OCP: March 2006

The new Blaxploitation.

Q: How many movies can you put a black comedian into?
A: All of them.

At least, that seems to be Hollywood's position. How many movies have you seen in the past year that had a black character (or voice actor) needlessly? How many in the past five years? The past decade? How many of those starred Cedric the Entertainer?

Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the 70s when white filmakers realized that "wait, these darkies have money now!" Most of the time, they were films starring black actors, by white producers. They are, among other things, credited with both expoiting black people and increasing demand for Black-centered movies. Films of the time, even those with white stars, would often include Black characters for the appeal. Even today, you can hardly throw a birck at a Saturday morning cartoon without hitting a Black guy, though many are actually resiting the urge to shoehorn an ethnic minority in. (Notably, Ben 10.) The genre was supposedly over by the nineties. Supposedly.

Hollywood's rush to remake movies has quickly jaded consumers, and they've decided to do something to make the films seem more original; put Black people in them! There's 2005's Guess Who, a remake of the award winning 1967 fim Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, wherein a black man meets his White fiance's parents for the first time. The remake is pretty much the same, except a White guy meeting his Black future in-laws, and with all of the depth stripped out of it, making it a pure comedy. It also stars one of the Original Kings of Comedy, Bernie Mac. (More on them later) It's effectively a quick remake of a clasic film that most it's target audience probably never heard of. And that's not the only one. There was also a Black movie remake of The Honeymooners, staring Mike Epps, and another OKoC, Cedric the Entertainer. Epps also appeared in Resident Evil:Apocalypse, as a pimp who somehow managed to make it through the entire movie. His only plot relevance is somewhat contrived.

Pimps were also common in the original blaxploitation genre, and their "street" vibe has carried on to this day. "Urban" is the new "extreme". And it's not just limited to movies; video games like Need For Speed:Underground and pretty much every GTA imitator out there revolve around being "street". Being black, usually, automatically implies "street"ness. In fact, GTA:San Andreas actually had a black lead. He was even recently released from prison. Despite that fact that it's an excellent game, one can't help but wonder if Rockstar knew the connotations associated with having a Black ex-gang member as their antihero. Barbershop(2002) was an excellent movie about a barbershop, which, in Black culture, is something of a community center. The film was a success, and there was immediately a sequel, a spinoff, and a TV series, all with diminishing levels of quality. Why? Because Hollywood knew that Black people were going to see the movie anyway.

Ever since RunDMC collaborated with Aerosmith for "Walk this Way", there have been Black artists "feat." on songs, even those already sung by ethnic minorities. Sergio Mendes' Timeless was produced by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. The Peas also guest-star on the album. Kanye West samples every song for the past few decades. It's like when Faith Evans and P.Diddy covered the Who's Every Step You Take and turned it into a Eulogy for Biggie Smalls, simply by Faith singing the chorus, and Diddy rapping over it. Except that's West's entire career. That and his savious complex. Scarily, the public loves him; Kanye is one of the best-selling artists of the past decade. Either he's really good, or just has really good marketing.

The Original Kings of Comedy is a stand up comedy film from 2000 starring Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac. The film was a great succcess, and the stars-referred to for the rest of their lives as "The Kings of Comedy"-have been tacked onto anything Hollywood can find. For example, Man of the House(2005) was a film wherin Tommy Lee Jones, as a hard-nosed federal agent forced to guard a group of cheerleaders who witness a murder. Cedric was added to the movie as a pastor for two reasons; one: as an obligatory Black character, and two: as an obligatory funny character. That's why the OKoC are so appealing; they're Black, they're funny(theoretically), and as a bonus, they're big-name. A third of the budget needed to book seperate characters! Woot! The OKoC have been in Mr. 3000, Bad Santa, the Charlie's Angels remakes, Bad Santa, and a few dozen other movies. Most of them sucked.

The bottom line is that Hollywood is expoiting Blacks. Again. Indeed, Blacksploitation may have never really stiopped, just gone low key. Would someone please make a movie without a token black guy?