Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Acting Black

Recently, I was struck by the comments of actor, Nate Parker. He has taken a pledge to no longer take roles that emasculate black men or the image of black men. I originally thought that this was a cool stance for an actor to make; but the more that I think about it, the action is quite heroic. Then it hit me; not much has changed with the roles offered to or recognized for black actors nowadays. It seems as though degrading roles like Steppin Fetchit are becoming extinct, but are being replaced with the Holy Trinity of Black Male Actor's Roles:

1. The Misogynist- A man who loves nothing more than to tear women down and has no real love in his heart for females. Especially Black ones. This character never has a back story that will give you any insight in to his attitude or behaviors. It seems as though he was just born this way.

2. The Thug- This character has grown up on the wrong side of the tracks and is well versed in crime and "criminal" ways. Every now and then, this character achieves a level of success but desperation, addiction, or some other character fault, leads him back to his "true self". This character never feels completely comfortable with positive or honest actions/behaviors. It's as if he's allergic to good things. With this character, a good/positive action almost always results in his death.

3. The Safe One- This character is always funny and always brings a wisdom to other characters that he obtained through his life of adversity. You'll know this character because he s always alot older or younger than the main character. This character is always afraid of success.

Think back. Do you remember any black male character in a major motion picture that didn't fall into one of these categories? And I'm not talking about The Tyler Perry movies or the obligatory urban crime dramas. Since no African American, (including Oprah) has the power to green light a movie, we have to believe that these depictions are the safest ones for white America to identify with. We have to believe the story of Biggie, with all the similarities of your average everyday "hood" movies, was somehow more sensational and layered that the sorry of Tupac, with his roots in the Black Panthers, his study of the arts, and his trouble in the limelight.

I applaud Mr. Nate Parker and hope that more black men in Hollywood follow his lead. If they do, I imagine the presence of Black males in cinema will change from Caricatures to Characters. But that's just my opinion though, and who the hell am I?

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