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‘The Best Man Holiday’ fell flat with white audiences, should black people care?

Best Man Holiday

USA Today’s ignorant description of The Best Man Holiday as a ‘race-themed’ film (later laughably softened as a ‘diverse’ film), opened up the floodgates of criticism and justifiable anger. But more than that, it shed a light on what black filmmakers, actors and audiences have known for years: anything which features mostly black stars will invariably be viewed as a ‘black’ film by the mainstream–regardless of how universal the actual film’s themes are.

The Best Man Holiday, as has been stated numerous times in the wake of the controversial article, isn’t a ‘race-themed’ film, nor is it’s cast ‘diverse’ just because it mostly features people of color. The important question to ask is why does white America feel that any film that isn’t dominated by their point-of-view automatically some type of anomaly? White audiences turned out in droves for films like 12 Years A Slave and The Butler. Both of those films featured mostly African American stars–why did ‘mainstream’ audiences feel so much more comfortable going to theaters to see those movies, but a heartfelt rom-com about relationships was too ‘black’ to garner their attention?

It’s a strange mindset to have–especially when one considers that, twenty-five years ago, “The Cosby Show” was the biggest show on American television, Arsenio Hall was dominating late night and Oprah was TV’s biggest daytime host. Even post-“Cosby,” a show like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” had a large white fanbase. So how did those black television shows manage to reach white folks’ radar, but in 2013, a film like The Best Man Holiday does not? Has American pop culture regressed? Because, after all, those successful “crossover” black sitcoms went off the air 15-20 years ago, and there hasn’t been a flood of new black television shows to take their place. So have white audiences once again settled into the idea that “white” is basically America’s default setting, while anything else is “special” and needs to be segregated?

It certainly seems that way.

But there is another important question that black audiences have to ask themselves:  do we need white audiences to support black art for said art to be successful?

The success of Tyler Perry (whether you enjoy his films or not) should serve as a red flag. Here is a filmmaker who has become one of the richest men in Hollywood without a mainstream (i.e. white) audience. His films target black people and are supported by black people. He’s based in Atlanta, not Los Angeles; and his work speaks to the same people who were fans of his gospel plays–long before he ever became a movie maker. Also, “Scandal” is one of television’s most popular shows; and while there are undoubtedly white people watching–it’s largest fanbase is made up of African Americans.

In today’s pop culture climate, its imperative for “black” to not always be sequestered or treated as some sort of niche. If American audiences are truly as “post-racial” as they claim to be, they would recognize that a movie like The Best Man Holiday or the upcoming Black Nativity isn’t a foreign film; it’s an American story about American people.

But if white audiences still display the same relative disinterest that they’ve shown as of late, it’s equally important for black people to recognize the power of their own dollars. And know that we can have a hit with or without the so-called “mainstream” flocking to support it.


30 Comments

  1. frankjum12 on November 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Uhhh…no.

  2. enochmubarak on November 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

    As black people let’s stop wearing our hearts on our sleeves and being
    emotional instead of critical thinkers then we would easily see that had
    they not put a white guy in the movie to romance the black woman in the
    face of black men then the movie would have never seen the light of day.

    Sincerely, Enoch Mubarak
    President/CEO Mubarak Inter-prizes
    http://www.mubarakinter-prizes.com/

    • Caydence James on November 22, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Actually that’s not true because this movie was greenlit and already well into the funded and production stage when they decided to take Nia Long’s suggestion and cast a white guy (Eddie Cibrian) as her love interest. So to your point, it saw the light of day well before that was an issue.

      Sorry. 🙁

      • enochmubarak on November 22, 2013 at 8:09 am

        “well into the funded and production stage” does not equate to light of day. light of day is synonymous with…actual showtime!

    • Jmarie on November 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Correction Mr. President. The white guy was only in the movie because Nia Long requested it. Search it out…

      • Junie, extraordinary on November 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

        weren’t they on third watch at the same time too?

  3. Logan on November 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    African-Americans have alwasy felt that they need the approval of White Americans, but movies like this and producers like Tyler Perry and Spike Lee show that that is so not the case. So, let Whites talk their talk and continue on their “race-themed” rants, becasue guess what? WE DON’T NEED THEIR SUPPORT, THEIR APPROVAL, OR THEIR MONEY! HELLO?

    • Caydence James on November 22, 2013 at 12:52 am

      Clearly not all of us have felt that way or feel that way now. After all, you don’t feel that way, I don’t feel that way and most of the people that I associate with don’t feel that way either. I think it’s just a small minority with big mouths that feel this way or at least those are the ones that get press. But lately I’ve been seeing a change in us and if we can continue to grow, come together and support our own projects, stop allowing them to divide and conquer us and make success the norm for our people, we may be better off in the long run.

    • Regina on November 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      And if they confused on why we are not in the least concerned about what the hell they think tell them to watch Steve McQueen movie “12 years a Slave” then go hangout find the nearest tree or pole ,(either will do just fine) then tie a rope around their necks for the amusement of their peers until they past on–Or–I know, tell them to go let someone whip the flesh of their backs for hours until the they lose consciousness, then make them pic cotton on a plantation and call us MASSA. When they can truly explain how that felt then maybe somebody would care about their opinions, ………oh my bad, we still won’t give a damn!!!! but still until either one or both of those suggestions have been fulfilled, understand the opinion of any white American has no relevance and is clearly a “NON FACTOR”. as far as I am concerned. I am not nor have ever been prejudice, I just don’t give a fuck what they think about me as an African American, at the end of the day I am only concerned with the judgment of ONE higher being and trust when I say non of them are walking this earth.

      • colorblind on November 26, 2013 at 12:15 am

        Can YOU truly explain how it feels to have the flesh whipped out of your back and then be made pick cotton? Have you ever experienced any of those things yourself? No? Then I guess your opinion is a NON-FACTOR too.

  4. Caydence James on November 22, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Let’s just look at the evidence and call it what it is. The reason why films like, “The Butler” and “12 Years of Slaves” were so popular with white America is because both of those movies in some way depicted black people in submissive and repressive roles. Where else could these white people go to feel safe enough to watch black people in submissive roles without being branded as racists but to movies that depict us as slaves and butlers? But “The Best Man Holiday”? Well, that didn’t depict black people in submissive and downtrodden circumstances, did it?

    So yeah, if we look at the differences between the movies it’s quite clear as to why white people didn’t want to see it, isn’t it? They didn’t go see it because it doesn’t make them comfortable to see us in successful situations! For many of these white people, the only time they want to see African Americans in film is in a situation where they can either watch their murder or their downfall because that makes them feel more superior-plus more comfortable. Their form of entertainment is watching someone else’s downfall and misery in order to make themselves feel more superior. That’s the only reason why they didn’t see this movie.

    As to whether it matters or whether we need white audience to support black art? Hell no! We’ve proven that as long as we stick together and support worthy projects with laser beam focus we can make our dollars count! I can only imagine how successful we be if we focused our dollars onto worthy causes instead of things like our hair or the latest Jordans -but until such time I’m proud of these factors for committing to a movie that we can identify with and I’m proud of us for supporting it. As far as I’m concerned and contrary to popular belief, not everything is made to cater to white people and as long as we are generating money for our community or at least for our actors and actresses and we aren’t being blocked from doing so, then that’s all that should matter!

    I don’t know about you but I’m extremely tired of feeling like I need to worry about what the hell they think! As long as they don’t block us from getting what we want, need or deserve-I couldn’t care less! What about you?

    • Regina on November 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Personally, they can go drink a cold glass or poison and chill in the wilderness for all I care. I am and always will be proud of my African American sisters and brothers that are doing positive things, yes I admit it hurts to re the reality of what our ancestors had to endure for us to get where we are today, and no matter how successful I become, I will never overlook nor ignore where we came from.

      • Caydence James on November 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm

        Dayum Regina! Not a COLD glass of poison! LOL!

  5. MsPhD on November 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

    The came in second only to Thor…I think it did pretty well. The theater I was in had white couples in there as well as Black and Hispanic couples so I don’t think it fell flat…It made more in the first weekend then it cost to make…I say congrats…

  6. Jmarie on November 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    No… It’s about the bottom line $$$$$$. Keep it moving!!

  7. geedy wheatstraw on November 22, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    How can you get mad about white people not supportive of Best Man Holiday, bottom line is the movie is to predictable…tasteless and immature…..yeah we had some funny parts..but face it the movie was too cheesy and white people could care less about a black love story…besides when was the last time you went to the movies to see a white people love story….thats what I thought…and guess what im black. Smh…we need to get more creative…

    • Junie, extraordinary on November 24, 2013 at 11:51 am

      what? i just saw thor last weekend. “white people love story” was all up and through that. like twice.

      and guess what im black. YOU seem to care less about a black love story.

  8. David Mitchell on November 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Interesting, this article from the Hollywood Reporter is saying that all of these recent films, including Best Man Holiday are being received well by whites….http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/12-years-a-slave-whites-657370

  9. Junie, extraordinary on November 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

    No.

    Why should we care? Do articles like this pop up in the reverse? This film shows black people that aren’t in stereotypical or submissive roles that’s not in the vein of TP. 12 Years and The Butler were based on past events and white people were like “well THAT actually happened; and they’re Oscar contenders, so I might as well be progressive, for that sake.”

    but honestly who cares? was it marketed solely towards them? was that a big hook universal was going for?

  10. Jay on November 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Who cares if white people didn’t see it. It made money and who cares if it was an all black cast. Hollywood drops tons of movies with no black people in it and no one sees anything wrong with that. Black people have plenty of buying power. We don’t need whites to support black films

  11. Michelle Snow on November 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Great perspective!

  12. Doris Day on November 26, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Hilarious! Why does it matter what color the movie stars are, what color the movie producer is, or what color the audience is? If the movie makes money and people are entertained, that’s what matters. A dollar is green no matter what color the spender’s hand is.

  13. Rydinslow on November 26, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Of course they see it as a black movie,just like new years eve us a white movie. They go see our historic films to validate its authenticity. Black folks cried at Bm holiday but how many went to see the butler and 12 years a slave? Black folks posted ticket stubs for Bm holiday all on the social networks,but no one said anything bout the other aforementioned films

  14. AbeAlphonso on November 26, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Black people should NEVER look to be validated by white people . . . EVER . . . for any reason.

  15. Robert B. Singleton on November 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Black love, relationships, sexuality are not quite the same as romance with white people. It would be difficult for a white person to appreciate or direct black passion. It’s a black thing.

  16. Demond HugoBoss Brown on November 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

    This is interesting, considering that most of the black men in that film are in biracial relationships, in theirpersonal lives, an interesting dichotomy indeed….. I

  17. Amanda Lee on November 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

    no. who cares?!

  18. Nick Tarlowski on November 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    What if I didn’t go watch it because it looked like a crappy movie?

  19. PiperAnn on July 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I didn’t care for the movie because I comically call it “Black men who are actually all married to white women pretend to be husbands to black women movie.”

    Nia Long was right in a getting a white love interest in this movie. No self respecting black woman would otherwise go to see this movie when the line up of men are all in real life marriages with white women. It’s despairing on the black woman soul because I have no interest in white men.

    White men, sure wouldn’t support this movie…and the white women who would…wouldn’t boast of it with so many beautiful black women in positive roles with 0 white woman role.

    So overall, it was just a not good movie, I wouldn’t pay my money to go see.