*Not orange. Not blue. Not green (well, maybe some green, this is a business after all) but black is finally being called by its name; and recognized in its stand alone righteousness as relevant.
And just think: it only took a handful of successful race-themed movies in the year 2012-2013 to accomplish this.
Earning a combined total of approximately $234.7 million to date, “12 Years A Slave,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “42,” and “Fruitvale Station” have taken Hollywood by storm and audiences can’t get enough.
With at least two of the movies being held up as Oscar contenders; “Blue Caprice” notwithstanding and another film, “Black Nativity” on the way; this year, as Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott wrote recently, “may go down in the scriptures as the greatest year for black actors.”
But going toe-to-toe on the issue of race has been a pink elephant in America’s room forever. Even A-List stars like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Will Smith slid into the mainstream by tip-toeing away from movies that dealt with the issues of race.
Oh yes, there was the occasional Spike Lee movie that slipped in, but overall, Hollywood never thought movies with majority black casts would resonate with their precious white audiences; and refused to put money behind them.
George Lucas, of all people, spent 23 years trying to make his movie, “Red Tails,” about the Tuskegee Airmen. Last year the film finally saw the light of day, making a tepid $48 million at the box office – far less than the $100 million Lucas reportedly spent to make it.
And Lee Daniels, whose “Precious” movie made $47 million against the $10 million he spent to make it, has made it no secret that the studios didn’t give him one dime for “The Butler.” At the time of the movie’s release, Daniels told the Los Angeles Times that “Hollywood would not let me make a black drama.”
Has the election of a black president put the race issue behind us? No, of course not, but it seems to helping point Hollywood in the right direction, finally. USC president Todd Boyd told Reuters this summer that “The visibility of the nation’s first African American president has made the issue of race visible throughout the culture, and one of the places we are seeing that is in Hollywood.”
Moving forward, with “12 Years A Slave” headed for widespread release in November and poised to make a lot more money; and the highly anticipated Iris Elba starrer, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” not far behind, black may not be just a passing trend in movieland; but instead, a significant piece of an incomplete puzzle missing for far too long in Hollywood.