Universal Takes Black Couple Out Of UK Couples Retreat Poster
The lack of minority representation in mainstream Hollywood movies is definitely not news. When was the last time a movie was released with a minority character that wasn't sold as a "black movie" or a "Latino movie?" We're trained to believe that Tyler Perry movies (for example) don't speak to any universal truths and somehow only convey messages that black audiences can relate to. Yet, movies released with all white characters are rarely considered niche films. Additionally, it's been a habit of Hollywood to give roles that should go to minorities (i.e. Prince of Persia or the kids in 21) to Caucasian actors in an effort to make the films more bankable and "universal."
Now the LA Times and the UK's Mail Online are reporting that Universal dropped the black couple (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk) from the poster for Couples Retreat in the UK. You'll see in the two posters below that what was once a poster with four couples is now a poster with three couples, and the missing pair happens to be the one of color. While discussions are already being had about whether or not the studio was being racist in its decision and angry emails are already being sent, most are taking the logical stance that Universal just made a stupid call.
The question here shouldn't be whether or not the marketing strategists responsible for this move are racist. I'm sure they're not. There aren't people in suits sitting up in their offices in a tall building, wondering how they can get hold black people down using the poster for their less-than-funny romantic vacation comedy. In fact, there isn't a question here at all. What's troubling is the years upon years that people like me (Mexican, Black, Asian, whatever) have been led to believe that somehow our beliefs, our looks and our cultures bear no universal resemblance to the population as a whole. And if we want to act in big parts in movies or write movies about what we know, we can do so only if they are pigeonholed into a niche genre and marketed to people that only look like us or if they are so watered down, that any semblance of the original culture within is impossible to recognize.
A discussion needs to be had about how a decision like this eventually gets made. The black couple was removed most likely because they are the least prominent in the movie. The black couple is least prominent because of years and years of socialization that leads us to believe that characters of color are less relatable. It's also worth noting that the decision was likely made by white executives because there are few (if any) black movie executives, so sensitivity to race and awareness of any backlash that would come in response to the removal of the couple is skimmed over. No one expects Couples Retreat to be a turning point for race relations in mainstream Hollywood, but this incident does further highlight the vast detachment that studios have from minorities. I'm sure, like Stephen Colbert, these executives saw no color in making their decision. And as much as it pains me to say (because I'm not really offended by their decision at all), that was exactly the problem.
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