USA Today found itself the subject of the news this weekend thanks to an unfortunate headline on a story about the weekend movie box office. “’Holiday’ Nearly Beat ‘Thor’ as Race-Themed Films Soar,” read the tagline on a story about The Best Man Holiday, the follow-up to the 1999 movie The Best Man. In a marketplace where African-American audiences are dramatically underserved, it’s amazing that analysts are still surprised when romantic comedies and family dramas with African-American casts perform well.
But even more telling was the idea, implicit in the headline if not in the piece itself, that a movie with a non-white cast must necessarily have race as its primary subject. By extension, the suggestion is that the lives of people of color are inflected first, and perhaps only, by race, rather than by gender, sexual orientation, class, love, ambition, jealousy, rage, or even pure, manic-pixie spontaneity. And the idea that culture about characters of color is necessarily about race also creates the assumption that stories about white characters are inherently deracinated. Some white people, like Jews, are exempt from this, and the recent spike in Boston movies has put more Irish-American characters and Irish-American humor to the fore. But for the most part, the experiences of white characters are treated like they’re neutral, rather than representative of their whole race, or revealing in some ways of the pathologies and problems of various subsets of white America.
what she said.