Watchdog Blog

Mary C. Curtis: I’m Just Not into That

Posted at 6:27 pm, February 20th, 2009
Mary Curtis Mug

While commentators debate whether a New York Post cartoon that links cops, a dead monkey and perhaps a president is stupid, racist or both (that last one gets my vote)…

While citizens weigh in on Attorney General Eric Holder’s labeling of America as a nation of “cowards” when it comes to dealing with the issue of racial justice…

While all this happens against the backdrop of Black History Month, it might seem silly to get worked up over … a movie.

But something’s been bothering me.

“ ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ is putatively set in Baltimore, but it really takes place in the mythical Land of Great Living Spaces, where everyone is young, attractive, affluent and white (the only people of color in this strangely mono-hued movie appear in one of the funnier interstitial scenes, one brief and anonymous booty call and a breathtakingly patronizing opening sequence set in Africa).”

That quote from the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday was all I needed to read – and the trailers were all I needed to see – to know this is a movie I could skip, even if all I was searching for was mindless entertainment.

OK, a lot of people disagreed. The film raked in $27.5 million in its opening weekend, and is doing well at the box office.

But in tough economic times, I am much more careful about how I spend a dollar. Most important is quality, and reviews made clear that “He’s Just Not That Into You” is no Oscar bait.

Then, there is a stand my curmudgeonly older self has increasingly begun to take. I refuse to patronize a vision – even a fictional one – that ignores the existence of minorities. (Except, in this particular case, Drew Barrymore’s gay friends, hardly part of the movie’s main ensemble.)

If it were “Citizen Kane,” I’d make an exception. Since this isn’t, why try to relax at a film that’s going to irritate me?

My money, my rules.

I grew up in Baltimore, which has long been a majority minority city. The city’s mayor is a black woman (granted she’s under indictment, but still). All of the black people do not live in the neighborhood depicted in “The Wire.” Actually, I was raised in that neighborhood and people in West Baltimore have relationships, too.

The filmmakers apparently relished setting “He’s Just Not That Into You” in urban Baltimore, but didn’t realize it took more than crab cakes and Natty Boh to capture the authenticity.
You know how hard it is to find a New York as white as Woody Allen’s? Well, that seems infinitely more reasonable than a pale Baltimore. Trust me. It’s ridiculous when you think about it. If you want to make a movie with Jennifer Connelly as the dark one, set it – someplace else.

Hollywood has often had a problem placing minorities in an everyday world of normal people.

You would think that entertainment executives might have learned something since “Friends,” which by its last season managed to sprinkle a few black folks into the girlfriend-of-Ross-and-Joey mix.

You would think that when the most prominent couple in the world is an African American couple, Hollywood would be rushing to cash in on a trend.

So why do we still get romantic comedies in one shade? If I’m going to waste some time at a forgettable piece of cinematic fluff, I’d like to at least know some black actors are getting paid.

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