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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why Has No One Said Anything About A Black Film Making A Billion Dollars? #Furious7

Why Has No One Said Anything About A Black Film Making A Billion Dollars? #Furious7

All pictures courtesy of their films and studios

Let me first start by saying that I am not at all trying to troll the internet. This little blog entry is not to race-bait nor inflame, but is a legitimate question. Why has no one said anything about Furious 7 making a billion dollars... and being a black film? OK, back up. Let me explain.

I would first thank #Furious7 for a kick-butt April and seeing as how #AvengersAgeofUltron is going to dominate the box office, this seems like the perfect time to look at the success of this film. Also, it is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's birthday (wish him a happy 43 @TheRock ; #ThingsBetterInRockForm #ThingsBetterWithTheRock ; checkout his new movie this month, San Andreas). As I sat there in the theater two things occurred to me. The first was how much I would actually miss Paul Walker. During some of the clearly CGI’d scenes of his I thought back about all the films that I have scene of his and actually realized that I had seen a great deal more films of his than I thought I had. It’s that moment when you realize that you’re actually a bigger fan of someone than you thought you were. I actually enjoyed Hours a lot more than I thought I would (if you haven’t seen it, you should. It is some of Paul’s finest dramatic work). And outside of the fact that I thought that ending was a very... interesting way to give him a sendoff, I did think it was admirable that they tried to do something respectful for him and usher him out of the franchise. It also made a clear definition that they would definitely continued with the films.

All of this led to the second realization that I had. Furious 7, for all intents and purposes, was a definable black film, unlike any of the other iterations in the franchise. Think about this: The Rock, Ludacris, Tyrese, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel and Vin Diesel (yes, Vin Diesel actually does have some black blood in him). Granted, while the movie does have Paul Walker, Kurt Russell and Jason Statham, you’ve pretty much reached Negro Critical Mass (NCM for short) when your main cast surpasses 4 blacks. Then add in the fact that Hounsou is in the movie almost as much as Statham and Russell, and you have a great majority of the film filled with black people the entire time. “OK, Michael. That’s great. You can count! Two claps for you,” you say. Well, this is important for a few reasons.

Let’s not focus on the whole racial profiling and tensions going on throughout the great USA for a moment. Let us also give some credit where it is due concerning Walker. As we saw seven years ago, the death of a popular actor still in his prime can skyrocket a box office for a good movie or even decent movie (I liked both Furious 7 and The Dark Knight; miss you, Heath Ledger). But even if Paul walker alone can account for 400 million dollars that still means that six black people, two white guys and one Latina (haven’t forgotten about you, Michelle Rodriguez) made 600 million dollars worldwide, and in the fastest time ever for a studio (Universal) that had never seen a billion dollar film. That is a lot of money for such an ethnic cast to have made, even for today’s standards. But again, why is this important.

It is important for a very simple fact: Hollywood still thinks that this is nearly impossible. For one, most people (I’m sure a few of you readers are included) would not immediately think that Furious 7 is a black film. Some still wouldn’t categorize it as such even after reading this post. But again, when you consider the fact that the majority of “Black films” for the past 20+ years have always included white or other ethnic cast members, you can include this film in that category. Also, it is another safe route to point out that “black films” have not and are not always directed or written or produced by “Black filmmakers.” Granted, this is a somewhat contentious fact in itself as movies like Ray, The Help, Get On Up, Dreamgirls and the list goes on were not directed by black or minority directors (from what I know). Yet, for years films that had reached NCM were labeled either by Hollywood or by the movie-going public as Black films. Only every so often was there a crossover success that tons of people wanted to see (ex. Bad Boys), but never have people come out in such overwhelming masses across the world to see a film with so much... color. I was nearly overwhelmed by the blackness just from Tyrese and Hounsou. Lord only knows how the Danish felt.

This success is coming off the heels of a leaked Sony email in which an executive and producer talked about the lack of worth in casting Denzel Washington (maybe you know of him) in the film the Equalizer because international audiences essentially weren’t turning out to see the old black guy. Their thought was basically who wants to see black people? Don’t nobody care about yo feelin’s, Tyrone! This film—the franchise as a whole, really—seems to have proved that wrong. This has led to the greenlight of the Equalizer 2, as well as Furious 8. Now whether people will still come back to see a Fast and Furious movie without Walker is still to be seen (coming April 14, 2017). It does present an interesting turn for me.

As an author and gearing up to release my book Darker (#Darker) in June on the Amazon Kindle store, I am often faced with the question of if a book has a certain amount of ethnic characters does that automatically classify it as a certain kind of book in the reader’s mind? Darker is most certainly a book that halfway tackles race; however, it is a horror book that is an ode to Stephen King’s debut novel Carrie. It has both a broad theme and a very specific theme to it that I believe could appeal to everyone. But even with that, I never write in one specific genre nor to one specific ethnicity. Another one of my books, Brand New Home (#BrandNewHome) out May 7th is about a white family.

So, to my readers and the viewers out there, those who enjoyed Furious 7 and those who would rather read a book, what do you still share in some of the same thoughts that Hollywood does. I’m not judging you if you see a particular book or film as still being an ethnic film for this particular race or whatever, but what preconceived notions do you bring to your entertainment.

Are you excited for the sequels to Furious 7 or The Equalizer? Did you not even notice or care about the ethnicity of the cast? What other books, TV shows and movies do you enjoy that have large ethnic casts? Leave your comments below, join me on my Goodreads group, follow me on Twitter and checkout some of my books on Amazon.

Until next time, “50. Stay above 50.”

P.S. OK, admittedly, all of this talk about action movies got me thinking about Speed. And then I thought about Keanu Reeves and I thought that maybe Paul Walker looked like Keanu Reeves married Christopher Reeves and they had a blond baby they named Paul Walker. RIP.
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