By Lavern Merriweather
Say what you will about acclaimed and controversial movie director Spike Lee. He does at least put his money where his mouth is.
Spike Lee stirred up quite the hornet’s nest when he criticized fellow director and beloved actor Clint Eastwood for his WW2 film “Sands of Iowa Jima”. Iowa Jima is the place where an iconic shot of four white American men struggling to hoist an American flag was taken. Mr. Lee called out Mr. Eastwood, as well as many other directors, for ignoring or outright disregarding of the contributions and sacrifices from black American males during the Second World War.
Mr. Lee made a rebuttal film of his own called “Miracle at St. Anna”, which was a critical and commercial failure. Although the movie didn’t do well at the box office and was soundly trashed by critics, I applaud Mr. Lee for showing some effort and initiative. Once Spike denounced Clint’s movie, he was met with complaints that most of the black soldiers serving at the time could only perform menial jobs. They didn’t have the chance to be pilots, generals, snipers or any serve any valuable purpose to successfully defeat the hated Germans. Okay, what the hell kind of argument is that?
It’s not the fault of the black males that they were given shit jobs and couldn’t be there on the front lines. Though I suspect they trot out that rationale more likely because they appreciate a moment in time where heroes came in one shade only.
Many white males in the media, particularly movie critics, are not at all subtle when it comes to racism. They leave little to the imagination when it comes to the leading men that they prefer to see kicking ass and taking out the bad guys. And I can tell without a shadow of a doubt that his name won’t be Tyrone.
über producer and writer George Lucas made a valiant and respectful attempt to showcase the ultimate bravery from the all black Tuskegee flying men with his film “Red Tails” which also failed at the box office, but I imagine that was more because black folks were buying it on the street for a fiver, rather than spend 30 to 40 dollars seeing on the big screen. I have no qualms with catching movies on the cheap. I do it too. The thing I don’t like is how much negativity the movie was getting before it even came out in theaters.
A lot of critics and some uptight Negroes were not willing to give that movie a chance. Contrary to what some would think about a white male being the driving force behind a film about a group of courageous black males going above and beyond the call during WW2, I thought the film was terrific. It was not as some might suspect, the white guy show with the black people as background props to make white folks feel morally superior. The film’s one and only focus was the young, talented, amazing black men that put themselves in harm’s way to keep white fighter pilots safe. Some, as the film showed, even got to kick some serious Nazi ass on their own accord. Yes “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston was in the movie as well, but he was an obnoxious, bigoted blowhard desperate to denounce the magnificence of Negro men. In fact, the best scene in the film is when Cranston tells the captain of the airmen Terrence Howard that no matter how well they did, he would still never believe they were as up to par as white males. Mr. Howard answers with the matter-of-fact line “We don’t care.” Booyah!
You would think that in this day and age, the same stupid prejudice attitudes those men had to face would be a thing of the past. Well, judging from the sour apple comments coming from many jealous white male critics, you’d be sorely mistaken.The mindset that Negroes just can’t live up to the same standard as white people is still very much alive.
This is the reason why I feel personally that World War 2 movies are so appealing to white filmmakers, not just because of the fact that there isn’t a group – save the Klan – more deserving of loathing than the Nazis. But rather because it’s a time period where black people, both male and female, were so readily denied the opportunity to show that they too could rise to any challenge in the face of war. You never see that many tales told on celluloid about the Vietnam War. And please don’t tell me it’s because the American military had to leave that country with its tail stuck firmly between its legs. There’s way more to it.
Vietnam was a place where African-Americans DID stand on the front lines. In many cases, they were the main people on the front risking their lives. This was something that a lot of white males, particularly the sons of prominent powerful politicians, didn’t do, because they didn’t want to, and because they didn’t have to.
Poor black men looking to leave their world of poverty and have access to a better life didn’t get that same luxury. They were there regardless of how dangerous or treacherous the situation. Yet, we still don’t see their stories hurried to the big screen as often as the mainly white male dominated troops from 80 years ago.
A new film coming out called “Fury” starring Brad Pitt, Shia Leabuf, and Michael Pena is the story of a final stand by five men caught behind enemy lines in Germany circa 1945 with a busted tank. Judging from the previews, it looks like a fascinating tale of heroism as five lone men make a defiant stand against a large and deadly army of advancing German soldiers. As interesting as this movie looks, and I definitely loves me some Brad Pitt, I have strong inclination to pass on this one. Granted, while one of the actors in this movie, Michael Pena, is Latino he still ain’t black.
The white male director, producer and executives who greenlit this film don’t have to worry their pretty rich heads that a Negro is going to be among the men rooted for by cheering audiences. They don’t root for black males or females that are heroes in real life. So, they damn sure don’t need their little fantasy world tarnished by them either.