creativity of the African-American community, was seemingly low this year. All of this following a year where the breakout film directed by Lee Daniels, ‘Precious’, managed to be nominated an outstanding six times.

Obviously I don’t believe this was a Hollywood wide snubbing of black actors, just not our best year. Personally-with the exception of a few movies, I don’t think this was a thrilling year for the film industry as a whole. In any event, films created by, and starring minority men and women have always endured a tougher journey at the box office.

As far as black cinema is concerned, its apparent that we won’t grandstand every year at the Academy Awards. Each year, I would like to think that our fascinating culture will gain us more and more recognition, and not for movies that show the worst aspects of our culture, but the best.

Here’s what I mean…

After being in a notably graphic sex scene, Halle Berry won an Oscar for playing a primarily abusive, single black mother, all while her baby’s father was in jail [Monster’s Ball]. This movie-which happens to be yet another Lee Daniels production, doesn’t intend to focus on the lead female role’s attributes, but her personal struggle and then burgeoning love affair with a racist. Nonetheless, the characteristics of the less attractive features of our culture were instrumental in Ms. Berry’s Academy Award win, I’m sure.

“Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get an Oscar?,
Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?” – Jadakiss

Denzel Washington won not for his extremely powerful roles in ‘The Hurricane’, ‘John Q’, or even ‘Malcolm X’…but for playing a corrupt, self-proclaimed H.N.I.C (head nigger in charge) of the city streets in which he ruled through fear and questionable behavior [Training Day]. Stories of a pimp on a quest for rap stardom [Hustle and Flow], and most recently the story of young, living and breathing statistic, that is perpetuated in poverty stricken black communities world wide [Precious] were the talk of the town stemming from their respective Academy Award nominations. The list goes on and on, and these are the stories that allow our actors to take home that little gold man.

Training Day is probably one of my favorite movies of all time, and in no way am I trying to condemn Mr. Washington for taking on that role, he did great. In no way am I trying to make a point of saying that, the stories told in these Academy Award nominated films are not true, they indeed are. The point I’m trying to make, is that the sole driving force behind the recognition of progressive black cinema, shouldn’t be the visualization of our downfalls. We need more romantic comedy’s, films demonstrating our tragic-yet triumphant histories.We need more more African-American thrillers and not all starring SAMUEL L JACKSON! ( he is very good though). We also need less of the generic, repetive stories brought to the big screen by Tyler Perry. He’s a strong supporter of female empowerment, but his movies are all so similar. He somehow manages to have room to play dress up and offer comedic relief in the form of Madea in each film.

There are many exceptions, but in any event, better luck next year right? As long as we focus on progress, and not settle for digressing roles, we should be OK.


  1. Oubah says:

    "and not for movies that show the worst aspects of our culture, but the best." I couldn't agree with you more. GREAT ARTICLE!!!

  2. nos81199 says:

    Regardless if some of these roles ring true-are social realities and culturally feasible-in some cases or even a majority of cases in super tough urban settings like Philly for example, the danger in having these images and characters dominate the narrative is that they become the norm and the standard. What people don't understand is that there are millions of white people in this country who don't have black folks in their communities and consequently don't know any. Movies like these, to a certain extent, introduce them to blacks. Add to the mix the medias obsessive portrayal of blacks as criminals-the disproportionate documentation of the black mans role in creating civil unrest and trouble so to speak-and you have a compounded problem that leaves a terrible first, second, third, fourth-over and over again-impression. You know what though Jarrett, I have a bigger problem with something else: the lost middle guy. What I don't like is that movies depict the extremes for the most part. Either the person of color is a scary ass gangster stereotype or he's a fucking black guy that sounds white and acts white ( you can be educated without sounding white and acting as if the only connection you have to your culture is the color of your skin; the black or brown u can see at the tip of your nose. Even our prez is a decent example). There are plenty of interesting and edgy, yet not gangster and scary, men of color who straddle the line in btwn the hood and "mainstream" america. I think these people are the future ambassadors and bridges in our culture because they can negotiate living on both sides and they dont get enough play. These are the people america should see because they will ring true: they are a balance of the reality of being a person of color sometimes with the expectations and hopes of the future (education, enttrepenuership etc etc) that is increasingly becoming part of our present. But you know what though, I said it before and ima say again jarrett…you may not agree…I think its tougher to be latino in the movies and perhaps in general now (look at arizona and our edu levels). We have nothing going on in the mainstream and we are supposed to be the future of this country so the census says. Sometimes I feel ignored but that another issue. Good article though man. Keep it up.

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