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Hit Black Movies Would Not Shock Diverse Hollywood

by Todd A. Smith

Hit Black Movies Show Need for Diversity in Hollywood

            “The Best Man Holiday” did more than shock Hollywood pundits by earning over $30 million at the box office opening weekend.  The sequel to the 1999 classic, “The Best Man” frustrated Black audiences when it comes to the habitual negative reviews of Black movies.

            Are movie critics determined to see Black movies tank because of racist views or are they just uninformed about Black culture and find it hard to relate to?

            Although racism is rampant in all avenues of American life, including Hollywood, I would think that an ignorance of Black culture is the reason why many critics and pundits predict failure for many Black movies, when they actually become hits at the box office. 

Furthermore, the lack of Black movie critics highlights a growing problem within journalism, which is the difficulty that a non-diverse newsroom faces when trying to cover a diverse country.  If people are not aware of Black culture, they probably cannot effectively cover issues pertaining to the Black community.

            Veteran movie critic Mick LaSalle once wrote that the film “Think Like a Man” was not believable because nobody would take relationship advice from Steve Harvey.  How then can one explain the fact that the book that the movie was based on became a bestseller, topping the New York Times list?  Obviously, millions of readers took his advice seriously enough that the film already had a built-in audience, grossing over $90 million dollars.

            Although LaSalle is a veteran of the movie business, a 54-year-old White man is not the best person to predict what a younger, Black demographic finds entertaining, uplifting or informative.

            The lack of Black faces in Hollywood and journalism leads to the misconception that Black movies do not make much money, and which films the Black community wants to see.

            Even executives at Universal Pictures were shocked that “The Best Man Holiday” performed so well.

            Those preconceived assumptions highlight the need for diversity in all avenues of corporate America.

            Just imagine how many potential hit movies Hollywood executives turned down because they were unaware of how popular they would be in the Black community.

            Several years ago, a Houston news station reported that a certain Black celebrity was in town.  When the news reporter came on air, she reported that “Moesha,” the television character portrayed by Brandy Norwood was in town, not knowing her actual name was Brandy.

            Likewise, in 1995 when Tejano star Selena was killed it was front page news everywhere and understandably so. 

But as a hip-hop and R&B fan, I had never heard of the singer, which offended many of my colleagues at the time.  If I was a news director, I may have totally ignored that story not understanding the magnitude of her career.

            If a company is in the business of marketing products to all demographics, then it is imperative to have representation from those demographics when decisions are made.

            Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is a legend when it comes to rap culture and music.  However, at 56-years-old, he is probably not the perfect person to make decisions on hip-hop clothing for the youth.

            On the show “Run’s House,” he would frequently consult with his nephew “JoJo” to see what was hot and what was not.  He did not assume to know what teenagers liked, he asked a teenager for his input.

            The same approach would be a benefit to those Hollywood.  Don’t just assume you know what films will be successful in various communities.  Consult with people from those communities on a regular basis before making decisions, because millions of dollars could be lost as a result of executives not knowing the demand for their potential product.

This article was published on Friday 22 November, 2013.
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