'Red Tails': Guilt-Trip Cinema
George Lucas played the race card in an effective marketing campaign, but was it necessary?
In order for Hollywood suits to believe that black stories, black actors and black filmmakers are important, there need to be more nonblack people buying tickets to see those movies. Do not be fooled by someone like Tyler Perry, who is the highest-paid man in entertainment, according to Forbes. Perry has had to make his money off more than just movies. His empire is self-made, much like that of another filmmaker, Lucas.
And yet, with all his influence and moxie, Lucas chose to make his promotional campaign a guilt trip, telling people the reason it is important to see Red Tails is that the entire existence of black Hollywood is hinging on the success of the movie.
I should know, because I was one of the people who bought a ticket and saw it this weekend, but I did not need Lucas' pandering in order to do so.
In 2007 I bought a ticket to go see Stomp the Yard, a film about two rival step teams at a fictional historically black college. The film brought in $22 million during the opening weekend and opened at No. 1. If the comparison seems like a stretch, maybe a more apt one would be Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, the 2008 World War II movie loosely based on the 92nd Infantry Division, an all black-unit. Opening-weekend box office: $3.5 million. I was there for that, too.
Hollywood executives do not understand the universal appeal of black stories. Black stories reflect the culture of humanity, not the culture of a subgroup. Just because the cast is black or the director is black does not mean the movie is for blacks only. The man who made Star Wars and Indiana Jones, two franchises that plenty of black people have seen, should have been screaming this from atop the towering pedestal he's been put on.
Instead he went niche.
Red Tails did well, but its opening-weekend numbers should have been better. The fact that they are not is the fault not of black people but, rather, of everyone else who failed to see that Red Tails is about more than just black soldiers in World War II. It is an American story about World War II. More Americans should have come out to see it. Instead they went to see Underworld: Awakening, this weekend's No. 1 movie.
Tuskegee Airmen in Pop Culture
From Red Tails to the toy aisle, images of the iconic World War II soldiers are everywhere.