January 13, 2006, - 6:51 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Lately, race seems to be Hollywood’s silver screen obsession of choice.
This weekend, there are two such race-based movies making their debut. Both are feel-good, uplifting movies. But they “uplift” at the expense of healing the racial divide.
Both movies, “Glory Road” and “Last Holiday“, are entertaining. But they employ racism against Whites that would never be accepted in the reverse. And both films raise questions regarding when Hollywood will stop focusing on race at the box office–and what possible good the tactic achieves.
One of these films, “Glory Road,” is billed as a fact-based movie. But, in fact, it takes huge liberties with the truth. The other, “Last Holiday,” an entertaining fantasy, unnecessarily uses bumbling and evil White characters. It’s time for both types for both tactics to end . . . if Hollywood wants to stop the red ink gushing from its silver screen bottom line.
“Last Holiday”, starring Queen Latifah and co-starring LL Cool J, is the story of a lower middle-class, unappreciated department store clerk, Georgia Byrd (Latifah), living a sad and lonely life of unrealized dreams. She finds out she has three weeks to live when it is discovered that she has malignant tumors in her brain. Georgia decides to cash in all her stocks and bonds to live out her Walter Mitty fantasies in her last days at a swanky Czechoslovakian resort, right out of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
“Last Holiday” is charming, fun, entertaining, and features beautiful cinematography. For those of us who’ve never lived it up at a lavish resort, this movie is almost like experiencing it vicariously through Georgia. And it’s very funny.
But it is also heavy on subtle reverse-racism. Almost all White characters in “Last Holiday” are evil, dopey, or both. And vice versa, with the exception of a light-skinned, Uncle Tom Senator who might as well be White. Then, there’s the big-business-is-evil premise intertwined subtly woven into the race issue, too. The flashy, evil, lecherous, White magnate (played by Timothy Hutton)–who owns the department store at which Georgia worked–is the villain.
Georgia and Sean (LL Cool J), the man of her dreams, are pure and, again, the White characters aren’t. We get the message.
On the other hand, the movie has a couple of very positive themes throughout: Georgia’s deep belief in G-d despite knowing she will soon die without living a full life; and the message that one should try to live every day to the fullest possible. It’s too bad the subtle race, class, and anti-business messages were mixed in.
Then, there’s “Glory Road”, which depicts the real-life story of how Coach Don Haskin led Texas Western’s amazing 1966 NCAA basketball championship win over the Kentucky Wildcats, the first championship team to feature an all-Black starting line-up. The movie depicts the team’s entire Cinderella season and how Haskins built it from nothing into a powerhouse by daring to cross racial lines in recruiting.
I saw “Glory Road” at a special screening for the friends, family, and neighbors of the late Bobby Joe Hill, one of those players (he hailed from the Detroit area’s Highland Park). I was one of four White people in the entire theater. That is important only because I saw and heard the largely Black audience cheer anti-White parts of the movie, and wondered how films like this can possibly help America. The audience jeered stark examples of racism against the Black players in the movie, but laughed when the Black players repeatedly called Whites “honkies” and “crackers”.
Yes, it is a tremendous achievement that the championship Texas Western team depicted in the movie won against all odds, including racism. But is repeatedly focusing on race a good thing? Judging from the hooting and jeering at the movie, I’m not quite sure.
Then, there is the major lie in the movie–a movie whose promoters and sports media galore have been claiming is truthful: The reason Haskins started the all-Black line-up in the championship game. And actually, the version shown in the movie is an insult to these Black players, but a boon for affirmative action and reverse racism supporters.
In “Glory Road,” Haskins calls a meeting of the players the night before the championship game. He tells them that he will only be starting and playing his Black players because he wants to make a statement to America about civil rights. It’s an important scene in the movie.
But it never happened.
USA Today reports that Haskins said “it never occurred to him to put anybody but his best players on the court. It just happened that his five starters were black, which prior to that moment was unheard of in a national championship game.”
In his book, “Glory Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed America Forever,” (on which this movie is supposed to be based)Haskins wrote: “All I ever sought to do was win the game. I certainly did not expect to be some racial pioneer or change the world.”
Clearly, Haskins did not pick these players for the Big Game because of their race–but because they were the BEST players on his team.
And that’s the problem with this glut of race-based movies. They send the wrong message–a false message. And they usually seem to only serve to divide.
Whether at the movies or otherwise, the more we focus on race in America, the less likely we will ever get away from problems associated with it.
And that can’t be good for America.
Tags: America, Bobby Joe Hill, Debbie Schlussel Lately, Don Haskin, Georgia, Georgia Byrd (Latifah), Glory Road, Highland Park, I, Last Holiday, NCAA, Queen, Schlussel Lately, Senator, sports media, the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship, Timothy Hutton, tumors, Uplift at Expense of Healing By Debbie, USA Today