So I cheated. I’ve already posted this to my other blog http://www.theblackhollywoodreporter.wordpress.com (check it out), but I thought I should just share the love!
I come to you today realizing there is a paradigm in Black Hollywood, and I don’t know how I feel about it. This realization comes after the backlash of Mary J. Blige’s Burger King Commercial.
Many believe it was coonish for Blige to sing the song about chicken, burgers, and even ranch dressing, but as I sit on the other side of the industry, my gut just wouldn’t let me get as mad as I probably would have a few years ago. My mind didn’t directly move to disgust and dissecting the “issue”, but it DID make me wonder about the meeting Blige had with her team. I could picture her agent presenting the opportunity her. It was probably like, “Burger King wants you to do a song.” If I came to you and plainly said, “Burger King wants you to do a song,” would you honestly shut it down? Would chicken and ranch dressing be the first thing to pop into your mind? Maybe not, so let’s just say that you agreed. Once you read the lyrics, even if a red flag was raised, what would the conversation be like with your manager about the backlash of your career? Before you answer, let me tell you that commercials make people a lot of money for a little time. While movie shoots would probably last 100 days, a commercial lasts 3. While making an album may last months or even years, you would probably spend a day in the studio to record the song. And the residuals for a national commercial bring in some nice bread… very nice. So think about the complexity of her decision especially when the digital boom has cut musical artists’ income.
But trust, Blige is not alone in the struggle. Think about Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. With the scarcity of parts, should [black] actors turn down roles? Did people stop working for BP waiting on them to clean up the spill? Did the LAPD officers quit the force after those police officers were acquitted for beating Rodney King? So as we wait for more quality television shows and movies, what do black artist do in the mean time while whites offer a narrow scope of characters and blacks don’t take the time to educate themselves in order to create quality work? Artists still need income, and inactivity is the best way to be forgotten. How does Black Hollywood deal with this paradigm?
Honestly, the resolution of this paradigm doesn’t bother me as much as the realization that we are dealing with the same predicament Robert Townsend dealt with in Hollywood Shuffle. It’s been at least 30 years, and we really haven’t progressed. I’ve racked my brain trying to find solutions to this problem. Each solution seems to cancel each other out, and in the time of quick, fast, and in a hurry products (reality tv), it’s so hard to find someone willing to take their time and make something of quality. To be transparent, The Game and Let’s Stay Together are a chore to watch, and I won’t even get on Love That Girl. No one supports Treme resulting next season being their last season, and after Red Tails, it seems we cannot rely on someone else to tell our story. We are slowly getting mainstream roles, but “they” protest. For example, the backlash of Idris Elba in the movie Thor: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2011/05/02/thor-star-idris-elba-on-fan-racism-and-ghost-rider-sequel-but-not-prometheus/ , or recently the African Americans casted in Hunger Games: http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/hunger-games-fans-have-racist-debate-over-stars-playing-rue-thresh-2012263 ? So in this slow transformation, what do we do… because BILLS are do!