As some of you know, I am a big George Lucas fan. This interview on The Daily Show illustrates why. Say what you want about the recent Star Wars films, but Lucas is a titan and a master of the craft. No one with even a modest film education will argue with that. His empire is well into the billions, he is one of the most recognizable directors of all time and he is responsible for creating an entire generation of super-nerds. So, with all of his success, it begs the question, why was he unable to get backing for his new production Red Tails? What about this film caused studios to cover their ears and say la la la?
Lucas points out a really startling and rather reprehensible fact of the film business, and our culture as a whole. The fact that a film, with an all black cast that doesn't subscribe to the stereotypical ways in which African American culture is portrayed, can't get backing, is a stain on an industry that routinely and proudly states its progressivism.
(watch interview here)
I understand, and appreciate the fact that Hollywood is a business, and in business, money is the bottom line. But at what point do filmmakers and studios stand up and defend films role as a cultural lens. When will filmmakers and studios stop pretending that people only want to see upper middle class white people and their problems. With less Americans going to the theaters these days, and with studios making less money, one would think that Hollywood would attempt to revamp the industry and create a film culture where we see more than one experience on the screen.
When it comes to films about black culture, directors like Tyler Perry and Spike Lee are often the only voices we hear. I do not think I am alone when I say that Perry and Lee's portrayal of blacks do not coincide with my experience as a African American. They are, in fact, caricatures of a culture that struggles to get their honest story told in the public realm. Lucas says that studios refused him because they didn't know how to market a film with out any major white characters. But I think the truth is, the studios didn't know how to distribute a film that portrays blacks as the heroes, not as street wise city blacks or wise-cracking goofy blacks, but simply heroes.
I think what Lucas is trying to do is incredibly brave, but also incredibly sad. The fact that in the year 2012, we are cheering a man attempting to make an action film about war heroes who happen to be black, is completely shocking. I think the studios that denied Lucas are cowards, and I hope they do a little soul searching and realize that resting on your laurels and refusing to take any risks is suicide.