Directed by Deon Taylor (“Supremacy”), the film is a black-horror spoof on 2013’s “The Purge,” directed by James DeMonaco.
Unlike “The Purge,” which has spawned two sequels – and uses racial and socioeconomic unrest as a backdrop – Taylor’s comedy – at times – feels more like a mockery, rather than innovative comedy.
During a recent Q&A with the writer/director, as well as with Mike Epps and his lovely co-star Zulay Henao, I questioned whether or not the overuse of racist language and stereotypical caricatures was a deliberate decision in order to highlight the absurdity of certain aspects of black culture, or if such elements are necessary because it’s what the audience has come to expect from black comedies and comedians.
READ RELATED STORY: ‘Meet The Blacks’ Behind the Scenes (Watch)
“There are some moments in it where if you’re a certain type of person you’ll be like, ‘Oh, why that?’ ,” Epps explained. “But ya know, for the most part, this is a celebration of a bunch of different actors coming together making something light of something that’s really horrible in the world right now.”
That “horrible in the world” Mike speaks of is the climate that helped foster Donald Trump’s bid for presidency, and that which inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.
Epps fails to deliver any gut-busting jokes or one-liners in “Meet The Blacks,” but he’s certainly charming and hilarious in person. At its core, the film is merely regurgitated juvenile humor that’s laced with the N-word, and features a checklist of urban fu*kery that’s accented by an A-list cast. The filmmakers take quite an unapologetic approach with presenting the: oversexed black male, nefarious drug dealers, the black male “come up” in having a non-black wife, the bitter black ex girlfriend /stalker, and no urban comedy would be complete if it didn’t include racist white neighbors and uncomfortable jokes directed at dark skinned black people…because apparently it’s funny to be darker than a paper bag…and you might have Ebola too.
I get that “Meet The Blacks” should be viewed as nothing more than blue pill entertainment, but it left me wondering: entertainment for who? Could a white man make this exact film, with this exact cast, and not receive backlash, and possibly be called a racist? Director Deon may have been left feeling a certain way by my quest to find out the answer to this and more, when he responded with:
“I feel like we beat ourselves up more than anybody,” said Taylor. “When we first put out ‘Meet The Blacks,’ people we’re saying ‘Oh, if we put out Meet The Whites, what would they say?’. And I’m thinking to myself, what are you doing? His name is Carl Black! They don’t take a second to just think about that. We never question Naked Gun 1-11. We never questioned Scary Movie 1-20. Right? But we question Marlon when he does something, and we question Deon when he does something, and it’s just like, man leave it alone. Let it be what it is. It’s comedy. It’s fun. It’s Mike Epps, ya know… this is what it is.”
Okay – I understand that black comedians have been having a go at black culture ever since the white man gave them the right to do so at his venues, but I wonder when someone is going to have the balls to disrupt the system and reinvent the wheel, so to speak. In other words, can the black comedians who are capable of serving jokes that are not at the expense of his own people, please stand up?
Trust me, we don’t all want to hear jokes about oversexed, blunt smokin’ n*ggas. The act is tired, and I’m not suggesting that this is the gist of “Meet The Blacks,” – it’s not. Do I hate the film? No. Did it give me a good laugh at times? Of course! Will most find it fun, kickback with popcorn entertainment? Yes! But progressives may feel the urge to walk out of the film within the first ten minutes. The attack on blackness is certainly a sensory overload. Not to mention… it’s JUST NOT FUNNY!
The timing of this film is also particularly curious, especially considering this call for “equality” in Hollywood. Not to mention our passionate black activists who taking to the streets and disrupting political campaigns to remind the rest of the world that for some of us, black lives still matter. Meanwhile, folks are turning on their TV to see Mike Epps calling another black male an Ebola ape.
As if dark-skinned blacks don’t already face enough scrutiny in the world, most especially from their own. Just seems to me that these colorism jokes should be transported back to Jamestown, Virginia, circa 1619, because we can’t begin heal blackness if we still think it’s funny to project an image to the rest of the world that it’s shameful to be dark-skinned.
The filmmakers call it “entertainment for everyone,” but I call it just another attack on black consciousness. Deon said this movie is the perfect break from the seriousness of the black struggle. For him and the cast, it’s essential to laugh at the struggle during this time that’s “so hot and people are so up in arms and ready to do whatever.”
“We ain’t doing nothing no bad or no worse than what’s really going on,” Mike said, adding that the concept and his co-stars are what lured him to the project.
“I just thought it was such a great idea to have so many different comedians and entertainers together in a movie that is so colorful, fun, (and) that people are familiar with from The Purge,” said Epps.
“Meet The Blacks” features a stellar cast of cameo performances from Gary Owen, Charlie Murphy and Mike Tyson, who all play wild characters that Deon said represent “the chaos that we go through every day.”
“When I was making this movie and writing it, I always kinda felt like, let me make light of this. Let me play this (race) card,” Taylor explained, when asked about the film’s overt stereotypes. “Let me make a mockery of it because at the center of what the movie is, it’s really very-very strategic. It’s a black man fighting for his family in the middle of the purge.”
“A lot of the nuances inside the film were done on purpose. I know how vibrant racism is, and I’ve studied it and I’ve been a part of it and I’ve had it happen to me multiple ways. Obviously I’ve been able to see it coming from, Gary, Indiana, and playing basketball in Germany and East Germany. I’ve experience a lot of different types of racism. So when I was building this film, I wanted to put in some of these little characters, like the Gary Owen’s character – who knows all the black stuff but at the same time, he’s racist and he doesn’t know it. For me, it was just a stage to just play on.”
“Meet The Blacks” also explores yet another interesting black ideology: this need that many blacks have to move on up and live among white folks, where they feel it’s “safer” – as is the case with Mike’s character in the film.
“I feel like genetically, the way we have evolved as people, we’ve been kinda nurtured and taught that when you get money, you get out the hood and go somewhere else,” Deon explained. “And that’s been the whole thing since George and Weezy. You’re moving on up, right! But the reality is, most cats understand that even if you move away, you don’t avoid your problems. You just bare more problems. And I think that’s what Carl Black experiences.”
“Meet The Blacks” hit theaters April 1.