Thursday, January 19, 2012

Red-Tails, Radical Inter-Raciality and the Remaking of America

So. Meesa George Lucas - sci-fi visionary and 'swirl it up' poster boy - had to scrape up either $58 or $93 million of his own money to finance "Red Tails" a fictional account of the Tuskegee airmen. In promoting the movie, George shocked everyone by channeling his inner Spike Lee, and called out Hollywood, claiming a pervasive anti-black racism affects what kind of films get made, namely his "all-black" WWII film Red Tails.

Say what now Hollywood? Naw...fuh true?

Some would think it out of character for Lucas to make such "bold, political" statements. But, let's back track a bit: Star Wars was about slavery, imperialism and redemption. And, this here - in 150 words or less - is my racio-archetypal reading of one of its main story lines:

Luke Skywalker, a christ figure, is the abandoned spawn of an anti-christ figure: Darth Vader; who, it just so happens, resembles a giant black penis. Vader who himself was born - by immaculate conception at that - a slave; made robots (i.e., slaves) that would dutifully serve his estranged good, white son, Luke. Papa Walker fought his way out of bondage, to find himself in bondage to the Sith Lord Emperor. Or something. That fate befell him largely because rage and power-lust took him over to the 'dark side'....yes, dark side...Anakin - literally and figuratively - became the big black dick Vader who - though still very much a slave - sought to fuck civilizations galaxy-wide by subjecting them to the same rage, exploitation and misery that he endured daily.

Oh. there's more. But I'll stop there. Let's just say King Kong ain't got nothing on Darth V.

Any way, science fiction is a genre that has always, through allegory, addressed pressing social issues. Yet, we wouldn't think of Lucas as a maker of 'political' movies. Never mind making some bold - and quizzical - statements about a range of things; including America and 'race'. In fact it has been his bread and butter.


It seems like his "activism" and this all-black cast thing isn't "black enough" for some. While other black women are saying that support of Red Tails is an act of racial uplift - and an investment; others demand a boycott. "Black" ("black" in this instance meaning nobody should be so stupid as to really be "black" unless it is to say how limiting yet unimportant blackness is these days) blogs are somehow perturbed about there not being prominent black female leads in the movie. And, despite the glowing endorsements "the swirl" generally receives in these quarters, those women are upset by the idea that the only love interest in the movie promo is white.

I'd say there appears to be some Star Wars-esque shit going on.

"I realize that by accident I've now put the black film community at risk (with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions). I'm saying, if this doesn't work, there's a good chance you'll stay where you are for quite a while. It'll be harder for you guys to break out of that (lower-budget) mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let's make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there."
If the racially crestfallen criers were listening close enough they might have heard it between Lucas' breaths: people - particularly black people - get bored and anxious when black people aren't careful to include - and make space for - 'other races'. Generally, America - white and black - is generally disinterested in black people living, normal well-adjusted lives: or that is black people supporting each other without being particularly concerned with what white people are or aren't doing.


Because if 'privilege' is about options then it is partly defined - and maintained - by one's ability to exclude others. Black folks not giving white people that opportunity or satisfaction is more unnerving to all involved than accusations of 'racism' (obviously), and more subversive to white supremacy than the "anti-racism" police.


Black pride won't allow this into the conversation: but the friction between black and white has more to do with unrequited love than almost anything else. Since Fanon, it is has been out that a defining and animating characteristic of "blackness" - more so than African ancestry - is wanting "white" love and acceptance.

And really, for how long can you ignore someone who you love so deeply and unconditionally? 'Interracial' - or rather black people making family with white people - is very comforting in a layered way. Lucas', I'm sure, knows this. And so 'erasure' of the black woman in Red Tails has less to do with Lucas' fear of a black planet than it does with capitalizing on that plain marketing truth. And, it is not just a financial consideration; it is a representation also emblematic of national healing never mind American-ness itself.

As it pertains to war efforts, for black men in particular - in patriarchal conversation with the white men who controlled the nation - becoming "fully a citizen"; a real man and/or part of the American family meant being able to marry the man's 'daughter'. And so, as black men were fighting and dying for 'citizenship' and 'respectability' what that looked like - particularly in light of the inter-racial and castration narratives of lynching - was secure, socially legitimate access to white women.

Now, a "hmmm" moment in Red Tails, just as Black Americans can fight and die for America - and still not be real Americans; an enemy "white" woman - an Italian - can love and recognize a black man's "real" manhood. Lucas' 'writing the black woman out' of Red Tails is a void that permits for that emotional and political "truth". The state of semi-citizenship these men lived and fought in - and the ability for 'race' and even nationality to lose to 'love'.


In the Obama age, white people and black people choosing to 'love' each other is rendered as a sort of apolitical activism that signals a national healing/regeneration. It is a major meme of our times. Why would we want a confused play to that erased from a landmark movie? It, at least, is a real American history.

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