Today, “Valentine’s Day” the movie is premiering across the nation. Just yet another fine example of how this consumer-driven holiday, that does nothing but line the pockets of those who exploit it, fools people into buying things they wouldn’t normally buy. Not to sound cynical or anything, but no one can sit here and honestly say that Valentine’s Day is all about the love when consumer consumption experiences a significant spike during the week of the 14th each and every year.
Heck, spending on Valentine’s Day isn’t even always the product of love. According to the USA Today, the use of tracking devices and private investigators always surges around Valentine’s Day, proving that love often breeds hatred.
But I’m not really here to speculate on Valentine’s Day, because I really have no problem with it, so long as people recognize it for what it is; a big-business ploy that men use to prey on the emotions of lonely women.
That said, I do have a problem with the movie “Valentine’s Day” itself, and it has nothing to do with the holiday. My issue, or question rather, IS:
Where did all of the black love stories go?
No, I’m not going to apologize for making this a racial thing, because it’s not as if I am asking for something that is out the realm of possibility. All I want to know is why did the production of black love movies stop so suddenly at the turn of the century?
Eddie Murphy was as big as black movie stars get back in the early 90’s. In fact, despite the recent success of Will Smith and Denzel Washington, I still think Murphy was a bigger movie star than the both of them, because when people go to see a Denzel or Smith film, it’s because they play good roles in good movies. When people went to an Eddie Murphy movie back in the early 90’s and the 80’s, it was because they wanted to see Eddie Murphy be Eddie Murphy.
But I digress.
Often we think of Murphy as a comedian and a funny actor, but Murphy was the subject of many black movies that incorporated the theme of love, such as “Coming to America.” However, only one of his movies can really be described as a romantic movie and that’s “Boomerang,” where he starred opposite Robin Givens and Halle Berry.
That movie was so successful, it spawned a long line of black romantic movies, including “Love Jones,” “Brown Sugar,” “Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “The Best Man,” “Love & Basketball,” “Jason’s Lyric,” “The Inkwell,” and “The Wood.” However, none of these movies were as successful as “Boomerang,” and none of them produced any money overseas; whereas, Boomerang produced more money overseas alone than any of those movies grossed in total.
Why was “Boomerang” so successful and the other movies weren’t?
Or to put it in more general terms, “Boomerang” had a star, and the other movies did not.
So why won’t Will Smith and Denzel Washington star in a black romantic flick that involves another black love interest, a black love plot and is devoid of the more general, conforming storylines and plots that are ramped in their typical movies, such as the newly released “Valentine’s Day?”
As I just mentioned, since “Boomerang,” black romantic movies don’t make money. Heck, black movies in general don’t make money. It’s hard for me to say it, but it’s true.
One of the reasons black movies don’t make any money is because they don’t do well overseas. While I partially agree with the notion that foreigners don’t necessarily understand the plots and meanings of an all-black film, the fact is, most black movies aren’t shot with big black movie stars, and you need movie stars to make money overseas—and that applies to all movies. For example, Napoleon Dynamite isn’t necessarily all that different from Nacho Libre, but Nacho Libre made way more money overseas because they had Jack Black.
Yet the black romantic films of yesteryear don’t even have names as big as Jack Black. With my apologies to Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs and Omar Epps (of which at least one of the 3 always seem to be in every black romantic film ever made), their names don’t register in America or abroad half as much as Jack Black’s does—and yes, somewhere, a professor at Tisch Film School is turning over in his grave.
So why am I writing this?
Because I want to see more black romantic films!
The black love story has to be told. Black love is so fleeting, so rare and so obscure in comparison to the rest of America, that I just feel it’s necessary for these stories to be told on a wide-release basis. And yes, black love is different from the generic love story you see in the theaters. Blacks love differently. In all honestly, all cultures love differently. Love is a cultural thing. A sign of love in one country is not necessarily a sign of love in another country. And while there aren’t glaring differences between a display of love in the black community versus that of the white community, there are differences, and I’d like to see those differences on screen.
There is one way, however, to make black romantic movies that are financially successful:
Bring back Eddie Murphy!
Okay, not really. But we should bring back the idea of putting the biggest black stars in black movies.
Halle Berry! Get off Billy Bob and holler at my man Taye Diggs on screen!
Big Willie! Yeah, you use to call yourself that! I know you like Latina co-stars in your movies, but you did date sisters on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air!
And Denzel! My man! Come on now. Did you forget your roots! Spike Lee made you, man! You can’t do a small budget film for him where the cast comes from Brooklyn, as opposed to Brookshire, just one more time!
Putting those guys/gals in a black movie would breed the success that any financier or studio would be proud of. But it’s hard to get them, because they demand $20 million a flick, and no black producer, or white producer alike is putting together a production that primarily appeals to a black constituency and has a budget north of $25 million.
It just ain’t happening.
And that’s unfortunate, because it could work. You throw Denzel in “Love Jones,” and it would have made four times as much money. Use the new and improved Jamie Foxx in the next black romantic flick, and you’re sure to double your investment.
But no one is willing to take a chance. Tyler Perry is trying to do something with black romantic films here and there, but his movies usually do more comedy and romance. The last real black romantic film was probably Brown Sugar (2004), and it wasn’t all that good. I guess we will have to wait for someone from my generation to make it big in the movie business before we ever get back to seeing blacks in romantic flicks.
Maybe that person is you?