The State of the Union in Black Hollywood (Part III)

Since money is the heart of Hollywood, profit is the blood.  With this pumping in the veins of executives, the only thing that is important besides entertaining is making a profit.  Besides, we know that Hollywood both Black and White cannot survive unless there is an accumulation of mass amounts of profit.  But what is posed as an unwritten formula is the method in which Black actors and actresses utilize in making a profit and keeping it real.  Gates commented, “You can keep it real and make the profit.  That’s what Hudlin, Spike and Singleton does.  But often filmmakers make films that pander to the lowest common denominator and that’s unfortunate.”

Interestingly enough, the things that many would perceive would make movie houses money will not binge the bank.  Gates discussed that some producers admit that people are not interested in seeing Halle Berry play Jodie Foster’s role in Panic Room,

nor would anyone want to see a love story starring Halle and Denzel because it would not make enough money, and because people simply do not want to see Black people fall in love.  As disturbing as this sound, it reigns true.  The key element here is money.  If it is believed that the film will not produce the profit, then it will not be made.

In the seventies “Black is Beautiful” was a phrase created for self-empowerment for Black people, but yet it has not been embraced by Whites in Hollywood.  And honestly, it is evident in cast selection of Blacks on screen.  It has been said that if an actress is light-skinned then she is less threatening, whereas a dark-skinned actress would be seen as more-threatening.  In order to get Hollywood to confess Black is beautiful, a number of things must be understood.  Gates exclaimed, “Box office success is the only thing that changes anything in Hollywood.  If America sees a dark skinned actress playing a lead role, then the stereotype will disappear.”

He continued, “It is not the producers who are racist.  They are responding to market forces in the greater economy. The producers need to make money or they will be out of work.”

Let us now take a look at this.  Historically some African-Americans in the past have used racism as a crutch.  But when it comes to acting, it is sometimes a weapon unsheathed.  Gates explained, “It has always been racist.  We have to show the racist they are wrong.  We sometimes place limitations on ourselves when we blame everything on racism; there is plenty racism.”

The next step for African-Americans in Hollywood is past acting.  To truly get things done, our presence has to be felt behind the camera.  We have to be the organs, muscles, bone and sinew in the body of Hollywood.  Less anatomically stated, we have to break into producing and as Gates illustrated we have to serve apprenticeships and go to business schools in order to learn the industry.  We need the power to greenlight.  Or in the way Skip said it, “There are tremendous obstacles, we just have to kick a**.”

So what else can be commented on the future of Black Hollywood?  Staring in the crystal ball, there is no revelation, we really don’t know.  But what we do know is that with time and struggle comes progress.  Since we are a people of progression, the hell with a crystal ball, we will continue to move forward, and create a dominating presence in Hollywood.

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