If We Write it We Will Come
From the time nominations are announced until a week after the last award is handed out we know the drill; someone will lament the lack of good roles for African Americans then the type of roles African Americans actually win for. It’s not necessarily a knock against the wonderful acting talents of Halle Berry, Denzel Washington or Mo’Nique it’s just that people wonder why an award is given for a dirty cop and not more roles that depict a blind musical genius (like Jamie Foxx for Ray).
The fact is, when it comes to the big screen or the small screen Hollywood uses African Americans and other minorities as secondary characters to the white main characters. In yesteryear we were maids and manservants who had the quick quips and the words of wisdom to help the white protagonist find their way. Today we are confidants, sidekicks, magical negroes or surrogate parents who again are there to help white people find their way. Sometimes when our story is told then it’s told through the lens of a white character where they get to be the hero (see Mississippi Burning) or another person who gets to stand in for the white community (see Secret Life of Bees and soon The Help) because that is the only way whites can understand a black storyline. Black emotions, life and world get filtered through white eyes with the realization of a white character, “They feel just like us!”.
But Hollywood forgets, Black people want to see stories, too, that tell our stories with or own voice. African American pundits like to tout that African Americans buy a lot of products and the average black household watches more television than white ones but it never translates into any type of power that makes anyone comes in search of our dollars. Why? Because they don’t have to seduce our dollars away from us. We will spend our money outside the community and we will watch shows that don’t have black leads or well rounded black characters. The people who are writing the shows and producing the shows are often white males whose views of blacks are like the white producers parodied in Hollywood Shuffle.
I propose we turn the TVs off and for the month of April participate in Script Frenzy. For 30 days you write your stage play, screen play, graphic novel or TV show and the goal is to reach 100 pages. Because we are writing in a frenzy there’s no time for (cringe) proofing or rewriting. Your goal is to write the type of show you want to see on TV instead of sitting passively in front of the boobtube or whining on forums that what you see in everyday life is not represented.
If you are unfamiliar with the format that you choose check out the Script Frenzy website for examples. I plan to do it for the month of April and hope to reach the 100 page mark. If you choose to do it, too, leave a comment with your blog address or send me an email.