ENTERTAINING RACE 2: RED TAILS

A new movie has been sparking some conversations the past few weeks: Red Tails, the historical film about the Tuskegee Airmen, a regiment of the US Armed Forces who flew in World War II
Aside from the history, it’s notable today simply because it’s an action movie with all black cast. Films like these don’t get made very often. As excited as we are to see it, the film industry is an industry, and with profit margins at stake, Red Tails has a lot working against it.

Let’s look at some objective facts. One, it’s a period piece in a time when fantasy, fairytale, and superhero stories are the real money makers. It might be hard to get teenage boys, or anyone really, hype for a history lesson. Two, if the domestic market is already niche, prospects look grim for international interest.

But despite these factors, the reality on the ground is that if the film does poorly the reason that’s going to get cited most is, bluntly, that it’s full of black people. Sad but true. But true.  

Can you have a high budget movie about black people struggling, that’s not a stereotypical film about the black man’s struggle? And will people, of any background, pay money to see it? 

In this sense, Red Tails has become a great experiment.



George Lucas has been trying to get this movie made since 1988. There’s a reason he had to invest 58 million of his own dollars to finally do it.

Behind the scenes, people are watching to see if this concept can work. And if it does, there may be more willingness to try again with another film with a different premise with a predominately black cast, or Hispanic cast, or any other minority group. If it doesn’t then it’s going to be a while before the idea is even on the table.

For the individual consumer, we can’t say that seeing a war movie with a black cast, helmed by a relatively unknown director, and funded by the man who made Star Wars is going to guarantee you a good time this weekend, but we’re going to go see Red Tails in theaters to find out. And we implore you to do the same. Don’t bootleg it off the internet. Don’t wait for if it to show up on Netflix. Buy a ticket

Consider it an investment for the future of what storytelling looks like in America. Make the case that a predominately minority cast is not an inherent liability for commercial success.


This Friday, January 20th, 2012 is a day of proof.

If you read our previous post, Red Tails is not the kind of race neutral story we were talking about, but, if successful, it may encourage race neutrality, and minority race specificity, as viable storytelling options.

Besides, it’s about time people knew who these guys were. Respect to the American Heroes. Happy MLK Day.

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