by today's Urban Chameleon contributor Activist formerly Known as Undungu Goldstein
“Ay-yay-yay! Another damn movie about two black people falling in love over a game of basketball!“
I’m driving through Atlanta’s Westside when the billboard catches my eye. I can’t tell you how over “black movies” I am. You would think there are no other stories to tell when it comes to African American movies. I imagine some film exec has in his office a spinning wheel with very few themes listed on it. Let’s see, there’s; drug family, barber or beauty shop, thug with heart of gold, basketball player, baby mama drama, dance crew, comically-tragic criminal, love interest.
He spins the wheel. The needle lands on “dance crew”.
He spins again. This time the needle lands on “thug with a heart of gold”.
His third and final spin is the heart of the plot “baby mama drama”
He smiles. Another box office hit he thinks to himself. The story almost writes itself; a hip-hop dancing thug is torn between his love of dancing and the responsibility and pressures of being a young father. Ultimately he has to decide between selling drugs or going legit as a backup- dancer for a rap superstar. However in a last ditch effort to get out of the “game”, he gets caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time and is shot in his ankle pretty much ending his career as a dancer. In a Rocky-like, triumphant call of courage, he rebounds partially and becomes a choreographer at a local dance studio and reunites with his estranged baby-mama to raise his child.
Immediately the executive’s mind races, wondering which of rap’s current pop icons he can cast in the lead. The film’s soundtrack will be star-studded. The lead actor/rapper will surely record a Top 40 hit that will sell more tickets to the movie than anyone can imagine. Brands and products will flock to throw money at this project, which in many ways will resemble a 1.5-hour commercial.
It shouldn’t be this easy he thinks to himself. But hey, the system works- why f*ck with it.
What ever happened to the griots? I find it hard to believe that they do not exist any longer. These versions of “our stories” are much too generic to be authentic. These same recycled stories of black life are like hearing your uncle Junior tell that same story over and over again every year at the family reunion. You can tell the whole story without even thinking about it. You know the plot from the title. Where are the original stories or at least creative telling of stories about the African American experience? I think of the wonderful novels and writings from African American authors and black writers from through out the Diaspora like Octavia Butler, Edwidge Danticatt, Walter Moseley, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, August Wilson and countless others and wonder what happened to our stories. Is it the fault of the film industry or the ticket buying audience? After all, if we didn’t buy it- they couldn’t sell it. At what point does the demand redefine the supply. Things that make you go hmmmm.
The film exec leans back in his Herman Miller Aeron chair, puts his Ferragamo shoes on his glass desk. He lights his cigar and smiles. ‘Money in the bank ‘ he thinks to himself, ‘Money in the bank’.
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