If someone were to ask me to give an example of a race-themed movie, I’d try to unfurrow my brow and then I’d probably throw out titles of movies that are about the civil rights movement or slavery in the U.S. If there’s a movie that puts the “I’m black”scene of CB4 on a loop, I’d add that one too.
Pretty sure it would not occur to me to mention romantic comedies. But somebody at USA Today thinks The Best Man Holiday is a “race-themed” film. The Best Man Holiday is the highly anticipated follow-up to 1999’s The Best Man. Both films are about a group of friends and their journeys navigating romance, loyalty and career challenges. Morris Chestnut, Sanna Lathan, Nia Long, Terrance Howard and Taye Diggs are among the stars of the two movies.
A USA Today headline and tweet (now changed and deleted respectively) read “’Holiday’ Nearly Beat Thor as Race-Themed Films Soar.”
Among other things, the article talks about how several movies with predominately black casts like The Butler and Fruitvale Station did very well at the box office this year. The Best Man Holiday brought in over $30 million over the weekend, second only to Thor, which brought in $38.4 million.
As expected, Black Twitter had a field day with a #USATodayBreakingNews hashtag. “Best Man Holiday soars to number one by exploring race themes such as love, hope and humor” (@zellieimani) is one of my favorite tweets from that hashtag.
After all of the backlash on social media, USA Today changed the headline to “’Holiday’ Nearly Beat Thor as Ethnically Diverse Films Soar.” Seems that for the USA Today editors, “race-themed” and “ethnically diverse” are terms that are synonymous with “predominately black cast.”
If having a cast of actors that are mostly of one race is the qualifier for a film to be deemed race-themed, then beloved favorites like The Notebook and Mean Girls are race-themed movies too. But no, those two films would never be called race-themed because the casts are predominately white and still even today in 21st-century America, the lives and experiences of white people are considered “universal” and the experiences of others races are well, “other.”
This seemingly innocuous headline from USA Today shows the inability of some people to connect with stories featuring black people, regardless of the content of the story. That is a very ugly truth about race relations in this country.
For some, black people are still not quite human. The black experience is not just slavery or sitting on the back of a bus or not being allowed to attend certain schools. We love, we laugh, we cry, we fail, we triumph, just like all other human beings and there are filmmakers who are capable of successfully putting the nuances of those experiences on the big screen.
Mind you, I am not a fan of living life color-blind. Please do see and appreciate my black skin and the experiences that I have had as a black woman. I would not want someone to have to pretend not to see the color of my skin in order to treat me well. But at the same time, certain things (falling in love, having friends, etc.) are truly universal and it’s shameful that some people are incapable of appreciating shared human experiences because skin tones are not the same.
Black people go see “white” movies all the time. These big action movies set records because people of all colors go spend their green money on movie tickets. It’s no secret that Hollywood usually markets movies with predominately black casts exclusively to black people. But is that an example of Hollywood shaping race relations or re-enforcing ideas that already exist?
USA Today eventually changed the headline to ‘”Best Man Holiday’ Nearly Beats Mighty Thor,” which is what it should have been in the first place.