Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Interview with Tuskegee Airman Dr. Roscoe Brown

                                            Dr. Roscoe Brown

Hear a great interview with real Tuskegee Airman Dr. Roscoe Brown and actor David Oyelowo. They discuss their work on the film Red Tails. Some black bloggers and commentators have trashed the film. Their criticisms include poor dialogue and the fact that the characters didn't behave like present day black minstrels by using the N-word and being playboys, attempting to bed every woman in sight. Completely asinine. But not surprising.

The so-called "Black Community", by in large, has come to expect Tyler Perry, Booty Call, Soul Plane, Get Rich or Die Tryin' or some other garbage that shows Black Americans, particularly Black men, in a negative light. It has become so much a part of the norm that they get upset when those stereotypes are not played up. One would think it should be the opposite. Blacks flock to the theaters in droves to see one ignorant Black film after another.

The fact is, I was not expecting Academy Award recognition with this kind of project. Red Tails is basically an action film with a particular historical context. The film is largely fiction, within that historical context.... we know that already. So there was no expectation of Sidney Poitier greatness with this one. So what if the dialogue doesn't make the film an Oscar contender. I have already seen the film "The Tuskegee Airmen", (a film that has thicker dialogue and digs deeper into the characters). I have also seen at least two documentaries on the Tuskegee Airmen, being the documentary addict that I am. I had no expectation that Hollywood would live up to those earlier projects. With a commercial film like Red Tails, my only expectation is to be entertained.... to feel proud for what those men accomplished, and to get a diversion from all the Hell I have to deal with struggling through life from day to day.

Upset with the lack of  the N-word in the dialogue? What? First, this was meant to be a family film for all Americans to enjoy. Again... it wasn't meant to be Booty Call or Soul Plane. Secondly, some have a serious lack of understanding about their own history in this country. It simply was not all that popular for Black men of that caliber to throw the N-word around the way that idiots do today. News Flash: Blacks were still being lynched and terrorized in the 1930's and 40's.

Who cares if there were no sex scenes or stories of girlfriends. I'm completely ok with that. It was World War II for crying out loud. The film is about the Red Tails, not Black Tail. It's as if Black men must always be portrayed as crazed oversexed animals and playboys, chasing every piece of ass they can find, in order for characters to be seen as authentically Black. Has this really become the expectation when it comes to Black men?

The bottom line criticism that seems to be the real issue is the fact that a white man, George Lucas,  produced and funded the film. The fact that it was not a Black project from conception, in some sort of strange way, takes away Blackness points. It's an incredibly strange & nescient mindset and I don't understand it. But it is no surprise to me. When positive Black films are released, Blacks (some... certainly a large segment) find a way to trash it, criticize it, or not to support it with the same enthusiasm that they would with a more urban picture or for a Black Friday sale...or a pair of sneakers made in a sweat shop overseas.

With Red Tails, we finally have a positive Black film that is intended for all Americans, as opposed to just one particular demographic. Finally there is a Black big screen film that shows not just one Black man.... but a group of Black men as American heroes. If this film peaks the curiosity of young Americans, particularly young Black Americans, and encourages them to learn more, then it's a worthwhile project on that basis alone in my opinion.

I don't usually go to the movies to see Black films. I have seen the Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson piece (because I can't resist a good mafia flick), Training Day, Eve's Bayou, Antwone Fisher, Men of Honor, John Q.  and Devil in a Blue Dress...but those were released quite a long time ago. How "Black" are those films anyway? Some weren't really "Black" films as we know them today. The bottom line is... those were good films, well put together, well acted, well thought out, and they didn't pander to the worst stereotypes about Black Americans. I steer clear of the other franchises... like Tyler Perry.
I haven't been out to see a movie (any film) at the theater in years for that matter, but I plan to see Red Tails next week. I was too sick and overwhelmed to check it out this week.... I prefer the second or third week anyway... it allows you to avoid crowds (I have a huge dislike of crowds) and actually enjoy the film.

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