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Three the Hard Way

THREE THE HARD WAY (1974) is directed by Gordon Parks Jr. (this is #3 of his four movies, after SUPER FLY and THOMASINE & BUSHROD, before AARON LOVES ANGELA). His famous Life Magazine photographer father directed SHAFT in 1971, its explosive popularity leading to the wave of genre films aimed at black audiences known as Blaxploitation*. Junior directed SUPER FLY in 1972, which was even more successful than SHAFT. Though both received some criticism for promoting negative stereotypes, in style and substance they were on the more serious, artful end of the Blaxploitation spectrum.

So it’s kind of funny that for his second movie Parks Jr. just leapt right into the silly caricature side of the pool. This one teams up three of the biggest stars of the genre to play some random freelance tough dudes in different cities who know each other from way back (no explanations offered), and sends them to fight straight up white supremacists planning a genocidal super villain plot. Other than the horrendous racism that has to be depicted to show what they’re up against, this is all froth, bluster and wish-fulfillment. Which I can get behind.

It starts mysteriously, with a black man (Junero Jennings, “Technical Assistant,” STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE) pushing a cart, under the watch of a white armed guard, some cool freeze frames as he brings food to prisoners. But wait a minute – these are not cells. It’s a motel? Weird. Enacting his escape plan, this prisoner, whose name is House, sneaks into a big storage shed and hides among a bunch of dead bodies (all Black) piled up on carts. This is not an official prison, but some off-the-books white supremacist operation doing human experiments.

After carjacking a guy who you don’t see very clearly but apparently he’s played by THE DENTIST himself, Corbin Bernsen, House manages to make it to a hospital, where he gets word to his friend Jimmy Lait (Jim Brown in his followup to William Witney’s I ESCAPED FROM DEVIL’S ISLAND) that “somebody needs to stop ‘em” because “man, they got a mess of us down there, givin’ em’ stuff. They’re gonna kill us all. You. Me. Everybody. They’re tryin’ to find a way. Maybe they have already.” He seems crazy, of course.

Jimmy’s girlfriend Wendy (Sheila Frazier, who played Georgia in SUPER FLY and SUPER FLY T.N.T.) stays at the hospital while he steps out to do his job: producing the motherfuckin Impressions! Yeah, SUPER FLY soundtrack genius Curtis Mayfield had already left the group to go solo in 1970, but they were still on his label, Curtom, and they provide four songs for the movie (including the title song).

I can’t argue that this scene adds anything to the story, but obviously I enjoy seeing them in these great outfits, with this colorful carpet on the studio walls, lip syncing a great song, while Jim Brown sits at the soundboard intently, or nodding his head at one point. Also he cuts them off and accuses them of staying out all night. “Come on, man, give us some real sound, okay?” (They sound perfect to me.)

Meanwhile, some white supremacists disguised as electrical workers ride a cherrypicker into the hospital window, assassinate House, and kidnap Wendy. After the recording session ends at 3 am, Jimmy finds out the detective in charge is Lieutenant Di Nisco (Alex Rocco the year after THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE), who seems to be an old friend, but Jimmy doesn’t trust him to do the job and tells him straight up he’s going to investigate it himself.

The white supremacists report to Monroe Feather (Jay Robinson, MY MAN GODFREY), a suit and tie dude with an aristocratic accent, a desk, and a big golden eagle statue. He lets Wendy stand peacefully in his office while he talks about his genocidal plan to taint the water supply with poison that will kill only black people. (I believe this premise partly inspired the Anaconda Malt Liquor plot in BLACK DYNAMITE.)

Wendy tells him, “Mister, you are way out of date!” I’m gonna try to remember that, it’s useful these days.

Jimmy goes to Chicago to find his friend Jagger Daniels (Fred Williamson, following Jack Arnold’s BLACK EYE), who has so much swagger he makes Jimmy look unimpressive. Jimmy does that old joke of sneaking into his friend’s home and attacking him from behind and only revealing his identity when a gun comes out. Jagger is skeptical of his story until they get jumped by two white guys and have to wah-wah chase one all around town, down stairs, past the Ripleys Believe It Or Not Museum, etc.

Then we meet another friend, Mister Keyes (Jim Kelly in his followup to ENTER THE DRAGON and BLACK BELT JONES). “What kind of a first name is that, ‘Mister’?” asks a racist cop asking for his ID during a setup. “My mama wanted people to show me respect,” he explains.

This introduction is kind of a rehash of ENTER THE DRAGON, where he was also harassed by racist cops (almost as if such harassment has been a widely acknowledged problem for generations). The fantasy is that he’s so badass he can fight back without consequence. As soon as he realizes they’re trying to plant drugs in his car he starts doing his high kicks and kung fu OOOOY!s. There’s this one amazing kick where he slams the guy so ridiculously hard against a car, flipping the guy upside down, that I wonder if maybe they’re yanking him back with a cable?

How ever they did it, it’s beautiful.

Anyway, Jimmy and Jagger walk up (wearing badass dusters over their suits) right after he finishes knocking out a dozen cops, and he stops to greet them, like he just ran into some old friends on the way to the grocery store or something.

He seems ready to stand there and have a conversation until Jimmy says they better leave. And one last great touch on this scene is as they’re driving away we see half a dozen people standing there, presumably having witnessed him beating the shit out of all those cops!

Pretty much as soon as the three of them are together they get attacked, and it’s in a car wash, which is either a nod to or a lazy retread of one of the most famous scenes in BLACK BELT JONES (but not as good, because there aren’t as many bubbles). Then, suddenly, it introduces the most colorful characters in the movie. Suddenly it cuts from our Three the Hard Way to three people on motorcycles, so I assumed it was them rocking a 4th of July popsicle theme:


Then there’s a couple shots where you can see that it’s white men behind those visors. Ah, fuck. It’s the white supremacists. I guess I should’ve known. Racist dudes are always trying to claim ownership of patriotism.


But no! Good news! Those were just the stunt doubles. They were meant to portray these three:


And who are they? Well, it’s (left to right) Countess (Pamela Serpe, who is in DR. BLACK, MR. HYDE, and is the mother of STEP UP 2 THE STREETS‘ Briana Evigan), Empress (Irene Tsu, STEELE JUSTICE) and Princess (Marie O’Henry, THE GLOVE), and and they’re just the kind of friends everybody has that they can call upon if they need a favor, such as three dominatrixes torturing an abducted racist guy to get information out of him. I’m sure every one of us has somebody we go to when that sort of thing comes up.

The script is credited to Eric Bercovici and Jerrold L. Ludwig, two writers from The Virginian and Hawaii Five-O and stuff. The former wrote HELL IN THE PACIFIC, the latter the 1979 TV movie SAMURAI, about” a young San Francisco attorney by day, at night becomes a samurai warrior, and battles a crazed multi-millionaire who is planning to destroy the city with an earthquake machine.” Once their heroic trio finds out what the racists are planning, the story climbs into the backseat and lets somebody else take the wheel:


That’s right, the great Hal Needham (whose other 1974 jobs were McQ, BLAZING SADDLES, BUSTING, CHINATOWN and THE LONGEST YARD) and Stunts Unlimited are in charge of the action, which helps this to transcend some of the similar movies. Those guys do not skimp on the cars skidding out, crashing, driving over ledges and exploding. Jim Brown hangs onto the back of a moving dump truck. There’s a chase and shootout up mountainside stairways and catwalks and across the top of a dam. A dummy falls off with an “oooooooeeeeeeeeesssshhhhittttt” scream that should replace the Wilhelm scream in my opinion.

I learned recently of the modern white power shitheads who dream of starting a race war. According to what I’ve read, they call this racist wet dream “The Boogaloo” because they love wacky memes and it’s short for Civil War II: Electric Boogaloo. If that’s really the etymology of it it adds an extra cherry of suckiness on top of their bullshit, in my opinion. Though BREAKIN’ 2 is a silly movie that tried to cluelessly cash in on a subculture the filmmakers had no ownership and little understanding of, it did turn out to be a very fun and positive movie about people of different races and classes coming together and using dance and civil disobedience to stop greedy real estate assholes from ruining a neighborhood. Obviously fuck those guys for everything else, but a bonus fuck ’em for trying to stain the purity of that movie.

Anyway I bring this up because Jimmy steals a vanload of guns and grenades from the racists, to use against them. And what word do you think Mister Keyes chooses to describe their plan to wage war against a white supremacist army?


Black culture always seems to get there first.

The climax kind of seems like a nod to THE DIRTY DOZEN – they sneak up on the Neo-Nazi Party while they’re having a neo-nazi party. There’s some good flipping over of tables, shooting people at the swimming pool, blowing up a guy next to a barbecue, somersaulting through windows, lighting a guy on fire, upbeat music playing while Feather and friends freak out and run for cover, but they die in a fiery Jeep explosion/crash/roll-off-a-cliff. Then (mostly for fun, I think) the fellas drive by and blow up rows of parked cars with grenades and sticks of dynamite. The end.

A basic function of the genre was to counteract decades of demeaning depictions of Black men in movies by swinging very, very hard in the other direction. These characters are exaggerated ideals of masculinity. They wear amazing, garish outfits, walk with their heads high, are loved by all women (except the racist lady), and completely obliterate any dumb motherfucker with the gall to fuck with them. Even when hugely outnumbered, outgunned, and systemically overpowered, they cannot be made to bow. You can’t look at these three dudes just walking down the street or having a laugh together without thinking man, I wish I could be that when I grow up.

Of course, most people that get built up as gods are bound to disappoint us. Brown’s great movies and lifetime of activism and charity are marred by terrible domestic violence incidents; Williamson’s alleged groping is part of the Cinestate scandal that took down Rebeller, Fangoria and Birth.Movies.Death; and I can’t honestly divorce the attitudes that allow that from the ways men and women are depicted in some of these movies. But, without dismissing that, I can still enjoy THREE THE HARD WAY as Stick It To The Man escapism.

(Also, for the record, I’ve never read anybody accuse Jim Kelly of anything. And he’s my favorite of the three, because he’s the kung fu guy.)

Director Parks lived a short but interesting life. His father’s success provided him a life of privilege. He road horses and raced cars. But he wanted to make it on his own, so he worked normal jobs in the Garment District, spent a year in the Army, played classical guitar and sang folk songs in Greenwich Village, used a fake last name for his own photography career. And obviously SUPER FLY was a success on its own merits – nobody gave a shit who the director’s dad was.

In 1979, Parks moved to Kenya, bought property where he planned to start a farm, and founded a new production company called Africa International Productions. Unfortunately, less than three months later his small plane had engine problems during takeoff and crashed, killing him and three others. He was only 44.

According to obituaries, he was a third of the way into shooting a new film called REVENGE, which would’ve been his first movie in four years. His company said at the time that they planned to finish it. Sure enough, writer/producer Gary Strieker took over as director to finish the film, and it was released in 1980 as THE BUSHTRACKERS. That’s also the title of a book by Kenyan author Meja Mwangi which is either the source novel or (as this Stanford Library catalog entry indicates) a novelization.

It took me some searching to figure that out, because THE BUSHTRACKERS doesn’t even have an IMDb entry. If I can’t see the movie I’d love to at least hear the soundtrack, by a Kenyan group called The Black Devil’s Makali. All I can find about them is this late ‘70s single that the label Afro7 reissued:

Along with the obvious human tragedy of the accident, it’s a shame that we didn’t get to find out what would’ve come from whatever Parks and Africa International Productions were brewing in Kenya. A 1984 The Black Scholar review that I found partially online says “THE BUSHTRACKERS is the first indigenous novel/film to come out of Africa with an eye toward appealing to the U.S./westernized culture.” It sounds like Parks was trying to build a bridge between American and African cinema that still doesn’t really exist. I’m not saying they should westernize everything to appeal to global audiences – I’m sure they would be able to maintain their own identity just as the film industries in Asian countries have – so that’s a cross-cultural exchange the world could really use.

*I know there are some people, including Fred Williamson, who dislike the term Blaxploitation. I’ve always considered it a misunderstanding, because if you don’t non-judgmentally use the term “exploitation films” (as in lurid low budget movies trying to exploit current trends) as often as some of us nerds do then it sounds like it’s talking about people being exploited. But in the spirit of trying to make sure I’m not part of the problem, I recognize now that it doesn’t matter what it means if it comes across negative. So if anyone can suggest better terminology that clearly indicates the specific movement of movies in question I’m absolutely open to adopting it.

Also, going forward I’ve decided to try to follow the AP style guide in capitalizing “Black.” I don’t know that I will for “white,” but I’m reading some of the arguments about it. In any event, I will continue to spell “probably” and “website” incorrectly and have inconsistent rules about apostrophes.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 at 12:06 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

45 Responses to “Three the Hard Way”

  1. I’ve heard the term “audience exploitation movies” used as an alternative for blaxploitation. Although it’s a broader catchall, that can make it useful in other contexts as well, so I will respectfully submit it as a potential alternative.

  2. *B

  3. The Amazon Prime series HUNTERS is basically a rip off of this, but with Jewish heroes and Nazis who are targeting everybody not part of their master race.

  4. Audience Exploitation really sounds generic though, in a sense any of the low budget b-movies, if not MOST movies, are Audience Exploitation movies. “Hey, see the amazing sights we have for you, see DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN you’ll be so scared although after you paid you find out there was no money and Dracula looks like he took a traquilizer and is always holding back tears and Frankenstein looks like he’s just wearing a towel for makeup and Ln Chaney Jr has seen waaay better days.”

    I get not liking Blaxploitation as a name, but I actually think it’s kind of cool. I guess there’s only a few other “Ploitation” categories. Nunsploitation, Sexploitation, Naziploitation. Wonder where that term came from?

    As for these actors, I always liked Williamson overall, because he has the most charisma. But he also always seemed like he was probably kind of an asshole. But I do like in this movie where he does his big window stunt himself and it’s shot almost like a little aside rather than a stunt, he just crashes through a window and has a conversation. Jim Brown was usually pretty cool. I wish I liked Kelly more, because like Vern says he’s the kung fu guy. He should be the guy I love. But, his acting ain’t usually s great….but who cares about acting, what about the kung? And I think he’s really weak there too. His fights always look fairly goofy and lame. I’d say this is partly because of the time, and they were still figuring this out. Except it’s not like there hadn’t been good fights made before, shit watch the jawdropping fights in Gene Kelly’s Three Musketeers in the 50s. And the fights in Billy Jack were pretty dam solid. Kelly loves giving that straight-armed double tap to the chest and it’s like what is that, and also Jim you can straighten your leg when you kick, it looks way better.

    I will say though, that the shot of him kicking that dude into the car is AMAZING. I think it’s a combo of pulling him back with a wire, and it’s sped up a wee bit for part of it.

  5. Man, I hate that those supremacist asshats have appropriated Boogaloo for their own dumb shit. Not just because I love Breakin 2, but also because i named my car Electric Boogaloo. (And dont get me started with the Hawaiian shirt appropriation as well. Thats like my entire wardrobe)

    Anyhoo, fuck those guys.

    That being said, Im upset that this flick hasn’t been on my radar before. I believe i knew the title (I feel like it played on Showtime in late 80s/early 90s) but never saw it. Which is a shame because it sounds awesome, so im going to remedy this.

    Re: Ploitation. Its too bad that whole “Grindhouse” label took off to mean something else, because that could work.

    How bout Genreploitation?

  6. What I like about “audience exploitation movies” is that it indicts the general forces of capitalism & makes clear who is being exploited — when I first heard the term Blaxploitation as a teen, I assumed that it meant that the performers were being exploited. But yes, it’s true that everything from Coffey to Call Me By Your Name could be described as an audience exploitation movie, so maybe it is a little too broad.

    I’ve been thinking about this since I posted though, and I am gonna devils-advocate myself here and say that I actually think keeping the term Blaxploitation alive is a good thing—- particularly in the hands of people like Vern whose lived example explodes the gen-Z cliche of what a white man over 40 is capable of appreciating. Articulate, empathetic people who enjoy relating to others are able to change minds with the combined powers of language, trust, and respect. I’ve heard it said (maybe on these very boards!) that millennials-and-youngers have no awareness of history. And while I try to avoid generalizations, I do think there’s some truth to the idea that many young folks think every aspect of American culture was irredeemably racist before the invention of the all-seeing, all-knowing smartphone. That point of view contains a grain of truth but it is also very obviously reductive to anyone born before 1995, troublingly so. The fact of the matter is, however justified the assumption might be that the word Blaxploitation has racism encoded into as a term, it’s still an assumption — and an incorrect one, at that. Understandable? Absolutely. But incorrect assumptions make for poor foundations, unless the truth follows quickly after the initial off-base judgement…

    As a former educator of gen-Z’ers I found that sometimes “tricking them into learning something by meeting them in the middle” was necessary. so I’m all for a new term that makes it abundantly clear that Black people/culture/empowerment are being celebrated in these movies and not exploited- especially if that’s the way an entire sphere of American cinematic history finds a new audience to love it and not reject it on principle—- but in the absence of a term like that, if Blaxploitation’s still the best one we’ve got, I think it’s worth having faith that the young and/or unaware are still able & interested in having their minds opened, provided the influence is coming from the right place.

  7. As annoying as it is that those Nazi assholes try to appropriate everything for themself, I think the only time they actually succeeded, was with that weird looking cartoon frog. If you show the OK sign, 99.9% of the people still think everything is fine and not that you gave a modern, disguised Hitler salute. Hawaii shirts still only get you weird looks if the other person hates fun clothes and I doubt that “boogaloo” will ever catch on in a race war way. Thankfully not everything that exists within Reddit and 4Chan escapes from there.

  8. Thank you psychic_hits and others for your thoughtfulness about this. I appreciate it. Much to consider.

    I think the Williamson argument against the term “Blaxploitation” is a little different than misunderstanding it to mean the genre exploits Black people. I think from his perspective as a Black independent filmmaker creating these movies, it was invented to dismiss movies like his – “oh, that’s just a Black exploitation movie.” For that reason it would make sense to just use something along the lines of “’70s black action cinema.” But then there’s the issue of whether or not to make a distinction between those by black directors (like THREE THE HARD WAY) and the many by white directors and producers jumping on the bandwagon after their success (some of them movies I enjoy).

    Anyway, I’ll probly end up alternating between a bunch of different terms.

  9. Thanks for the reply, Vern. I respect the context-based approach it sounds like you’re leaning towards, and the vantage point on Williamson’s contention with the term is appreciated too. It brings to mind what Donald Glover said his goal was with Atlanta: to “normalize Blackness”, not make any specific statement about being Black in particular. Like, the observant realist in me forces the rest of me to admit that there’s got to be huge portions of the American population for whom the phrase “Black movie” still signifies “dismissable”, even after the “exploitation” part fell out of fashion/practice. And probably Hollywood’s got its fair share of people who will be stuck in that mindset until they die. But….. if I called Get Out a “Black horror movie” and someone said “You shouldn’t call that a Black horror movie– call it a Jordan Peele film” would I be wrong for wondering if this person is implying that Jordan Peele is somehow above most Black filmmakers, horror or otherwise? And if they said “Just call it a horror movie” would that be diminishing a big part of what makes it as powerful as it is? The list of questions just goes on. As you said, much to consider!

    I tend to be an optimist, so I have faith that, after the events of 2020, both the idea of a “Black movie”/”Black cinema” and Black film professionals themselves are going to start carrying a lot more authority, both in Hollywood and in the world of cinema appreciation overall. & that makes me wonder if designating the original term Blaxploitation as “bad” by replacing it with a “better” one would be a missed opportunity to keep using a word whose history is as complex as the chapter of cinema it describes— and in a context that I have no choice but to believe will, eventually, become widely known as affectionate and celebratory.

    Now, if it was originally spelled “Blacksploitation” and it got changed to the spelling with the X, that I could REALLY get behind! Too bad that’s not what happened (at least, I don’t think it is?). And it’s arguably even more finicky and gatekeeperish of a distinction, because it’s a difference you can only see and not hear, and nobody wants to sound way out of date. Let alone hurt/bum others out with their speech decisions.

    Labels: they’re tricky! Maybe the fact that we’re starting to ask questions like these is proof of us as a culture outgrowing the need for genre overall? Or at least recognizing our overdependency on genre as a way of parsing reality?

    (Apologies if this post is mostly me just ‘mansplaining’ how reclamation works, btw— friends and I were debating left-wing reclamation of the American flag earlier this week, and there are some definite parallels, but I don’t mean to project that conversation into this one)

  10. You are mansplaining but I am also a man so I think we’re okay. Also, I really don’t think mansplainig means anything when you’re discussing concepts about whatever. Everyone has their own interpretations.

    I had to look it up and apparently “blaxploitation” came from Junius Griffin, who at the time was the head of the L.A. branch of the NAACP. He meant it disparingingly because he thought they set a bad example. He was also a film producer.

    But I do think Blaxploitation means a very specific thing, it really is a subgenre. And it lived and died in the 1970s. It’s style is always having a black hero who’s basically a superhero type, larger than life and super cool with a specific soundtrack, and racial issues are usually a big part of it. And almost always the head villain of the big crime ring (cause there is almost always one) is the Big Evil White guy who is super racist and throws around a lot of racist words. I could be wrong but I’m not sure if there was ever one where the lead was a cop? If the woman happens to be the lead it usually gets rapey. Some of these rules can be different if it’s a horror movie, but in the end, even though Blacula may be the villain, he is still the coolest baddest character in the movie. He’s not played like Freddy (at least before they turned HIM into a clownish superhero). If Blade came out in the 70s, they would have had the vampires be racist, it could have been one. Beverly Hills Cop, if THAT came out in the 70s, would not be. Eddie Murphy IS super cool in that, but he also isn’t afraid to be goofy and stuff. In the Heat of the Night wouldn’t be one. I don’t think Across 100th Street is one. I don’t think Detroit 9000 is one although people count it as one, but it’s been a looong time since I watched that one.

    psychic_hits, I don’t think it’s unfair to call Get Out a Black Movie. Of course if you want to just call it a horror movie, sure…cause that’s what it is! BUT, it is also, specifially a Black Movie. In that race issues are the subtext and then the straight up text. The movie always has race on the mind. You couldn’t cast the lead character as a white guy and have the same movie. As opposed to, say, Vampire in Brooklyn…where the cast is almost entirely black, and it was written by black guys and it was Eddie’s project. But, you could make some slight adjustments to the dialogue and cast all white people, or mix it up entirely, and it wouldn’t really change the movie much. Romero’s zombie movies in his OG trilogy all had black leads but they’re not Black Movies because it doesn’t necessarily matter what race they are (even Night, where the Ben being black just adds interesting dynamics). And when Peele made Us, I think he went the other way…I’ve only seen the movie once so there may be some details, but as I recall race wasn’t really an issue at all in that movie. It was about other things. So to me when I saw that, it’s a different kind of movie. That one is a horror movie that just happens to star black people. So I do see a distinction.

  11. I honestly think I’ve never seen a true Blaxploitation movie. The closest is JACKIE BROWN, but calling that blaxsploitation feels anachronistic or otherwise off. But isn’t a part of the complexity with the original blaxsploitation films that they tend to portray black people mostly as stereotypes — like pimps, hos, hustlers, drug victims, caught up in dire crevasses of the hood? And so that the larger than life hero(ine) is kind of like the exception to the rule and is also kind of a cartoon. Please correct me if that’s wrong, but I think part of the idea is that it portrays a particular vision of the black experience that is a caricature. Sure, it does touch on some real social issues and (heightened) realities, but it’s kind of like if most movies with a predominantly white cast were JOE DIRT or the DUKES OF HAZZARD.

  12. As for GET OUT, I mean, what is at stake in whether it is “a black movie”? It’s pretty much irrefutable that it is a movie that wrestles with salient aspects of the African-American experience (and the white American experience of blackness). Or have we been drafted to come up with new clunky Netflix category names, like “Films about the Black experience but also other things, unless that offends you, in which case, our bad.”

  13. Yeah, Jackie Brown is definitely not a blaxploitation. It has a feel of it, but doesn’t really go there. The movies are usually pretty caricaturish but at the same time, most exploitation movies of the 70s were. They didn’t tend to do a lot of nuance in them really. And unfortunately at the time there weren’t a ton of movies that would let black people star in them, so they did these genre movies. But at the same time, the black audiences of the time LOVED those movies too. They wanted to see ass kicking and shotgunning and boobs all over the place.

    No one said there’s anything at stake if Get Out is a “black movie” or not, it’s just something to discuss. But there is a difference to something like Get Out vs Keanu, in the same way there’s a difference between Taxi Driver and Cape Fear. One is really more “about” something, while the other is more for entertainment. But obviously Taxi Driver and Get Out are still supposed to be entertaining.

  14. FYI, I’m pretty sure I saw there is a documentary coming out that is about the artist who drew that frog trying to get it back from the racists.

    I really hope more Black filmmakers get into genre film making. I don’t really do dramas or slice of life films very often. But if they want to tell their stories in horror or action cinema, I’m all about it. That goes for any minority filmmakers.

  15. I would agree about your film comparisons, Muh. Interestingly, KEANU does have a lot of modern exploitation elements of the classic West Coast “in the hood” movie, if you look at the portrayal of the Tiffany Haddish and Method Man characters and their crew. Poor Method Man has nothing to do but posture in most of the film. And like most things Jordan Peele does, KEANU is wrestling a lot with race under the surface, from the stereotypical hood characters that are lampooned, to what I can only call a specifically black version of toxic masculinity (the George Michael scene in the car being a prime example, but it’s all throughout the film), the portrayal of wealth and whitene entitlement (the Anna Farris character), code switching among black or mutli-ethnic black men who have white friends and don’t naturally present as “black enough” (which happens a lot in this film as it does in their show). KEANU somewhat falls into some stereotypes but is also largely about challenging and deconstructing or nuancing them.

    Likewise, CAPE FEAR, too, is a lot about how wealthy and status’d people are so caught up in their professions that they may lose touch with relationships or humanity and that they have the resources to play God with others lives and insulate themselves geographically and legally from consequences where others lack those resources. A lot of the film centers on what happens when those usual levers stop working and those usual buffering perimeters are breached and what really is going on beyond the surface of the all American family looks like they’ve had it all.

    So, although I think your contrasts are still valid ones to an extent, I see the differences more in degree or explicit framing than in kind. GET OUT aspires to or is viewed as a movie about important things, but it’s also a fright flick and often a rather campy one. KEANU is comedy movie and often a borderline Zucker Brothers spoof, but it’s also wrestling with important social issues, because I don’t think Peele is capable of not doing that.

  16. I also think that Donald Glover reference about normalizing blackness (of which I hadn’t previously heard) is an interesting one. Even with that show, though, we’ve got one of the main characters who is an aspiring local/small-time rapper but also a drug dealer. It’s a great show and character, and I think a lot of the characters are played with a lot of nuance, but even this show manages to make one of the major characters a drug dealer and sort of small-time aspiring Rick Ross-type character. So, is that not kind of a throwback or concession or wink-nod to stereotypes? Or are most African-Americans reasonably good friends with a drug dealer and small-time rapper?

    Still, I get the point, and I think ATLANTA mostly succeeds in what is being described. The characters have humanity and inner lives, and they give us a window into nuanced facets of black experiences and situate them as unique flavors or permutations of what is ultimately the human experience. It doesn’t shortchange on showing unique tropes of “blackness,” but it considerably broadens and enriches the repertoire of tropes and in the process shows us a love of lived humanity that is universal. And it presents the black characters as agents in their own right with quirks and idiosyncrasies among themselves vs. portraying them as a toy chest of stereotyped action figures designed to conform to white or black expectations about a powerful black character can be. In a way, that’s kind of what the COSBY SHOW did, too, although I think that show also normalized and may be fetishized the American dream in a way that I understand but still have some issues.

    I guess all of this is to say that there definitely is a “there” there when we talk about these issues of race, culture, stereotypes, and different types of characters and stories, but these shows have their own potentially problematic areas or assumptions, and the differences between high art and baser popcorn entertainment (viz., GET OUT vs. KEANU) are not always so…black and white? (Dr. Evil pinky). This is an ongoing evolution and conversation moving in bends and eddies and sometimes big leaps going at least back to these films of the 70s and surely further before.

  17. Muh- John Shaft himself was a cop! I asked myself the same question about whether Us is “more of a Black movie” than Get Out is, since Us’s aims are broader and murkier, but I came up with a different answer (I don’t think Us has less definite themes than Get Out does; Us just makes its themes less explicitly available for analysis. And for me the term “Black movie” indicates who made it as well as who stars in it/its content.)

    Skani- appreciate the food for thought as usual and thank you for the laughs throughout these posts. I lack the authority to comment on Atlanta beyond what I’ve read Glover say about his intentions; him & his show occurred to me in this discussion because I was asking myself whether and how things have changed for Black filmmakers since the 1970s, what Williamson might have seen differently than Glover or if they’ve had similar experiences. As far as Get Out goes, I was less interested in determining whether or not it’s a “Black movie” & more was wondering if and when most movie nerds will say “Hey did you hear about that new Black zombie movie?” with the same casual/excited interest they might say “Hey did you hear about that new Korean zombie movie?” and what it will take for that to be possible. And I really hope it didn’t sound like I was drawing a distinction between genre and ‘high art,’ I would never dare! That’s not something I even believe there is a difference between! I just mean that categorization breaks down under a microscope, like you’re saying too. Also, it sounds like I did myself a disservice by skipping Keanu; will rectify

  18. My taste in blaxploitation (a term I will use until you pry it from my cold dead hands and/or give me a better option) runs toward the weird. A lot of the more normal ones have great style and some great sequences (and amazing soundtracks, it should go without saying) but most get bogged down in your usual 70s filler at some point. It’s tough to find one that can keep it up for the duration. But then you got gonzo shit like ABAR: BLACK SUPERMAN, BLACK SHAMPOO, THE BLACK GESTAPO, and WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES, where any scenes that even approach normality only illuminate how fuckin’ cracked the whole enterprise is. What I love about exploitation movies—and I use that term with pride—is that as long as they deliver the exploitable elements that sell the picture, they can do any oddball nonsense they want for the rest of the running time. A mainstream movie can’t suddenly be like “You know what? Actually this prison movie is about a 20-foot-long killer dick” 45 minutes in, but nobody told the heroes in the exploitation racket that.

  19. Yeah, whereas I can’t comment on the blaxsploitation movies of yore from actual film-watching experience, I can comment from that standpoint on ATLANTA and Jordan Peele’s work. At least from an American perspective, I think some of it is wrapped up in nationality and perceptions of racial-ethnic otherness. For an American not of Asian ancestry, a Korean zombie film is both literally and culturally a “foreign” film. So, that is a distinction. Jordan Peele’s GET OUT is a uniquely American and uniquely African-American (“black”) film. It’s fine to call it a black film, I guess (now I’ve reeled myself in!), but it’s more than that.

    I think we lose something if “black [insert thing here]” becomes *the* label for any of Jordan Peele’s stuff. It is certainly a valid label: 90%+ of the sketches explore black experiences in some form or fashion. But I’d say his show and Keanu are specifically about multi-ethnic/ “bi-racial” black-white-ness. What it means to be a light-skinned black person with at least one black parent navigating a society where you may be looked upon with suspicion or simply be forced to suppress and modulate aspects of yourself because you have affinities with both — or in a sense neither — culture. It’s similar with Obama. A huge part of Obama’s appeal to white liberals is his whiteness. So, Jordan Peele is a black filmmaker tackling black issues, and Obama was a black president. But there’s something very reductive in leaving it there.

  20. Oops…I meant to say “with at least one white parent” …. kind of undercut my point

  21. psychic, you are thinking of the Samuel Jackson Shaft, which is a more typical Hollywood version of a character like that. The ORIGINAL John Shaft, is a private detective. It’s not a cop movie, it’s a hardboiled detective story, it even has the obligatory scene where a couple of goons show up to threaten him, only to get their ass kicked. Shaft has the traditional relationship with the police as a lot of detectives, where they seem suspicious of what he’s up to, while at the same time knowing he’s essentially a good guy and has delivered cases to them. I cannot think of a blaxplotation cop movie, the audience would not have wanted that. Cops were portrayed as, if not ineffective, than outright corrupt, or many times simple straight-up villains.

    Skani, as to the comparisons, sure movies purely for entertainment can be about something. But I think the big difference is the intent…if you take out the central text of Get Out, it simply isn’t the same movie. You can easily remove the stuff in Keanu and nothing changes. Doesn’t mean a movie about something can’t also be a fright flick. Like Black Panther, they COULD have made a regular ol’ Marvel movie, with good guys and a bad guy who wants the glowing thing to destroy the world, just with a black cast. But they didn’t, they put a lot of text into that movie (not subtext cause you don’t even have to mine for it). That doesn’t stop it from being a superhero action movie and having fun. But if you took out that aspect, you’re taking a richer movie and making it much less so, it’s simply not the same movie anymore.

    In a sense using Keanu or Cape Fear are almost bad examples because they are coming from great filmmakers, who aren’t capable of just cranking out crap. But I didn’t want to use an Adam Sandler comedy. Although I’d disagree with the idea that’s what Cape Fear is ABOUT. I mean sure that’s in there I guess, to a degree any story will be “about” something, like how Joe Dirt is probably about things too. But if it were really about rich people playing God (there’s one single incident that happened), then the rich people would have more leeway to fight Cady, and they don’t. And not that Nolte’s character was right to leave out evidence, but let’s not forget, Cady really WAS a sleazebag rapist, he doesn’t mind raping women and biting huge chunks out of their faces. Nolte probably knew this as his lawyer and just couldn’t do this. Now, that’s a man who did something legally wrong, was it morally wrong? Should they have talked in court about how slutty this woman may have been, so Cady’s rape was her fault? Is this something as simple as a rich man playing God with someone’s life?

  22. Oh, but I also agree with the idea that Glover saying he’s trying to normalize blackness with Atlanta is kind of weird. Cause yeah, one guy is a rapper who everyone knows and also sells drugs and gets into skirmishes, and Glover is trying to be a manager. It’s not like this is the story about black guys in Atlanta working at a Wal-Mart of having office jobs. Want to normalize blackness, do something like Office Space with black people. Not to say Atlanta’s not a great show it really is.

    But stuff like Cosby DID normalize blackness in a lot of ways. Just people doing their thing, and then you had Different World which did the same thing. Actually one of my favorite comedies was Bernie Mac, which just did basically normal stores which are hilarious and sometimes talked about racial situations, but wasn’t fixated on it. And the kids were unique characters in their own right. Mac left us way too soon.

    Best part about Bernie Mac is, I bet you could read one of those scripts and it’s not funny at all. There’s not always many jokes in that show. It’s all about tone and performance, which Mac was a master of. His crowning achievement was probably his negotiation scene in Bad Santa, where he gets a minute of laughs from only uttering the same word over and over.

  23. Mr M- I imagine that you’re better-versed in exploitation films than I am, but I really like your breakdown of what unifies exploitation cinema and gives it its purest appeal. It’s that magic that so many imitators fail to capture and wind up with your Hobos With A Shotgun or your Planet Terrors: “sleazy, violent movies with cruddy filters tossed up to hide the relative joylessness lurking palpably in every frame” is a Netflix category (or at least, it should be), not an accurate description of what people love about exploitation movies!

    Skani- totally feel you on the “Black [x]” point and on the general idea that categorization has limitations and problematically reductive aspects. I’ll keep rolling with the Korean cinema analogy– I could tell you what I think makes Bong Joon-Ho and Park Chan-Wook different directors, and what I think each of them is interested in exploring with their movies, and yet I’m positive that someone who was born and raised in Korea could tell you far more complex, interesting and relevant things about their focuses as filmmakers and what differentiates their bodies of work from each other and makes them distinct voices in the landscape of Korean filmmakers overall. And yet I still say “I really like Korean movies” because it’s the truth; if a movie was made in Korea, that’s often enough of a reason for me to give it a chance!

    Then again, if Korean people had been enslaved by white people in the United States for generations and even after that was outlawed the state systematically denied their freedom and equality for 150 years and straight on through til today, some extra thoughtfulness from white people might make a difference when they talk about Korean movies (or Korean presidents). And then yet again: how is Korean cinema received and discussed in Japan, given that Japan has a deeply ingrained cultural history of prejudice against Korea, its people, and its culture? I have no idea! But I’m guessing it’s probably different than in the U.S….

    Context: truly and as ever, it reigns supreme (when it’s not sharing the job with chaos).

  24. I don’t know him, but I kind of SUSPECT that Glover meant that he was trying to normalize Black *creativity* with the tone and content of Atlanta. Not so much avoid depicting black characters who are aspiring musicians. Let’s see if I can find the interview, since it’s generated some interest in this discussion….

    Found it! It’s a New Yorker profile from 2018 called “Donald Glover Can’t Save You.”

    And Muh, I haven’t seen the Jackson Shaft, but I really appreciate the correction! I saw Roundtree’s Shaft in 1995 so my memories are hazy; I was recalling the scene in the police chief’s office with the coffee mugs. But you’re right, the song famously (if not iconically!) identifies him as specifically working in the private sector! I should have remembered!

  25. psychic – well, there’s a difference in intent and nuance between being reductive and engaging in abstraction. we all abstract, that is critical to being human and having civilization and this conversation. and abstractions about “Korean films” are legitimate to a substantial extent. so, by all means, make those abstractions. to me, though, there is an interesting culture war thing that happens on the progressive side where Peele or Obama’s blackness is viewed as somehow trumping or erasing his whiteness.

    And I suppose this is maybe part of the subtext for where I bristle at the rhetorical manipulation of terms like “white privilege” or Jordan Peele making quotes about not planning to cast a “white dude” in a lead role. Awesome that he is telling stories he is uniquely equipped and platformed to do as a multi-ethnic person. But, hey buddy, your mom is white, you grew up in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and you went to Sarah College. No doubt you experienced racism and other things that I didn’t, but guess what I and most African Americans and most suburban white Americans didn’t experience: Growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and going to Sarah Lawrence College and meeting Spike Lee there and some other shit. Jordan Peele is more than entitled, equipped, and encouraged to speak uniquely to race in America from a unique and uniquely *privileged, yes, privileged* viewpoint. I don’t think he is uniquely well positioned to speak to a modal black experience and is probably more uniquely positioned to speak to an idiosyncratic, wealthy (and talented) multi-ethnic American experience. Which is a long and vaguely Rush Limbaugh-sounding way to say that some of the mystique around him as *the* voice of modern American blackness in cinema is a little blinkered at best. He certainly is a voice of a blackness, but he is also a voice of a whiteness and a voice of a privilegedness, but you hear very little about those latter two in the popular narrative (mostly not his fault, as I think he’s been relatively upfront about those things). Still, dude’s incredibly talented, I love his social commentary, I love his voice, and he deserves every bit of success he has. My beef is more with the how some of the narrative is framed.

  26. Muh, I still agree with your basic point, so, if we’re debating that, it’s mostly one-sided. My only pushback is that you push the point way to far, which forces you to dismiss the subtextual and social commentary elements of KEANU and CAPE FEAR as incidental when they are nothing of the sort. The idea that such things have to literally be a part of the one-sentence plot summary to be essential to the film is wrong. Sure, KEANU is not a story about race in some very on-the-nose way a la CRASH, but it’s all about race and identity at literally every turn. The idea that this is incidental is refuted by just about every scene in the film. Likewise, the idea that CAPE FEAR isn’t about the monsters of society breaching the moat and drawbridge of privilege to haunt Nick Nolte’s all-American family and Anytown, USA (including the all-American skeletons in the closet) or that this is merely incidental is wrong. In many ways, Scorsese uses the Nolte character to deconstructi the Chevy Chase / Steve Martin bourgeois everyman of the 80s and 90s that I was railing against the other week (and the Gregory Peck everyman of the original, for that matter).

  27. Also, who are the actual people now who are dismissively describing GET OUT (or COFFEY, for that matter) *just* a “black movie” or “black exploitation movie.” Is that an actual widely expressed viewpoint?

  28. Gotcha Skani. I confess, I hadn’t considered the possibility that Peele would be an authority on white experience because he had a white parent. I didn’t know anything about his earlier life or family of origin so I appreciate the info– I can’t speak about biracial experience with personal authority, but from conversations I’ve had, I glean that the experience of being biracial in America can have some overlap with the experience of being bisexual. And by that I don’t mean “best of both worlds,” I mean “not enough of one for acceptance by either.” It’s not a perfect analog since bisexuality isn’t a visible aspect of a person and biraciality often is, but we’re a culture that’s so obsessed with quantification and control that “I’m both” isn’t an acceptable answer for many, many people who are comfortable saying “I’m this one” (so comfortable with it, in fact, that they need everyone else they meet to be able to say it too! Hmmm…) And I think racism is so encoded into so much of our culture that “Whatever you are, you sure aren’t white” is a lot closer to the reality of how many if not most biracial people are made to feel in America about their racial identity than “You’re as much white as you are Black”.

    Aaaaand just so I can end this on a note of personal experience and not awkwardly trying to translate someone else’s: I was on the lower-income end of the student body at a private college around the same time that Peele would have been at Sarah Lawrence, and I can easily, easily, easily believe that the racism, prejudice, stereotyping and overall shitty treatment for BIPOC students who attend wealthy institutions is probably uniquely fucked up in ways that factor in other obsessions of the rich, and probably doesn’t manifest in quite the same ways elsewhere. Trauma is trauma, whether it happens in a penthouse or an alleyway. If Peele has always enjoyed material privilege and didn’t have to be plagued with the anxieties of financial need while he was growing up, I agree that that is a significant advantage over many people in our society, but material privilege can amplify and attract racism just as much as it can insulate a person from other problems. I’m sure you know all this already, but I think it’s why the framing of Peele as a voice of black experience in America is justified at the end of the day. (And maybe also goes a fair way to explain why Us seems like it’s about race in the beginning but then pivots/expands to more of a class-oriented metaphor by the end.) I’d fucking love to see what his version of a movie about white experience would look like, though!

  29. Yeah psychic, Shaft was literally “the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks!”

    Mr M is right, if you want to see a pretty damn crazy movie check out Welcome Home Brother Charles. I had no idea what I was getting into when I saw that one…I knew there was something weird about it but made sure to not know what that was. And didn’t expect THAT! But yeah, a lot of exploitation from the 70s can be pretty boring a lot of times. Because there isn’t a lot of real character or plot work, so they add in a lot of filler.When you can find a movie that keeps charging hard, it’s a real gem.

    And Skani, if you were to say that Peele can’t speak to a modal black experience, you’d have to define what that actually is. Cause it’s not like there’s one. And it doesn’t matter who one of his parents are, when he’s driving down the road and a cop pulls him over, he’s black.

    It’s kind of like my friend, she’s mixed race Asian and white…but she doesn’t look Asian. Only once I found out about her dad I was like “oooh yeah, I can see it.” She acts for a living but she doesn’t use her real Asian last name on aything because if she showed up they’d be like “hey who sent the white chick for the role of Choi?” And she definitely doesn’t apply for Asian roles.

    But even in Key and Peele, they didn’t go with a standard black type of character…they did black geeks, hood gangsters, suburban dudes. And in his own movies, Peele did a typical college kid for one movie, and his next just had a fairly regular family going on a vacation to CA. Just regular people going about their lives, in a sense that kind of speaks to how he grew up.

  30. I don’t think anyone is dismissing Get Out as Just a black movie. Coffy, maybe. I think it’s one of the better movies of its type of the era. But most people who talk about it at all are the type predisposed to like it and not be dismissive. Back in the day it was, and even today a lot of people probably would. But Get Out, no.

  31. psychic, your comparison to being bisexual isn’t too bad..you’re right though that it’s not like you can generally tell. BUT, yeah acceptance can be weird. I actually know this guy who does a lot of gay porn, and sometimes he does regular stuff too. And he’s said he’s bisexual, doesn’t make a difference to him. And he says the hate he gets is from homosexuals, he showed me some of the stuff he gets and man, it was NASTY. I’m like why do they give that much of a shit? You’d think he ran over their mother.

  32. Re Get Out and whether it’s “just a Black movie” to anyone:

    When it came out I lived in interior Alaska. Scarily white, as far as the culture of the town went, although there were a fair number of BIPOC residents because there were some military bases there and a lot of Native Alaskan residents also. But a colonized vibe ruled the fucking day up there. Before Trump while living there I saw a bumper sticker there that said “White People Built America.” After his election I saw one that just cut to the chase and said “White Power.” Right before I moved away, a Black colleague had the horrible semester long-experience of eventually needing to have her white student banned from the university grounds because of his obsessive racist abuse of her. Not a place I’d recommend living, in other words.

    I was curious, therefore, what the experience of seeing Get Out on opening weekend would be like up there. I’d seen Black movies while living there before Get Out, but the audiences always were sparse and seemed to be mostly Black residents. I didn’t know if Get Out would be like that or what. Amazingly and touchingly, seemingly every interracial couple in town had shown up, along with everyone else. It was packed with all kinds of people. I sat behind two white teenagers. One of them was on his phone the entire time. The other wasn’t. During the climax, when the police car shows up and Lil Rel jumps out, the cell phone user turned to his friend and loudly groaned “Ughhh, what is *up* with this *movie*????” like he just couldn’t take it any more and thought the rest of the auditorium would laugh or something. But that didn’t happen. He had read the room wrong. His friend immediately went “Shh” and the phone-user stayed off his phone until the credits rolled and everyone else kept watching the amazing movie this kid hadn’t been ready to appreciate. His loss!

    Now, I’m not saying the cell phone user would have called Get Out “just some Black movie,” but it does seem reasonable, given current events, to think there are people in this country who would dismissively say precisely that phrase when you asked them what, I dunno, Girls Trip was about — or, yeah, Get Out too, for that matter. It depresses the living fuck out of me to even put myself in the mindset of such a person, but I do think they’re out there, sadly, both in the 1970s and today.

  33. “White People Built America?” Jesus Christ. Let Alaska keep those assholes.

  34. Yeah, pyschic_hits, that stuff is horrific and sadly not surprising.

    Re: “modal black experience.” Modal can mean “typical” or “majority” or could mean “average,” in some literal statistical sense (the mode, median, or mean). Our entire racial/ethnic discourse — which is a lot of our discourse in 2020 — is based on appeals to a modal black (and a modal white) experience, as is much real or proposed public policy. It is predicated on the notion that people with different skin color or identifiable visible traits get treated differently and have different “modal” outcomes. Literally every argument about racial and social justice is rooted in or at least buttressed and advanced by appeals to averages and statistical abstractions. As are concepts like white privilege or white fragility, which take those modal averages and then infer motivation, intent, identity, an entire emotional psychology on the basis of those abstractions until the main thing you need to know if you are white is that you are privileged and others are not. And often there is a subtle but very real implication, as absurd as it sounds, that pretty much any and every black person has it worse than pretty much any and every white person. To connect it to a real example, I don’t appreciate the implication that Jordan Peele has had a harder life than I am–I think that’s very controversial and far from obvious. My parents’ median household income was typically under $40K my entire childhood, neither of them graduated college, and neither lived to see 60. So, that’s what I mean by reductive: when we take real statistical abstractions that have real force and validity, and then we convert them into universals.

    Keep in mind, what I just said about me and Jordan Peele does not negate the abstraction or its general force: the average (modal!!) black person did and does have a harder life and tougher prospects than me by most metrics. I’ll let Jordan Peele challenge me with ideas and enlighten me with experiences, but I won’t do so under the pretense that literal and specific I am or every was more privileged than literal and specific him — and this notwithstanding your conjectures about his possible experiences, psychic_hits.

  35. Oops, I meant 70. My dad died at 65 and my mom at 67.

  36. Regarding white supremacists ruining something like boogaloo, both the burning cross and swastika meant different things before the KKK and nazis used them. Burning crosses were used in Scotland as a symbol calling people to unite, usually for war, but other ceremonies too. The swastika is used in a shitload of Asian cultures, like Hindu, as good luck. They really do ruin everything.

  37. Yeah, I have heard some people say that, even though they think the Trump administration is bad, they are glad that it brought all the racist cockroaches out into the light, etc. And I see that argument, but I strongly disagree, because the energy we have now actively encourages and emboldens and helps build racists, particularly for disaffected white folks. I’m honestly not sure how to get to rural America, because a lot of it was racist to begin with, and now you add right-wing media, YouTube rabbit holes, and 30 years of rust belt economic collapse, and this is where you end up. I know how it works. You’re surrounded by people who look and think like you, you rarely if ever encounter someone of another ethnicity, all the brains, gays, and assorted marginal people get the hell out of there as soon as they can, there is little to do, and the economic prospects are dim. It’s a dead-end. Then some fucking right-wing propaganda hucksters alive to tell you it’s all the immigrants’ and foreigners and “radical” liberals who are stealing your jobs, economy, rights, way of life. Just gassing you up, Grimma Wormtonguing you deeper into a greivance-driven, self-pitying outlook which is at least something of a balm to give you a sense of dignity and cause and kinship with your tribe. With the electoral college, these places matter. Some encouraging signs from the polls, but who knows what the hell’s going to happen if Trump appears to lose the electoral college or what kind of things his minions will try.

  38. Skani I hope I didn’t imply that I think Peele had a more difficult upbringing than you did– my intention was to push back on the idea that being an Upper West Side, private-college type would automatically deny a person of color the ability to empathize with the experiences of people from different class backgrounds. But maybe that isn’t what you were saying in the first place? It’s true that to proclaim Peele as the speaker of the contemporary Black experience is reductive and weird (IE it’s very in keeping with the tone of nearly all American mainstream media, at this point); I’d also submit it’s true that the popularity of his movies and show suggests that his viewpoint is broader than “privileged”– even if his two most popular movies are full of non-divorced, boat-buying homeowners who wear sweatshirts featuring the colleges they presumably attended. Privilege informs the stories he tells for sure but it doesn’t restrict their themes, I guess is what I’m saying. And if you’re suggesting that there’s a correlation between that veneer of his movies & their celebration by “mainstream” media, I wouldn’t tell you you were wrong about that either!

    Muh, when I lived up there was when North Korea was threatening to nuke the U.S. and I remember thinking, Kim Jong Un should call me a week ahead of time so I can paint some target circles around the city limits for him. I also want to correct myself on something that’s bugging me– even I couldn’t believe that I’d actually seen a bumper sticker with the above slogan on it, after I posted that story, so I thought back and I realized that I was conflating it with the recent video Trump infamously retweeted with the gun-toting morons on the lawn. The second bumper sticker I saw said something extremely similar having to do with pride. But it still sucked and was scary and depressing and made me want to leave.

    ps Vern- if you’re reading this, I also belatedly realized that even putting quoted racist slogans on your site in a post could land you and/or the site in iffy territory on a few levels, and also that simply seeing them in any context could likely be a huge bummer for many people reading. I wish I’d thought about that before posting that story in quite the way that I did. You should feel more than welcome to delete the original post if you’d rather not have those phrases anywhere on your site; quoted or not, I’d get it. Thanks for providing a forum to hash this stuff out in and apologies for that lack of thoughtfulness on my part.

  39. psychic_hits, I don’t disagree with you at all. I said a lot of things, and I don’t claim they were totally coherent. My point is that Peele’s perspective is informed not just by his blackness but by his wealth, privilege, and his whiteness. But you wouldn’t hear most people say that. They’d just say he is a top African American filmmaker or a powerful black voice or whatever. My point is that he is all of those things that they say and all of those things I just said, but my list is more accurate, not just in the pedantic sense but in a very substantive and meaningful sense. Indeed, that is exactly why his films can touch on race and class in such rich and creative and original ways. I get pissed off when blackness is pitted against whiteness or when white people are defined primarily in terms of their oppressiveness or when they have proven their ally-ship or woke bona fides. For a guy who is half-white and in many aspects of his life was more privileged than your average white person, I find it pandering, patronizing, and douchey. Which is not to say that I haven’t been patronizin and douchey. I probably have been in this thread. I don’t take back anything I said good or bad about him. I definitely think the good outweighs the bad, but I’ve already praised him a lot a lot of times.

    Jordan Peele on Making Movies After 'Us': "I Don't See Myself Casting a White Dude As the Lead"

    Hot off the record-breaking success of his latest high-minded horror flick, the writer-director advised Hollywood improv students on ego, marijuana use and why minority actors will always star in his films.

    “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes,” he said, nodding over to his moderator pal Roberts. “But I’ve seen that movie.” The line drew loud applause and shouts of agreement.

  40. Muh, I am chiming in to agree with you about the excellence of The Bernie Mac Show’s cast. They were an astounding combination, one of the best dynamics among a group of actors ever. I really believe in and care about those characters.

    Some of the funniest moments from the show are Bernie loudly bounding into a room and greeting Nessa, only to have her look at him with disgust. Though the genius cast always elevated the material, I think the writing was genuinely very good, just understated. The Larry Wilmore years were particularly excellent and moving, but there was a lot of great character work and memorable jokes in the later seasons too, like when Jordan named his pet rat “Chester the Jester Timberlake Houdini”.

    It is amazing how a show that was so cartoony and consistently fourth wall breaking could also be so grounded and naturalistic, or that Bernie Mac’s standup could be the starting point for a show that was ultimately about tenderness. I guess for all his intense, provocative bluster the truth of the Kings of Comedy material was something very good-hearted and tender.

    I miss The Mac Man.

  41. Hey Skani, you’re getting in the ballpark to saying he can’t speak to black issues because unlike most of them he wasn’t born poor or something. Like black issues have to be about that…but he doesn’t go there. His leads in his movies seem to come more or less where he does…suburban or maybe better off. A college kid, then a family taking a nice vacation, and in Keanu kind of boring suburban characters in nice houses.

    Who cares if he doesn’t want to cast a white person as the lead in a movie? He’s not wrong, they had a pretty good run since…the beginning of film.

  42. Alf, I miss Mac too. And I came into his show AFTER he died I think, so his death didn’t hit me as hard because I liked him in stuff that I saw but wouldn’t have said I was a particular fan. But man, that show. The funniest part I remember is the kid is trying to do magic and Bernie just says something to the fact that he’s like to do a trick and make them all disappear, then goes POOF! That’s not even a joke on paper. There’s nothing in there. But that was his humor, the situation and the deliveries are EVERYTHING. And you don’t get that much in comedies.

  43. Hey, Muh, you’re getting into the ballpark of me telling you to fuck off for not reading my posts closely or charitably.

    I clearly don’t give a shit if he casts exclusively black or mixed ethnicity characters in every movie he ever does and never casts another white person at all, much less as the lead. Just don’t be a pandering dickbag about it.

  44. I’ve read all of your long winded and sanctimonious posts closely Skani. Why is Peele being pandering, you feel like he can’t relate truly to being black because he was born with some money and wants to speak to black issues, cause I can pretty much tell you no one looks at him and says “white guy.” So that’s what he wants to speak to.

  45. Cool. Glad the santimoniousness came through.

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