Denzel, Will Smith Are Post-Racial

Jason Singer
Mar 23, 2010

 

The idea that America is post-racial because Barack Obama was voted into the White House is pretty absurd. 

You only have to look at the anonymous comments on our Web site to know that racism, sexism and xenophobia are still prevalent in America. You can also look at last week's shooting by a white supremacist at the Holocaust Museum as further proof.

Which only makes last weekend's release of "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" all the more interesting. 

In the new movie, Denzel Washington plays Walter Garber, a subway dispatcher forced to negotiate with hijackers.  But the movie is a remake of a 1974 pseudo-classic of the same title. And in that film 35 years ago, whiter-than-white Walter Matthau played the same character Denzel is playing in today's film.

This isn't the first time Denzel has done this. In 2004, he played Major Marco in the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate." It was the same role Frank Sinatra played 42 years earlier.

A post-racial actor is an interesting concept, especially considering Hollywood — despite its liberal leanings — is as unprogressive as any place in American pop culture.

In the last 45 years, blacks actors/actresses have only won one Best Actor and one Best Actress at the Academy Awards. And those were for playing a drug-dealing, crooked, thug cop (Washington in "Training Day") and a stereotypical tragic mulatto who needs the love of a vile racist to survive (Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball).

But Denzel, and fellow black actor Will Smith, are post-racial actors, even in this unprogressive environment. They can—and often do—play roles imagined as white men. Washington does it in "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," "The Manchurian Candidate" and a number of police procedurals. Smith did it in "Independence Day," "I Am Legend," and "I, Robot"—all stories originally conceived with white men playing the lead roles.

Being a black actor in Hollywood isn't easy. In this week's two nationwide releases ("The Proposal" and "Year One") there are a grand total of zero black actors between the two movies. 

In last week's major release "The Hangover," the only three black characters are a drug dealer (Mike Epps), a bodyguard (Faleolo Alailima) and Mike Tyson. 

Talk about stereotypical.

In fact, the most diversity movie fans will see all summer was aboard the USS Enterprise in "Star Trek," and that movie takes place in the year 2387. 

Until then, I guess, we'll just have to admire the few actors like Washington and Smith who can get non-stereotyped lead roles. And hopefully, we won't have to wait until the Kirk and Spock Era for black actors to live long and prosper in Hollywood.

Comments

Captain Gutz

I'm waiting for Bruce Willis to star in the remake of Blacula.

Karl Hungus-Mr....

All stereotypes aside, I have to admit that The Hangover was probably the funniest movie I have seen in a theater since maybe Supertroopers.  Well, it was probably funnier than Supertroopers, as much as it hurts to say that.

I would pay to see The Hangover again.

jasonsinger

I agree. All stereotypes aside, The Hangover is the funniest movie you'll see in a long, long time. The only time I've seen crowds react like that was on opening night of Superbad and opening night of There's Something About Mary. It was crazy good.

 

P.S. Hilarious comment, Captain Gutz. Well done.