Is the rise in interracial relationships reflected on the big screen?
"Rarely" goes the article about the new comedy film "Focus" which features an interracial romance between actors Will Smith and Margot Robbie (Pictured). And according to Nadia Ramoutar, a film professor at The Art Institute of Jacksonville in Florida, the potrayal of interracial relationships in films "... looked more hopeful in 1967 than it does at the moment".
The plot of "Focus" however doesn't really revolve around the interracial romance. But like with many interracial onscreen romances, its hard to ignore the romance because interracial coupling is quite scarce in mainstream films. And with the rise in U.S. interracial marriages, one would expect more such portrayals on the big screen.
Clearly, most Hollywood execs seem to think that Middle America isn't ready to accept interracial love. What they worry is: Will a film featuring an interracial couple play well in Peoria, Illinois- which is believed to represent mainstream America? Given the low number of big screen interracial couples, they definately to think "NOT". And when there is an interracial couple in a film their interracial romance ends up being the whole focus of the story; say "Guess who's coming to dinner", "Jungle Fever", "Save the last dance".
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"Focus" is however different. Will Smith plays an ace con man and blond bombshell Robbie, is a less-ace con woman. They meet and a steamy romance ensues. Nowhere in the film do they addresses the fact that one of them is white and the other is black. And I don't think their onscreen interracial kiss will ever be considered a cultural milestone like the infamous 1968 "Captain Kirk - Lt. Uhura" interracial kiss on “Star Trek” — the first time an interracial couple got frisky on national TV.
There still are some interracial stereotypes embedded within the characters in such films.
African-American actress Cassandra Freeman ("Inside Man") says: "Those making decisions want to make the easiest, least controversial choice to increase ticket sales globally. If the creators have no friends of color, or if the creator has never been attracted to someone outside of their own culture, then their projects will reflect that reality."
For her dissertation, Ramoutar looked at more than 600 films and her research did indeed show that "a positive portrayal of an interracial couple generally means that a woman or person of color is one of the producers."
Examples of the above are "Scandal" and "Grey's Anatomy", both of which are produced by Shonda Rhimes. But the reality on the ground is that most Hollywood producers movie producers are still white men, and so the prevalence of interracial couples remains low.
And as Ramoutar concludes: “Race relations in this country and race portrayal in films are both in a sad state of affairs.”
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