By now, you’re fully aware that, Red Tails, George Lucas’ cinematic account of the Tuskegee Airmen opened in theaters across the country this weekend. Sitting in my cushiony seat at the Malco Paradiso theater on Saturday night, I thought about all of the hype before the film; the barrage of posts on my FB newsfeed encouraging support for the film and the usual counter offense of those who stated that they weren’t in any hurry to see the film because of this reason or that reason. To that, I say–Whatever. Most of them are all bitching about the fact that the film was done by George Lucas and he’s making money off of Black folks, blah, blah, blah. O…..kay.
The last time I checked, African Americans have close to $1 trillion dollars worth of spending power and approximately 1% of those dollars are circulated back into our communities. It can be reasonably surmised that George Lucas is not the only white man in this country making money off of us — so, if we’re gonna get pissed about something like this — let’s all get angry enough to launch and manage viable businesses within our communities, shall we? Besides, if we understand anything about the Hollywood machine, then we should all be miffed at the fact that it took someone like Mr. Star Wars to get the film to the Silver Screen — and from what he has said publicly, even he had problems getting the film financed, thereby, causing him to drop some of his own money into it. At present, what Black producer/director in Hollywood has enough clout to get such a film with a multi-million dollar budget and major distribution done?
Don’t worry. I’ll wait….and contrary to popular belief, Black Hollywood’s Golden Boy, Tyler Perry, does not have it like that in Tinsel Town. So, as far as Hollywood goes, who else could have done it? As I thought about it some more, I wondered if any of these people with this particular gripe could name just one Black indie film and filmmaker, other than Tyler Perry. Hollywood is about politricks and apparently, Lucas had enough pull, and money, to get the movie to the screen, eventually. Black folks are running out to see the film for the same reason they flock to go see every other film with a Black face — because we are literally starving to see something that we can relate to; at least Red Tails gave Black moviegoers the added bonus of showcasing a piece of our history. For those who moaned about the historical accuracy of the film, it never intended to do that and the disclaimer ‘Inspired by true events’ before the opening scene took care of that, although the film presented an actual citation of the 1925 Army report echoing the highly fabricated ‘scientific’ research that blacks were intellectually inferior. For historical accuracy, one must start the journey by engaging in that age-old task of reading a damn book (or several books) on the subject, because Hollywood’s purpose is to sensationalize, not educate.
Now, will there be some moviegoers who were completely unaware of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen before this film? Yes. Will it spark their curiosity and make them hungry to learn more? Yes. Do I think it’s sad that there are some of us who hadn’t learned about the Tuskegee Airmen before the film? Yes. But I’m equally bothered by the fact that there are Black students who think that the Black Panthers are an NFL team and that Jesse Jackson is one of Michael Jackson’s brothers. However, I do not expect Hollywood nor the school system to take up the task of teaching our history and culture. That’s a job for the community — and it’s safe to say that we’re slacking.
Here’s the skinny, Red Tails is worth supporting for the sake of the Tuskegee Airmen’s phenomenal story. It’s obvious that Lucas’ whole objective was to present these men for the heroes that they are, which is why I believe it was a challenge to get this film financed. It wasn’t just a film starring an all-Black cast because Hollywood will do that every now and then, but this was a cast starring all Black men. None of them were robbing, shooting, raping, stealing, lying, molesting, pimping, abusing drugs or women, and wearing dresses. Also, they were not there to hit punchlines every other minute. They were in distinguished roles and doing their part to level off the actors’ playing field in Hollywood by being desirable leading men. You see, Hollywood is designed to continually purport white men as leads — they are to be heroic, desired by women, and, ultimately, the prime example of masculinity. Don’t believe me? Just check out Hollywood’s latest trend of releasing these movies along the same lines as 300 (a movie that is in a LOT of Black men’s movie collections). Think about it. If you were a white Hollywood executive, would you want to put your money in a film with a cast of Black men who could possibly start a trend that’ll undo decades of the white male image? For example, every time there was a close-up of that yummy Nate Parker*, I would nudge my sistafriend sitting beside me and she would giggle.
Lastly, another reason to support the film is because most of the actors are young and still building their acting careers. If anything, their presence in the film indicated the scarcity of famous Black male actors in Hollywood. Those fine young men have to eat and pay their bills so supporting the film and buying the DVD will allow them to get residual checks while they continue to look for work, hopefully, Red Tails will make it a bit easier for them. We will see. All in all, I do get it; getting to the theaters to see the movie is not a real movement, and by this time, we’re supposed to know how to go about getting our stories told through our own efforts. Although it will help in some way, Red Tails won’t change a thing on any major scale in Hollywood, but neither will sitting on your $10 during the opening weekend.
*Nate Parker is the new Denzel. Yeah I said it.