Monday, April 05, 2010

Pop Culture: The Black Version

Why do we need Black versions of popular (or not so popular) movies and/or TV shows? I'm not asking because I think they're inherently a bad idea -- I loved The Wiz-- I'm just asking. And I'm asking now, because on April 16th, the "Black version" of the 2007 British film, Death at a Funeral, will be released, starring Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence and a lot of other famous Black comedians. Considering the original film just came out three years ago and it only performed moderately well, why are we seeing a remake so soon? And why do we need a Black version of this movie? Again, I don't think it's a bad idea, I just can't figure out why? And for what it's worth, I watched the original version on DVD and laughed myself silly.

And why you're all scratching your heads trying to come up with a satisfying answer, perhaps you can also help me understand why Jamie Foxx is penning a script for the Black version of Laverne & Shirley, the movie? No, you did not read that wrong. According to The Foxx is writing the screenplay for a Laverne & Shirley film that Gary Marshall will direct. (crickets chirping). Would you go see that? Part of me thinks there may be potential. Part of me wants to know if there's a part in there for me, seeing as I really am Black and really did grow up in Milwaukee. But I digress.

What about you? Do you want to see Black versions of popular movies and TV shows? Are these remakes supposed to make Black people feel included somehow? Will non-Black people want to see Black versions of White shows? And finally, why stop at the Black versions? What ethnic remake would you want to see? I'd really like to see The Brady Bunch where Mrs. Brady was Black and Mr. Brady was Chinese. And Alice was still played by Ann B. Davis.


PS You still have time to enter in the drawing for the autographed copy of the Kitchen House. Read the post below and enter by 9pm tonight.


Tere Kirkland said...

IMO, the strangest part about the decision to remake Death at a Funeral (which I enjoyed, but I tend to like quiet British comedies) was the decision to cast the same actor, Peter Dinklage, in the same exact role he played in the 2007 version.


BloggingQueen said...

@Tere: My thoughts exactly about re-casting Peter Dinklage. Talk about having a lock on a role! But shoot, if they needed a little person in "the black version" of this movie, couldn't they have gotten the guy from "Me, Myself and Irene"?

I'm generally for including people of color in a cast, rather than casting a whole other version of the same movie.

I know most people of *any* color in this country only have friends of the same color/heritage. But I think a nearly all-black (or all-white) cast just reinforces the idea that it's odd to have friends who don't look or think exactly like you.

So I'm expecting this version of "Death at a Funeral" to mock the color of James Marsden's character, or the fact that his character is paired with Zoe Saldana.

Martine said...

Rumblings of these remakes just made me stare at the screen perplexed and see if I read the sentence right. I would feel like the film industry was working harder to create inclusive space for black people if they create brand new scripts with refreshing characters. This just seems lazy, watered down and nearly offensive just because it implies that they think Laverne and Shirly etc. don't have stories that all people could relate to. I dunno. I'll have to think it over.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I'm still in shock that Neil Labute is the director.

Anonymous said...

It's a great question to ask. My guess is that the remake having a black cast has more to do with the director, Neil Labute.

In 2000 he directed the movie Nurse Betty. I read that he originally cast Gene Hackman and Stephen Baldwin as the father and son hit men, but decided to cast black actors (Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock) instead to see how/if that would change the movie. (I think it did, by the way. I remember a white woman sitting nearby gasped when Morgan Freeman's character told Renee Zellweger's character he liked to take walks on the beach, etc. Coming from Hackman, I imagined the same woman would have recognized this scene as comedy and laughed.)

Death at a Funeral would have been remade in the US by someone, so my guess is that when Neil Labute was chosen (or bought the rights), he again wanted to "play around" with race to see how it changes a story. If so, I think it's interesting and would like to learn more about his thoughts on the outcome. I bet he also recast Dinklage for the same reasons. He unapologetically messes with his audience so I bet this is an inside-joke kind of thing.

If you haven't watched his movies or attended one of his plays, I recommend it. (Lakeview Terrace was a huge departure in my opinion and makes me wonder why he directed that one. I think he failed with his depiction of the interracial couple.)

Black Laverne & Shirley: I'd much rather see original mainstream stories being created for black people. The Black Honeymooners made little sense to me and this one doesn't make sense to me either. Are there really no screenwriters who can come up with an original simple story for black people that doesn't focus on gangs, guns, violence or suffering?

Karen Siplin

LT said...

I agree!!!! Penelope Cruz did the same thing in Abre Los Ojos/Vanilla Sky. I think it must be really weird for the actor.

BQ & Martine.
I agree. why not just make the original cast multicultural?

Ragazza and Karen,
Thanks for the Neil Labute angle and info. It makes it all the more interesting. Maybe I will go to see it now.

Aunt Snow said...

Remakes of crappy TV sitcoms as feature films are a bad idea in general - adding the "let's make it black" is just another step down that road.

I'm with Karen that they should make original stories instead. An "homage" to Laverne & Shirley as a girl-buddy story, told through the context of the relationship of two black friends - I'd much rather go for that than a tired remake. Please don't tell me who Foxx is casting as Lenny and Squiggie....I don't want to know.

Mae said...

Interestingly, when I first saw this trailer, I looked at it as the American version of a British film...a multicultural American version. It looks incredibly funny, and I can't wait to see both versions. I am sick of watching all white casts, and tend to seek out films with diverse casts ( and not majority white with a couple of POC sprinkled in)

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

This should be no surprise, in general America has been copying Britain on everything lately from shows like American Idol, game shows, and shows like The Office...this isn't anything new either only difference is that the cast is primarily black.

so a better question is, has our entertainment industry gone that far down hill that we have to rely on the Brits for our humor (which I find not to be all that funny in my opinion)?

But I agree with others, I hate seeing tv shows turned into movies in general unless it has the original cast and is serving as a finale to a show. But remaking a show through a movie is as dumb as doing the opposite (i hate 10 things I hate about you the tv show).

but making a black version of something isn't a problem based on timing. Its like Jackie Chan's The Spy Next Door, the film barely made enough to cover costs because no one cares for another movie like that cause it was only 4 years ago The Pacifier came out. But the Pacifier ws financially successful because enough time had passed since Kindergarten Cop.