New Films Shatter Stereotypes of Black Men



    For decades, Hollywood has portrayed African American men in a negative light.  From pimps, and drug dealers to thugs and womanizers, the portrayal of Black men in the media have led to numerous stereotypes that have ultimately determined how many view an entire group of people.

    Moreover, the stereotypical portrayals of Black men, have even led young African American Americans to view themselves in a negative light also.  For many young African American males, the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the mainstream media, only reinforces, negative opinions of them, because Black men who fit a negative stereotype surround many. 

    Seeing Black men as drug dealers and deadbeat fathers leads some to believe that they are not real Black men unless they live a life of negativity.  The portrayal of African American men in films such as Waiting to Exhale and Diary of a Mad Black Woman have led many Black women to believe that there are not any good Black men around, and that those no go good men are the reason for the turmoil that sometimes exist in Black relationships. 

    However, two upcoming films, The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his son Jaden, and Diary of a Tired Black Man by first time filmmaker Tim Alexander attempt to change stereotypes by portraying Black men from a brother’s perspective.

     Will Smith’s role in The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the true story of Chris Gardner, a single father who transforms his life from homeless to a multi-millionaire. 

    Raised by a single mother, Gardner knew at an early age that he wanted to be a constant presence in his son’s life.  Although he lacked a lot of material possessions and wealth, his mother, Bettye Jean Gardner, preached to her children that they could one day be a millionaire. 

    After a stint in the military, Gardner moved to San Francisco to pursue a career as medical supplies salesperson.  Barely making enough to support his girlfriend and son, Gardner’s life changed drastically when he met a Ferrari driving stocker broker who earned $80,000 a month. 

     Influenced by his conversation with the stockbroker he quit his job to pursue a career on Wall Street.  Despite being a high school dropout, he convinced a company to give him a chance, even though he did not have the required education. 

    Unfortunately, when he arrived for his first day at work, he realized the man that had hired him no longer worked there, and his opportunity had left with him. 

    Gardener managed to get a job with a stockbroker, but was unable to live at his boarding house because they did not allow children, and therefore they ended up without a roof over their head.                

    Sleeping in such places as public parks with his young son on his back, Gardner remembered the lessons taught by his mother, and with a lot of prayer and dedication, Gardner was eventually able to take his son from public parks to the penthouse.

     Tim Alexander’s first feature film, Diary of a Tired Black Man began as a three-minute clip he made simply to display some young Black actors he had been working with.

    Frustrated by failed relationships, involving what he calls “angry sisters,” Alexander attempted to write a short script that would be the Black man’s answer to recent male-bashing films. 

    Although he is well aware that many African American women face challenges dealing with insensitive Black men, Alexander wanted to present the fact that there are many good brothers out there.   Many would love to hook up with their ideal sisters, but because of such things as negative attitudes, find themselves at a crossroad in their dealing with Black women. 

    The clip centers on James who visits his ex-wife’s house to pick up his daughter, accompanied by a female companion who happens to be White.  His ex-wife and her friends bombard him with insults for dating a White woman, saying he went that route because he could not handle a strong Black woman.  James blames the Black women for their inability to keep a man on their anger and penchant for drama.

     Although Alexander’s clip has generated much controversy in the African American community, he said that his film is not focusing on all Black women, just those who bring anger from previous relationships into new situations, and eventually drive good men away. 

    The filmmaker believes that many of the issues the Black women have with their male counterparts directly reflects an entire life of hearing negative stereotypes of Black men.  Whether they hear it from their mothers or the media, many African American women have preconceived notions of Black men, and when they finally do meet a good Black man, they think something is wrong with them because they are not accustomed to positive relationships between Black men and women. 

    Unfortunately, many are accustomed to the infidelity and abuse that they witnessed their mothers and loved ones endure at the hands of Black men, and when there is not any drama in their relationships, they try to invent it, which leads many Black men to search for love in other places.   

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