I went to see “The Best Man Holiday,” or TBH, last weekend and loved it. It was just what I needed, cinematically at least, and I would like to commend writer/director Malcolm Lee for creating such a worthy vehicle for black talent.
I so appreciate that he successfully – to the tune of a more than $30 million opening weekend – portrayed adult, black people in ways that had nothing to do with slavery and subjugation, drug use, religion as a crutch, the ghetto, its close companion hair/weaves tales or any of the other tired clichés that tend to define the black experience on film.
I am beyond sick of black folks suffering on celluloid. How many times can I watch those who are supposed to represent me and those familiar to me as crack addicts, maids/butlers, women overcoming adversity/horrific mistreatment or being the best friend/confidante? With that in the forefront, it’s no wonder the world has skewed ideas about black people.
Of course, this typecasting is not specific to black people. Everyone suffers from it to some extent, but minorities seem to fall into these ready-made roles more quickly than other demographics, and we have the toughest time digging our way out. To be fair, TBH does feature a sports hero in Morris Chestnut’s character Lance, but he is a devoted family man and husband with a spotless career record.
Instead of relying on stereotypes for cheap laughs or familiar if crappy connectors, TBH does much to add depth, character and variety to the black experience. Its characters span a gamut of careers and socioeconomic backgrounds. There’s a plethora of brown faces in shades from light to dark, and more importantly, there is kindness, anger, pride, humor and sadness. TBH presents three-dimensional characters, none of whom are all bad or all good, just like in real life.
These black people are flawed, searching for answers, offering assistance, making mistakes, you name it. Just the fact that this blog is full of lists kind of makes my point: nothing about these characters is simple. Granted, things are tied up neatly in the end – though it’s not all peaches and cream at the end of two hours – but before the last tug on that metaphoric bow we see real people experiencing life’s challenges and leaning on their friends to get them through it.
This is the kind of imagery we desperately need in media to aid diversity discussions, and to facilitate the conversations we need to have in the workplace, in schools and with each other. There are as many shades to the black or minority experience as there are colors for our skin. More, but we don’t always know it because we don’t see it.
Minorities are fully actualized individuals, with all the same pains and pleasures as anyone else. It’s what connects us all, minority and majority, when so many other things seem to set us apart.