Last night I watched a great documentary on the Sundance Channel or maybe IFC (who can keep them straight?) about the evolution and political impact of Blacksploitation films in the 70's. Let me tell you, I am a real fan of the genre. However, listening to film intellectuals explore the pros and cons of these films did annoy. I don't understand why "visibility" has to be sanitized and why groups tend to show the milk-toast version of their culture rather than just keep it real. I've learned a lot about "the other" through "film".....
Things ABB Learned Through the Magic of Movies
Not all white people are rich. Movies like Coal Miner's Daughter and Angela's Ashes were beneficial because they removed the stigma of privilege created by several John Hughes movies. Growing up, I was convinced that my white neighbors had pristine homes and never argued or had relatives show up out of nowhere and stay for months while stealing appliances and drinking all the "good" booze. Just imagine an alien from outer space learning about our world through the sanitized films of the 80's, with those creepy huge houses in un-named Chicago suburbs. They would think that all homes had fridges full of food, teens all had 90 pairs of jeans and even losers like Ferris went to college. In Hughes films no one is a drunk, cheats on a spouse or hits bottom after a drug frenzy, but blond girls are really mean super-snobs with bitchy eyes. I prefer that the space aliens see the good, the bad and the ugly. Toss in some drama from "the 'holler" and add a dash of cyclical Irish pregnancy/poverty/pregnancy/poverty and that should provide a nice counter-balance.
Not all drug dealers/fiends are Black men hustling the only hustle The Man left them. One of my favorite films is Less than Zero. These kids are too fucked up for words. Being a county brownie, I knew my fair share of druggies - you know the type, the suburban teen who's parents are preoccupied with acquiring shit and going to blame-your-mom-for-all-everything-therapy so he loots the booze by 10, smokes pot by 12, hits bottom in his mid-teens and goes to rehab for a semester before his sophomore year. These people were my friends (Luv Y'all) and we hung in the FreakCrew, glaring at the Izod preppies and smoking Camels during lunch. Watching the opulent corruption of the '80's L.A. "wanna-be" scene all boil down to Robert Downey Jr. giving a blow job to pay off his equally pampered drug dealer turned pimp friend was so real it freakin hurt. And, dare I say, refreshingly so. I thought it was a true acting triumph for Downey until.....well....let's just say it became clear that it wasn't such a stretch, shall we. The added bonuses of flashy cars, a fucked up not-really-pretty-enough-to-be-plausible model/student/heiress/actress, rampant coke use and a cool soundtrack make this movie required viewing in my world.
A young ABB learned that white families were sometimes more fucked up than my own and that drug dealers were not all bitter jive talking Black men with fancy hats and multiple 'hos. Thank God for HBO!