I hate trends. Trends in music, fashion, beauty, TV … it’s just not my thing. I learned my lesson with trends years ago (remember velour Juicy sweatsuits and Sidekicks? Terrible.) and now I’ve found that I’m better off remaining true to my individuality and not following behind something because it’s popular. More than my dislike of trends, is my disdain for the avalanche effect they cause. Often times, people rally behind a trend uninformed, dragging other ignorant supporters with them. Before you know it, the crazy train is so long and out of control it’s hard to tell where or how it even originated. Example? Hollywood’s obsession with telling the “Black Story.”
Within the past couple of years, Hollywood has had a resurgence in the trend of telling African American history through slavery or Jim Crow inspired struggle films and casting Black actors in self-deprecating roles. I started to notice the trend with 2011’s ever-popular “The Help.” “The Help” captivated audiences with it’s telling of life in the Jim Crow South. The film’s success included Oscar nominations for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, followed by ample magazine covers, interviews and media coverage; thus, starting the snowball effect of Hollywood’s interest in African American history with Black actors and actresses portraying the less than glamorous side of their heritage. Since “The Help,” Hollywood continues to capitalize on that specific culture with studios releasing “Django,” “The Butler,” and most recently “12 Years a Slave.”
Most of the aforementioned films have received rave reviews, but when you have to emotionally prepare yourself for the language, visuals and subject matter of a film, I think it’s time to dial back on the period pieces. We get it - African Americans have a rough history, but for many Black people having to hear depictions or see reenactments of their background over and over again, it becomes insensitive. Hollywood has OD’d on slavery/struggle films and should spark a new trend du jour in telling Black history. Black people were more than maids and field slaves; they also have made a wealth of advancements and achievements not only for their culture, but for American culture as a whole. But I guess those stories are not trendy enough for Hollywood.
I never thought I’d say this but the 1990’s fashion brand FUBU had it right ... with it’s focus on creating things “For Us, By Us.” If history is going to be told, no one can tell a story better than the person who lived it. When it comes to Black history, Black people should be the ones telling the story - the WHOLE story. Thanks to innovators like director Spike Lee or Howard Johnson, who’s publishing house highlights the achievements of Black people through their publications Ebony and Jet, is the true Black story told. Past and present, African Americans are a forward -moving people and that cannot be ignored. Recently, cable network BET (Black Entertainment Television) had a presentation honoring not just the achievements of Black people, but specifically of Black women titled, “Black Girls ROCK!” The showcase was a whirlwind of positivity displaying just how multi-dimensional Black culture truly is.
It’s high time Hollywood takes an interest in the constructive side of Black history - for heaven’s sake, the leader of the free world is a Black man. There is a whole spectrum of colorful, rich stories from African American history. If the accurate and real portrayal of Black heritage is to be told by Hollywood, the least they can do is their research.
How do you feel about the trend in Jim Crow/slavery themed movies? Tell us in the comments below.