I saw a commercial for Obsessed last week. It’ll be out at the end of the month. It’s a Fatal Attraction story with black people–but not really: the happily married couple is black, while the psycho woman is white. Beyonce Knowles plays the wife, Idris Elba (who has a delightful British accent in the featurette bel0w) plays the husband, and Ali Larter from Heroes plays the psychotic woman who stalks the husband.
So where do I begin…
When I first saw the trailer, I didn’t recognize Beyonce. She usually plays a glamorous woman in all of her screen appearances, real or fictional, and in this movie, she plays a rather modestly dressed and made up mother and wife. Ali Larter, by contrast, spends most of the trailer dressed to kill, so she’s a bit more noticeable. Plus, she’s fresh out of Heroes. When she crossed the screen, I was thinking, “Hey, that’s the white psycho woman with the black male husband from Heroes (now playing a white psycho woman with the black male obsession on the big screen.).”
I was stunned when I saw the trailer for this movie. Crazy Glenn Close opposite Michael Douglas was a shocker when Fatal Attraction came out, but it’s all the more shocking with a psycho white woman opposite a black man. Not that it should be all that shocking–it’s not unusual to see interracial relationships these days–but onscreen it is. Despite the fact that African Americans like Will Smith and Denzel Washington are leading men in Hollywood movies, black men almost always lead with black women (Edit: see my revision in the comment section) . To see an interracial relationship played along the lines of the Fatal Attraction model is, to say the least, a bit jarring.
Right after the trailer ended, I went online to check out the website, where I learned that Beyonce and her father were the executive producers. On the racial issue alone, I was a bit surprised to learn this. After all, why would a black woman produce a movie where the two leading characters were a black man and a white woman? Isn’t this an issue that gets black women down? Of course the trailer shows the black female Beyonce beating the #$% out of the white female Ali Larter, but still…why wouldn’t Beyonce opt to make a movie where the leading characters were a black man and a black woman? Given the fact that black women still have significantly less work in Hollywood than white women, why wouldn’t Beyonce choose to have a black leading lady to promote diverse roles among black women?
I don’t have the answer to this, and to a certain extent, maybe it doesn’t matter–stories are stories, and there shouldn’t be an political pressure against minority producers to make minority stories. One sad thing did occur to me however. If Beyonce had made the leading woman black, it would probably draw a lot less attention. Movie theaters probably wouldn’t sell nearly as many tickets mostly because non-black people would think that it’s a “black thing.” You put a white woman in there, and all of a sudden it’s a universal story.
Which brings us to the social justice aspect of this post. How do we get more minority stories out there when there may not be a financial incentive for producers to diversify?