Sunday, 19 October 2008

Whites Often the Lead Actors and Protagonists in Black Sports Movies

Do more Hollywood stories about Black sports figures necessarily mean that the real stories of Black sports figures will be told more often? A Washington Post story, as well as quite a bit of personal observation, says that stories about Black athletes are often really stories about the whites who heroically made Blacks' victories possible, or about the Blacks who humbly made white athletes heroic.

The WaPost says today,

The inspiring, based-on-a-true-story black sports film, renewed this month with "The Express," is a movie subgenre that has become an almost annual Hollywood staple over the past decade. It's both a social and cinematic breakthrough, finally recognizing African American lives as the stuff of legend, as well as putting more black faces on the big screen than ever before.

But hold the post-racial hoopla: The main story line in many of these films is the black athlete's relationship with a white coach or teammate, often exaggerating the importance of the white character to the actual events. Since many of these movies are soft-focus retellings of the civil rights movement, the unspoken message seems to be that blacks need guidance, nurturing and counsel from whites to achieve greatness.

( . . . )

"Even in our own stories, it seems like we're often just the co-stars," says Warrington Hudlin, founder of the Black Filmmaker Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization that develops and promotes blacks in cinema, describing the trend. "When it's told from these perspectives, it seems like the role of blacks in American cinema is primarily to make white people feel good about themselves."
( . . . )

Carl Weathers spent a lifetime in sports (as college football star and as an Oakland Raider) and the film industry (he played Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" films and is on the African American steering committee at the Directors Guild of America). He says black sports movies aren't really what they appear to be.

"These movies create the illusion that they're told from a new, ethnic perspective," he says. "There's no rancor intended here, but if we're being honest and candid about what we're seeing . . . it's that the Caucasian coach or mentor or drill sergeant or leader is the figure who inspires the young ethnic person. The guy's ability and drive is somehow superseded by the Caucasian person who is primarily responsible for the ethnic person's success." WaPost
It's sickening, really, and it's not limited to sports stories. Mississippi Burning is about the heroic white lead actor FBI agents who saved Blacks from the Klu Klux Klan during the white Washington civil rights movement for Blacks' voting rights. Without wanting to be contentious, that just not the way Blacks remember our roles in the Civil Rights movement. And it's equally insulting to see a fat white man turning Blacks in Jamaica into a bobsled team, a combination our running legs and the white man's brains and compassion. Spare us.

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