TheGrio Daily

White Movies for Black People

Episode 169

“They don’t even code switch in white movies, but do white people know what code-switching is? Apparently not. So they just have us talking any kind of way to the cops.” Hollywood needs to do better. On this episode of theGrio Daily, Wypipologist Michael Harriot, lists the most overt and obvious tell-tale signs of when Black culture in a film was written or directed by wypipo.

Full Transcript Below

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Michael Harriot: Have you ever been watching a Black movie or a TV show and all of a sudden you say to yourself, “Oh man, a white person did that.” Well, that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily. The only podcast that’ll tell you about the top 10 ways to recognize when a Black movie ain’t really Black.

I’m world famous Wypipologist, Michael Harriot, and this is theGrio Daily.

Oftentimes we are watching a TV show or movie with Black characters, we assume that a Black person did it, but a lot of times it’s not true. There’ll be a white writer. Or a white director. And so, well, I thought I’d give you some clues. Uh, some symptoms. To let you know how to tell a white movie from a Black movie, uh, even if you don’t have the IMD page in front of you. Or if you can’t Google the director or the writer. Let’s go through this list. You’ll see what I’m talking about as soon as we begin. 

So, these are in no particular order. But first, a graveside funeral. Y’all know what I’m talking about? Like when you’re watching a movie and everybody’s gathered around the graveside cause the character died and they got black umbrellas and they’re standing beside the graveside and somebody’s preaching, or sometimes, you know, they’ll have Black people singing, a whole choir singing, on the graveside in a cemetery.

Y’all know white people did this, cause Black people don’t be having no graveside funerals cause we have the funeral at the church, and then, you know, we’ll go to the grave and put the person in the ground. And then we go to, for a repass with some, some pound cakes, some good icing on it, some thighs, the fried chicken is always thighs and legs and some macaroni and cheese and some green beans. That’s, that’s the classic repass plate, but, but white people don’t know this.

Now to be fair, I don’t know if white people actually have graveside funerals, it’s just something that’s on TV. So it might be just a whole television, uh, you know, creation, but I know Black people don’t do that. You know, we don’t be having no funerals outside, right?

We got to have some place where your aunt can land when she faints. So, uh, you know, if you see this on a movie, you know, a white person did it. And one other way you can tell about, uh, white people depicting a Black funeral or Black church service in general, is that all the choir members have robes. Y’all know, we don’t be just breaking out the good robes on any random Sunday or for a regular person’s funeral, especially when they got shot by the criminal. Robes of a special occasions, like pastor’s anniversaries and Easters, stuff like that. You don’t, you don’t just be breaking up all the, the robes for any kind of purpose. 

Okay, the second one, and I know you’ve seen this. White people have no idea what Black women do with their hair. And we didn’t find these fictional Black women who frolic in pools, take showers and sleep without bonnets or shower caps. Y’all know that don’t happen. Like you can’t just be diving in the pool. Not even if you have natural hair, that chlorine going to do something to your follicles. So you don’t just be jumping in the pool. With no wave cap on, you know, that saltwater in the ocean does something to your hair. You can’t just be doing that. You got to have some kind of a barrier between that water and your hair, or you’re going to spend a long time in the bathroom. But if a white person wrote or directed the movie, like remember when Halle Berry was in, was one of the Bond women and she just emerged from the pool and her hair was all straight. Man, do y’all know how long it must’ve taken for them to recreate that scene? But that never happens in real life. 

Or when they have a Black nightclub and all the Black people are on the floor dancing. Like nobody’s just two stepping. They got their hands in the air. They, they waving them like they just don’t care. You know, they heard that on the song, and they just going off. Like somebody is doing a running man in the corner and they’ll never be dancing on the beat. Like, why do they do this? Like nobody’s at the bar getting a drink. Nobody’s trying to holler at a woman in her ear. Everybody at the Black club when white people direct the movie is dancing. We two step see white people go to bars. I think that’s why white people go to bars, white people, um, hangout at, uh, lounges and smoke cigars. I don’t know what white people be doing really cause I’ll be going to those places, but that’s what I assume. So they don’t know what goes on at the Black club. Like they don’t have sections in their club, um, on the movies where you get bottle service and them girls be coming around with those sparklers. None of that happens in the white movies, but it happens in real life. And that’s how, you know, a white person did the movie. 

Oh, or the number four, right? Does it not bother y’all when the main character is at a restaurant and then something happens or they get a phone call and they got to leave right away. And the hero always plops down some cash and just walks out. Y’all know how dangerous that is. Nah, bruh. We don’t just like plop down the money on the counter and leave. We got to count down, count our money. We got to make sure that the waitress enters it into the cash register. We got to leave with a receipt cause I don’t want the police walking up to me and saying, “remember that meal you forgot to pay for in 2004?”

Nah, nah, nah. I’m gonna need a receipt. I save all my receipts in a folder. On my computer called “I didn’t steal them French fries.” So yeah, that’s something that white, white people can probably do that. They could just probably just plop down some cash. Cause I don’t even, how do they know how much the whole meal costs? Right. Without the waitress bringing them their bill. Now they just run out of the restaurant, plop down some cash. I don’t even keep that much cash on me. 

How about this one? Why do Black movie gangsters always talk to the cops in gangster Ebonics? You don’t know what I’m talking about. The cops will stop you while you drive in a, in a white movie that features Black person and they still be using a Black voice. Nah, they don’t even switch to their white voice. Like they don’t even code switch in white movies, but do white people know what code switching is? Apparently not. So they just have us talking on any kind of way to the cops. See, that’s how you get shot, but they don’t know that. 

Speaking of which you can’t just show up at a Black character’s house. And knock on the door. Like that’s number five, right? You can’t just knock on somebody you don’t know house and say, “May I come in and talk to you about the unsolved crime?” But the police in white movies do this all the time. First of all, no. Second of all, the chances of somebody answering the door when white people knock is 50/50 at best. And trust me, we can tell when white people be knocking at the door cause y’all knock sounds different. 

Number seven. The movies perpetuate this idea that Black characters won’t talk to the cops because they’re afraid that the gangsters will retaliate. You know, that “no snitching rule” that white people believe in. But the reason that Black people don’t snitch is because they’re afraid of the cops, not the gangsters. We don’t want to be talking to no cops like that because you know what? First thing you can do is give the cops some information and the next thing you know, they’ll have you in jail on trumped up charges. Nah, bruh. Like, it’s not that I’m against snitching. If something don’t have anything to do with me, bruh, y’all, y’all not going to get me to tell on myself. And when the cop’s talking to you, you always the number one suspect. Trust me. 

Number eight, you ever noticed how the smarter, talented Black kid in the movies always gets involved with the wrong crowd? Cause you know, the gangsters or the people on the corner put peer pressure on them. See, that’s the thing that white people believe. But in poor Black neighborhoods, in reality, the kid with the chance of getting out is usually protected by the neighborhood. If you’re smart or if you’re good at basketball, they’re not going to let you get in trouble. Nah, they want you to get out of that neighborhood. They want to see you succeed. But white people believe that, you know, that all Black people are crabs in a barrel. That’s not in real life. If you talk to any smarter, talented Black person, they’ll tell you how somebody told their mama on there when they saw them hanging out at night in the wrong place or doing something that they weren’t supposed to. That’s just, you know, a figment of white imagination. 

Number nine, I’ve seen white characters put on lipstick, hair gel, perfume, and even brush their teeth. But why don’t you ever see a Black person apply lotion or, or better yet, “why come” you never see a Black person apply lotion? Cause “why come” is a legitimate, uh, interrogation, uh, clause in Black literature. How are the Black people so shiny? They never ask you, but we never see them put on lotion. They just get out of the shower and go eat breakfast and go, go straight to work. No lotion in their thumb meat. You know, that, that, that little bit of meat between the thumb and the forefinger. We don’t even put that on.

That’s not real life, yo, but the number 10th one is the one that annoys me the most. But it’s my biggest pet peeve in the entertainment industry. If you haven’t noticed this, I bet you, once I tell you, you’ll never be able to not see it again. In most movies, there’s one subtle trope that’s almost exclusively used by white directors. In the establishing shot, that’s the shot where they show you like where the action is taking place, there’s a subtle indicator that informs the audience that you are now in a Black neighborhood. Seriously, like whenever something’s happening in a Black neighborhood, you hear rap music playing in the background. You hear people standing on the corner.

There’s always a auto mechanic shop and a liquor store and people standing outside. Sometimes they’d be around a trash can burning stuff, warming themselves up. That’s how you know you in a Black neighborhood. But there’s always going to be some rap music playing in the background. You know, like, like when the teacher from the underprivileged school goes to visit the parents of the gifted student and tell them that “little Johnny can go to college if he just applies themself,” right?

First of all, the gangsters going to be harassing the white teacher as soon as she walks to the door, which never happens. Because, you know, white people don’t be messing with Black people in the neighborhood like that because, you know, they might be the police. But, uh. Apparently there’s always a little undercurrent of Black music thumping in the background. And that’s how you know you’re in a Black movie directed by a white person. And that’s also how you know that you got to download that Grio app. You got to listen to this podcast. You got to tell a friend about it. And most of all, you got to realize that we always leave you with a Black saying. And today’s Black saying is, “throw your hands in the air and wave them like white people are there.”

We’ll see you next time on theGrio Daily.

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