Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Do You Translate "Black?"

Am I the only one who missed this disturbing news about the international advertising campaign for the movie Couples Retreat? Personally, I hardly paid attention to this film when it premiered in the United States because Vince Vaughn is in it and quite frankly, I think Vaughn possesses the dramatic range of a yodeling pickle. But I digress.

Apparently, the movie posters for the film in the UK and other foreign markets had the Black couple removed -- both their photographs and their names in the list of credits -- because, well, because apparently Black people just don't appeal to foreigners. Here's how a Universal spokesperson explained their decision to whitewash the poster: We got rid of the Black actors to “ simplify the poster to actors who are most recognizable in international markets.” Oh, And they "regretted causing offense."

For a full read on the incident,and a peek at the before-and-after posters, you can check out this Yahoo story.

Many people in La La Land, aka Hollywood, believe that Black people just don't translate well overseas. That Will Smith just isn't that popular and so we can't put him on magazine covers or on movie posters and expect our British brothers and sisters to buy. And God forbid can you imagine in Japan or China or Turkey? Or at least that's what top brass at the movie companies are saying. But maybe they're saying that because they personally think that and don't have any Black people in positions of power at the studio to tell them otherwise. That's kind of what this writer at the LA Times says in his article about this whole hulabaloo.

What do you think? Especially you world travelers. Would foreign audiences shun a movie with a Black protagonist or supporting actor? Could they handle Black people on their movie posters? Vivienne Pattison, director of Media Watch UK, told the [Daily]Mail: "... We celebrate diversity in Britain and we could have coped with seeing the same poster used in America." Indeed, I find it really hard to believe that considering foreign markets are so hot for Black music, style, fashion, slang, dance, food (yes, my cousin is about to take a job teaching Italian chefs how to make soul food in Italy.), and our hot Black president, that somehow they would be turned off by Black people in a movie. What is the real problem here? Where are we getting lost in translation?

I'm really, really listening.



rhonalala said...

Um, no I don't think Europe would not see a movie if black people are in it! What the hell is this all about? Honestly, sometimes I wonder how people get away with certain things. Even Germans watch movies and shows with black people.....I have nothing positive to say so I will send this comment here. I love your blog.

Dee said...

Wow, I'm speechless. Is this 2009 or 1909? I think it's the latter as people today are living under a rock or are fast asleep. It's one or the other. Probably both. I would like to say *bleep* you to whoever came up with this stupid idea in the first place. By the way, you know what the *bleep* is for. It rhymes with duck.

I wish your cousin luck with the whole soul food in Italy thing. I may have to bump Italy up to the top of my "Places To Go" List if this phenom actually catches on over there.

Tikki said...

eew. Sounds to me that the studio executives are trying to explain their actions away.

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ieishah said...

i was walking through the street the other day and someone yelled, 'naomi!! hi, naomi!!' a few more blocks and one of those cheesy street performers yells, 'obama!' and hands me a little fake blue jewel for good luck.

people overseas do not have the same associations with blackness (i think in different ways but on the whole) as americans do. it's definitely as dude posits in the nytimes; studios are projecting american prejudice that onto foreign audiences. i doubt they even do the research to see how foreign audiences relate to black actors/characters. they just assume the possess the wisdom of the entire world between their ears.

in the end, i think it's gonna be up to people like us to do the research, run the numbers, collect the anecdotes...

LT said...

Thank you!

Def. folks have to be under that rock.


Ieishah,I mean Namomi!
You said it. We've got to keep bringing it ourselves.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Will Smith is the biggest star in the world. He's black.

I wasn't that upset about the poster because nobody knows who Faizon Love is but Vince Vaughn, is known as is Kristin Davis from the constant SATC reruns.

That said, I agree that Americans are putting their racial nonsense on other countries.

Would Tyler Perry movies do well overseas? It depends on the movie but this idea that all foreign audiences are resistant to black characters is BS.

Also, I know this might be shocking, but there are black people living outside of America!!!

Rita L. said...

I definitely think the execs are full of bs, because I don't think anyone would have not seen the movie because the black people in it (or placed in the poster). It would be because it was just a horrible movie in general lol. As far as racism abroad, we all know it is quite present even in 2009, but it is much more complicated to explain. I'll just leave it at that.