Monday, August 25, 2008

What we learn from Malibu's Most Wanted

What We Learn From “Malibu’s Most Wanted”.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of things we know, only from movies.

There are lots of places I have never been to, events I did not witness, and characters I never met. Still, I had my picture taken with the Rocky statue, if I ever go to “Nam” everything I see will have to pass through an Apocalypse Now filter, and thanks to the Power of One, I consider myself an expert on South Africa.

This being said, there are few things that irk me the way a nice interracial relationship drama or love story. Why? Do I have thin skin? Are the cultural contrasts off limits in my mind? No, it’s the unavoidable, predictable, and wrong, instructional section of all these movies.
For example:

Chris Rock’s dancing old rich people in Down to Earth with the resulting old lady’s “this party is off the hizzle!”

Again, Chris Rock in Head of State, when he finally goes off script, takes off his jacket, and starts preaching. Of course all the white folk start breaking into hilariously uncharacteristic “Amens!”

Bullworth, when Warren Beatty sees the light, and starts rapping everything.

And worst of all, Save the Last Dance…pretty much the whole movie.
This one is the worst because it isn’t trying to be funny.
There is an “iconic” scene where the black guy is teaching the white girl how to dance like a black person. They start by sitting in chairs and the guy says something along the lines of, “if you want to hang with us you can’t sit like that. You have to slouch and loosen up.”
This begins Julia Stile’s education on how to get black people to accept you. This is done by wearing puffy coats and beanies, slouching and strutting, and of course a more affective bump n’ grind on the dance floor. This works brilliantly in this, and all the others, as the races all start to get along when we finally learn to act like the stereotypes of the other.

Moral of the story, all black people say “wassup dawg” and white people are stiff and nerdy.

Enter Malibu’s Most Wanted.” A rich white boy with identity issues, refuses to act white.

I LOVED this show. Why? Moral of the story is act like yourself… even if that means rapping about when people are like all up on your private beach, yo.

Even better… one of the best ever on the issue, is Finding Forrester. Old white guy author, young black kid who plays ball, and they navigate learning about each other beautifully.

One of the worst days of my life was walking into a record store in L.A. and the Idaho farm boy I was with approached the store clerk with, “wassup sista? Where the [????] at?” He was serious.

I wanted to die, and I blame Save the Last Dance.


Amber said...

But I AM stiff and nerdy...

tristanjh said...

The only movie I've seen that is mentioned in this post is 'Save The Last Dance.' While I feel that you have some valid points I'd like to offer another perspective. The scene where the white girl is being taught to dance had, in my mind, more to do with the style of dance being taught than with race. The character Sarah was a classically trained ballerina. She was trying to learn hip-hop. I've been there. It isn't easy. You have to forget everything you've ever learned and start over. This would have been true for a black or white person.

As for the clothing issue, does this movie really misrepresent the high school experience? We all want to fit in. Whether you are a white girl in a black school or a nerd trying to fit in with the popular crowd, one just wants to be accepted. When I started middle school I had no idea what a pair of Girbauds were. I spent the summer between 7th and 8th grade saving an obscene amount of money to buy myself a pair before school started. My 8-year-old feels the same pressures. Maybe not about clothing at this point, but he is very aware of what his friends have and how they act vs. what he has and how he acts. And he wants to be just like his friends. Sarah was just trying to fit in...period. If she had moved to Minnesota she probably would have felt pressured to play ice hockey.

Likewise, it is the same with language. I know an individual who is white that has probably seen every movie mentioned. 'Wassup dawg' would not be an unfamiliar phrase for him. Many of his friends and co-workers talk this way. He is just trying to fit in. I'm not sure it is any different than adopting phrases or words that we hear our friends say frequently. Over time, a group of people will tend to speak in a similar manner.

As per usual, I admit my limited experience and recognize that where race is concerned, I am rather uneducated. But I wanted to offer my thoughts anyway.

Amber said...

Well I do have to agree with Tristan about learning a new dance style. I've tried to teach classically trained solo dancers lindy hop - and they're usually awful at it. Luckily, as long they can figure out partnering, stiff and nerdy or down and dirty are both ok.

Siditty said...

OK Save the Last Dance made me cringe. I have a thing about angry ex girlfriend and the "she's taking all the white men" stereotypical talk that comes into play. I REALLY HATE THAT. Any time there is a movie about a black man and white woman, they always have this issue, and we pretend that black men and white women would be ok if it is the other way around. In many cases they are, but that isn't always the case, and there are some black women in the world who don't care who a black man who has no relevance to them is dating. So we all will not be swiveling our heads and snapping our fingers about how the white women are "taking our men".

In Malibu's Most Wanted made me cringe because I went to high school with guys like that. Pretend gang bangers. I went to school where I as one of four black people in the WHOLE entire school of 900 students. We were not in the inner city, there was "urban experience" to relate to in our suburb. Those men are why I can never be single, as those types of guys throw themselves at you, and pretend you can relate to their "ghetto" experience. "Wassup sista?" is their pick up line. I run in fear every time that happens.

Soila. said...

LOL. Funny post but EVERYTHING you said was on point. ITA with all the points.

Fav part of the post:
"One of the worst days of my life was walking into a record store in L.A. and the Idaho farm boy I was with approached the store clerk with, “wassup sista? Where the [????] at?” He was serious.

I wanted to die, and I blame Save the Last Dance."

LOLOLOLOL. Too funny.

brohammas said...

Amber, once again the lesson we learned was; if you are stiff and nerdy, just be stiff and nerdy.

Yes high school is a tough time and everyone wants to fit in, BUT I'm telling you those movies are a lie.

Your friend may be comfortable, and likely, to say "wassup sista", but let him be warned that if he says this to an actual black person he may be more likely to get popped in the eye than a pat on the back.

A better question is why is this guy talking the way he does? Is it how he was raised?

Look I never talked just like my parents (I'm not sure I have ever heard my Dad even say the word "fart"), but seriously, if you live in Maine but talk like you are from the Bronx, something is off.

I'm just waiting for the day I have to peel my wife off some unsuspecting kid in church after the kid says "yo, wassup my ni##@."

As I do so and the kid goes whimpering off into the corner I fully expect to hear somthing along the lines of, "this isn't how it went in the movie at all."

tristanjh said...

I think he does it because he is insecure...he sees his newfound vocabulary as a way to feel cool. Like he is a little more badass (can I use that word on your blog?) than he really is. Personally, I think he sounds ridiculous and tease him relentlessly about it.

And just to play the devil's advocate here, how many movies are really that realistic? There are a few to be sure, but I would say those are the exception not the rule. Who wants to pay $10 to see a movie that represents their boring everyday life?

Amber said...

Yes most movies are ridiculous, and Dalyn, you're totally right. I'm sure we all agree I remain stiff and nerdy, regardless of the situation.

But folks are influenced by movies, and quote lines from them all the time. If sheltered white folk never meet many black folks in person, where do you think they get ideas about them from? Media, of course.

Oh, and I have heard Dad say "fart." I tricked him into saying it once. But I don't think any of us kids pronounce Monday like Mom. (Mondee..)

Ehav Ever said...

Just as a side note, you do know they made a part 2 to Save The Last Dance? I happened to pass it in a Blockbuster a year ago.

Like Siddity the issue I have with movies like this is that they portray the idea that people with a certain skin tone think, act, and live the same way. Often in Western film there is only image that is given. So for example, in many cases the supposed "inter-racial" relationship get the Black vs. White treatment even if that does not happen all the time.

Essentially, peoples vocabulary get stuck in the idea that race is a monolithic thing. For example, I can't relate to anything "hood" because I did not grow up in the "hood."

Maybe the issue is that since there are very few counter movies to these, people often operate within stereotypes never learning that people are often more complex than, all black people say “wassup dawg” and white people are stiff and nerdy. Besides what does black and white really mean to begin with. There are a lot people who don't fit so nicely into those two terms.

Anonymous said...

and what of "Something New" ?

i try to walk away with the romance and not the misrepresentations.

still they can be glaring.

like "Crash"

Anonymous said...

and what of "Something New" ?

i try to walk away with the romance and not the misrepresentations.

still they can be glaring.

like "Crash"

Anonymous said...

oh and i want that particular piece of artwork.

brohammas said...

That step show painting is hanging on a wall, half hidden behind a closet... its a shame I know.

If anyone is serious about wanting artwork...everythingher is original. just email me, we can talk.