LOS ANGELES, November 19, 2013 – Single Black Female, alone in her single black femaleness and desperate for a date (any date), which may even require her to date outside her race.
She needs a man fast and absolutely cannot show up alone for a wedding, Thanksgiving dinner, or awkward office Christmas party where the creepy guy from circulation assures himself that this year is his year to finally cop a feel while she’s slightly intoxicated.
Pushed beyond the brink of exhaustion, she and her single friends (and perhaps her token married friend) devise a plan not to enhance her career, not to set better financial and spiritual goals for herself, not to travel more, and not even to feed her dog on time.
But to catch a man.
“Baggage Claim” is that same old storyline, just decorated with different faces in varying shades of brown.
While “Baggage Claim” may have provided a few chuckles and an occasional punch line, its short, descriptive synopsis warrants the proverbial eye roll:
“Pledging to keep herself from being the oldest and the only woman in her entire family never to wed, Montana embarks on a thirty-day, thirty-thousand-mile expedition to charm a potential suitor into becoming her fiancé.” —IMDB
Poor, poor Montana.
Decorated with a generous two stars out of five, and rating of 3.8 out of 10 on imdb.com, it’s safe to say that “Baggage Claim” never quite made lift-off. (We’ll spare you the airplane analogies and puns for now.) But is this outcome really a mystery?
Granted, the film featured an all-black cast, a black leading lady, and was written and directed by a black man. I’m sure there was another black man working in the camera crew as well. Add to this that time-honored marketing strategy, the old “You’re black so support this because it’s black” guilt trip, and you can’t lose right?
If the title of this article has not already given you some idea as to how much this movie was not on my must-see list, I shall further explain.
Among the many tales in my (Mis)Adventures are tales of men: the good, bad and the ugly. In fact, relationships have been the contributing factor toward my growth during my quarter-life crisis.
For me and for women like me, there could be an endless supply of romantic comedies and Lifetime made-for-TV movies, all dedicated to making these same kinds of misadventures and misunderstandings entertaining and comical.
But frankly, there are just so many other great stories out there.
For example, where is the black girl struggling to put herself through college? Spare me the Prince Charming à la Denzel Washington. (There will never be another.)
What about her struggles? Her balancing act between work and family? Her sacrifices and her mistakes?
And when she does make a mistake (aside from her choices in men), how does she confront the mistake and correct it, making life better not only for herself, but for those around her, and her community as well?
If I were to play the lead role in my own movie “The Story of Aziza Jackson,” finding a man wouldn’t even get 15 minutes of airtime. Living life without the fear of having a man or not is freedom. My lead would be as free as a bird, and believe me, she would have bigger fish to fry in her life.
It’s sad to say that the last fearless and strong-willed female lead I have seen carry a movie from the beginning to the very end was Quvenzhane Wallis who effortlessly played Hushpuppy in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
She was six.
Hushpuppy, a child, taught us all so much about strength, courage, and love. Every time you see Quvenzhane Wallis’ darling face, you automatically think of Hushpuppy burping on command and “Beasting It.” Personally, I have yet to be moved by another performance like that one, even from veteran actors, as well as the Paula Pattons of Hollywood.
Although it would be unfair to place “Baggage Claim” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” side-by-side, that juxtaposition brings forth today’s sad reality that black women are one-dimensional in Hollywood’s bloodshot eyes.
One-dimensional characters like Montana sprout from producers’ directors’ and writers’ ill-conceived notions concerning who and what black women really are. If one were to dig even deeper, they would find that those stale, trite and false perceptions stand as a true testament behind the lack of black female directors, screenwriters, and producers in the entertainment industry. Yet unfortunately, such thinking has become the norm in both filmmaking and television.
“Beasts” was a breath of fresh air and actually gave this jaded film critic hope for future films featuring people who look like me. But even along with the hope that surfaced after that film, reality leads to the expectation that more “Baggage Claims” will continue to rear their empty heads, outmatching truly remarkable films that have more to offer than a simplistic 96-minute game plan for how to land Mr. Right.
Can it really be true that serious films featuring fearless black female leads whose storyline does not read like a chapter from a Steve Harvey book—can it really be true that such films have completely vanished?
Maybe so. But who knows? Maybe it’s up to me to write that screenplay.
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