Denzel, Flight, Hollywood and Black

While Denzel Washington’s new movie Flight, may receive critical acclaim, it was a colossal disappointment to me. It began with my expectations that while he would have drinking problems, he would save the day and come out a winner. These expectations went awry once he was rolled up and packaged in a bundle of unwritten rules for using a Black Man in the movies.

First of all, he was the drug fueled Black Man, doing cocaine and sleeping with a Nadine Velazquez, a Latina that looked like a white woman. This is the first problem, the stereotype that a Black man on cocaine becomes unstoppable and a sexual predator. Fortified with alcohol and cocaine, Denzel was able to embark on a three day binge of sex and drugs. I wonder how many people know that the Black man on cocaine was a reason given for increasing the caliber of police weapons

Pertaining to the young Latina, I knew she was doomed right away, because a long standing unwritten rule of Hollywood is that the Black Man who is the love interest of a non-Black woman dies. Since it was Denzel’s movie, she drew the short straw. Sure enough, she died, and while saving a little blonde boy, to boot. Can someone, perhaps the screenwriter, tell me why all these people are hanging upside down and all of a sudden, the little boy drops out of a seat? I know, I know, ‘his belt was fastened properly’; ‘he panicked and got out’; ‘boys will be boys’, ‘he (fill in the blank)’. In reality, it was nothing more than a contrived reason to kill off the woman. First unwritten rule of Black men in Hollywood, check.

The next thing that brought disappointment was his interest in the skank, heroin addict-looking anal porn queen, played by Kelly Reilly. The next unwritten rule is that any non-Black woman that has the potential but never actually becomes the love interest of the Black man is flawed or imperfect. The white guys in movies get women like Kerry Washington and Thandie Newton while Denzel gets her. I still see no relevant value for her character in the movie. She neither added nor subtracted from the plot.  Her entire role could have been left on the cutting room floor. The only point that could be made is that she served to show how bad he was by comparison. The point being, even a skank, heroin addict-looking anal porn queen can realize enough is enough and try to get her life together, while he can’t. Denzel chides her for going to two AA meetings a day while proudly proclaiming that he has lost his wife and kid because he chose to drink. In the end, a Black Man isn’t good enough for a credible relationship, even with a reforming skank, heroin addict-looking anal porn queen. Second unwritten rule of Black men in Hollywood, check.

Another unwritten rule is that the Black man must come to the aid of the non-Blacks in a movie. Although Denzel meets the skank, heroin addict-looking anal porn queen in a hospital stairwell, and knows nothing about her, when he sees her in trouble he swoops in like Capitan Save A Hoe. He saves her from a sleazy landlord by force and a payoff, and whisks away to live at his farmhouse.  Furthermore, at the end of the movie, instead of lying about the two found bottles of vodka as being used by the Latina, he said he drank them. He threw away his freedom, his career and his license to preserve the memory of the Latina who appeared to be little more than his binge friend with benefits. He was so overwhelmed by conscience that he could not sacrifice her reputation for the sake of his life.  Third unwritten rule of Black men in Hollywood, check.

Another disappointment is how it is virtually impossible to find a Hollywood movie that shows a Black couple in a positive, stable relationship. A Black Man is always in some sort of conflict with the Black woman. The roles of Black women in this movie are extremely limited. The first is with the Black flight attendant that he ultimately asks to lie to the plane crash investigators at the NTSB. The second is when he visits his ex-wife where he immediately gets into a loud confrontation that prompts her to call the police. It’s somewhat difficult to say a lot about this aspect because the sum amount of time Denzel spent relating to Black women was less than five minutes, as opposed to the hours and days he spent with the non-black women. Yet those five minutes were chock full of conflict and improper requests. Fourth unwritten rule of Black men in Hollywood, check.

Denzel Washington is a pre-eminent actor. The special effect of showing the plane flying upside down was engaging. The issue of drug abuse is a very serious issue that needs further treatment. Most certainly, if Denzel’s character was allowed to continue on his current path, some innocent person or persons would surely have been killed or at least maimed. He certainly represented the millions of people who are self-destructive spirals that they helpless to escape. In that respect, this becomes a cautionary tale. Hopefully, this would encourage individuals with problems and their loved ones to push to get people the help and interventions they need. However, while many people end up in jail before they get help, many don’t. Even the most promising part of the movie, the son trying to reconnect with his estranged father, had to take place in prison. Why couldn’t it have occurred in a rehab center? For all his flaws, Denzel was still a hero, a life saver. Many companies and unions routinely send their employees and members to rehab. Like all the other unwritten rules, the screenwriter and director typically are the ones who choose these outcomes. Just like Denzel’s conscience forced him to break down and confessed all before the Federal Inquiry, it could have forced him to go to rehab.

Hollywood is not a friend of Black people, never has been, never will be. As long as there are Blacks who are willing to create stereotypical images because they feel that will make money, there will be racism. As long as there people who will fund movies that seek to tell stories involving Blacks from non-Black perspectives there will be racism. The last point is relevant because even while a non-Black may seek to portray Blacks in a positive light, the racism they have assimilated will usually become evident. The manifestation will be in them intimating what is good enough for Blacks. It is never from the perspective of what is good for me would be good for Blacks; it usually is from the perspective of what they think a Black should expect or be happy with. Take for example Denzel ending up in prison where he becomes sober and begins to develop a relationship with his son. While some would say this was a positive ending, being in prison is never positive. A positive ending would have had Denzel in Malibu overlooking the ocean from a country club style rehab center. Oh wait, they have unwritten rules in Malibu, too.

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