Pop Culture

Went To See “Red Tails,” and…

Boy, it was a piece of work.

A piece of GREAT work, that is!!

I know there’s been some debates on the boards about putting our support into this movie, which only has one woman in it, who just happens to be Italian, but ladies, it’s my position that protesting this movie is not the hill we want to die on. George Lucas’ homage to the Tuskegee Airman was a noble and beautiful thing. This man poured $58 million of his own money (totally unheard of in Hollywood) because he felt so strongly that this story should be told, and I agree with him.

The Hubster and I saw the film tonight and honestly I didn’t know what to expect (was it going to be like Star Wars for black people?). But because it was GEORGE LUCAS, I had some very high expectations. Aside from a few slow parts and Ne-yo looking like he had a huge gum ball in his mouth the whole time and Cuba Gooding Jr. jockeying to be Winston Churchill’s love child, he met those expectations for me.

Enough about the plot. Let’s talk about what this movie really means.

I can not tell you how refreshing it was to see a “black movie” in which the characters weren’t shucking and jiving and participating in all manners of coonery sans blackface. I saw portrayals of the Tuskegee Airman as brave, intelligent, dignified and human. I was proud of them. These men fought against what would have been crippling stereotypes for lesser men, and rose above low expectations time, and time, and time again. Prior to the success of this group, black men were considered too unintelligent and cowardly to participate in complicated combat. What these men, these REAL men did for our country shows what expecting EXCELLENCE in people can reap. After seeing what they went through, I laugh at how [some] black folks say the system is designed for us to fail. You think TODAY’s system was designed for failure?! Try being based in a shanty camp full of shacks and expected to fly old, played out airplanes held together by tape all the while your white superiors thinking you’re little more than an intelligent subspecies of monkey! Try having someone have the freedom to TELL YOU TO YOUR FACE that you are a lesser human (Cue the “I walked eight miles in the snow uphill!” soundtrack, if you please) Despite all that, these men displayed the most admirable traits universal of ALL great men: Discipline, bravery, cunning, loyalty, ingenuity, pride and pure, naked ambition. These airmen had something to prove, and boy, did they ever prove it.

Ladies, supporting a movie that displays the nuances of black people–not as some bucked-toothed, lazy, jiving, criminal-minded monolith–is a good thing, because it means less Tyler Perry movies!! That ALONE should be enough to drop the $8.

One a personal note, this movie has a special meaning for me. My father, who passed away in 2009, fought proudly in the Army in World War II, and was based very nearby where the airmen were. My dad would have swelled with pride to have seen this. Ladies, I’d like to introduce you to the late Theodore Russell, my hero, and the first man I ever loved. This is the only video we have of him–this was at my brother’s rehersal dinner a day before he married.

…and guess what? My dad got his wish: My nephew, Brealan Russell, was born this last October–the birthday month of my father.

Another aspect of this movie is the idea of meritocracy, and how overtime, peoples’ attitudes and stereotypes break down when their beliefs are challenged. Without giving the movie away, you see growth in the characters–both black and white–as they break down past beliefs and forge a brotherhood that is more than skin deep. This is a metaphor for life, people. Don’t miss that message.

And about the interracial relationship romance–ya’ll it was a beautiful and bittersweet thing.

In the end, it’s your money and your decision about whether you want to see it, but if you choose not to, it may very well be your loss.

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