Obsessed: Fatal Attraction Among Black People

Obsessed

Idris Elba and Beyonce in Obsessed

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.

See the featurette here:
Obsessed exclusive featurette

Found on http://heyshae.com/blog/?p=4662

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?

18 thoughts on “Obsessed: Fatal Attraction Among Black People

  1. I for one wouldn’t want to see Beyonce in the lead in this role because I just think she needs more practice. JMO but I don’t think she has “it” to pull off the crazy lady in this role. I think she was cast correctly. I do think the film will do well though, because it’s a story that is told often that people can relate to.

    PS- Thanks for the link back.

  2. Hey Shae,

    Thanks for commenting! Thanks also for posting that video!

    I agree with you 100% on the Beyonce thing. Beautiful woman, yes, but her acting could use some practice. The crazy woman probably requires a bit more skill to play than the wife (I don’t even remember who played Michael Douglas’s wife in Fatal Attraction; all I remember was that Glenn Close was SCARY!). What about Halle Berry playing the crazy woman and Beyonce remaining as wife? Hmm…although it may be a bit harder to believe (though it probably shouldn’t be) given the fact that Halle is 15 years older than Beyonce…

    I will definitely be seeing this film when it’s released. 🙂

    B.

  3. I disagree that black men almost always lead with black women. See the last two big Will Smith movies, I am Legend and Hancock.

    In fact look at commercials and advertisements and brochures, Often black men and white women maybe not in a romantic couple sense but more often than white men and black women.

    Black women are with Asian men, Indians, as being under represented.

    For this movie though I am not sure what the problem is, they put a white woman to make it more conflict also it is a negative role (of being crazy obsessed person, and not a good crazy like say Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the lambs)

    At the end of the day though I doubt the movie will be good (which is the case with 85% of hollywood movies)

  4. I agree with Lingyai.

    Will Smith, in a past interview, has complained about the lack of BM/BF pairings in mainstream movies.

    ————————
    “There’s sort of an accepted myth that if you have two black actors, a male and a female, in the lead of a romantic comedy then people around the world don’t want to see it. We spend $50-something million making this movie and the studio would think that was tough on their investment. So the idea of a black actor and a white actress comes up – that’ll work around the world, but it’s a problem in the US.”

    On the other hand, a Black leading male paired with a White leading female would have outraged the American public. And so, they went with a member of the largest minority group in America – a beautiful Latina actress whose looks are exotic enough to draw attention from men across all demographics, light enough to ensure her origin would not be confused with that of an African-American, and yet, dark enough that her relationship with an African-American male would not threaten those whose feathers would otherwise be ruffled by such a pairing.
    ————————

    Btw, I got all of this at http://racerelations.about.com/od/raceinthemovies/a/hitch.htm, but I’m sure there are other sites that discuss this.

    There’s a similar mentality with pairing an AA female with a non-Asian male as well, since it’s believed that the AF will appeal to the general male demographic.

  5. Somebody should do an Asian American version of this film. Asian man married to an Asian woman finds that a hot–but somewhat unhinged– White woman at his workplace is hitting on him, and this leads him down the path of, um….

    Or then again, maybe we should stick to musicals.

  6. Lingyai and Davin’s Mom:

    I think you are both right, so I stand corrected. I’ll edit and put a link to this comment in my post. I totally forgot that Eriq LaSalle went through the same thing on ER. He threatened to quit because all his BF relations were always disfunctional, while the one WF love interest was good. I loved how he verbalized it; he said something like, “This isn’t a message I want to be a part of.” The producers eventually saw things his way and got rid of the WF love interest.

    Lingyai, I was off because the last Will Smith movie I saw was the Pursuit of Happyness. I gotta get out more. Thanks also, DM, for the link. I didn’t know that Will Smith had spoken about this.

    Larry,

    How about a Fatal Attraction musical?

  7. lol, this looks like a really intellgent and perceptive movie, especially comming from someone like beyonce who formerly played a token blaxploitation esque character in pinkpanther and austin powers.

    while a black female isnt the lead female actor, the movie has a lot of underlying themes present which are positive in fighting racial stereotypes and subverting established culture! For example

    Normal , loving Afro American family, where the wife is a well adjusted beautiful homemaker who cares for her children, and the husband is a hard working professional in a management position at work, while also being a loving family man. Just That wholesome portrayal of the Afro American family in itself is saying alot(considering all the negative stereotypes in US media about black people/black men/women)

    Then, the psycho threat in the film is a white lady! who threatens a happy couple, a cute child, and beautiful black home! She is demented, and dangerous, she is the “other” who acts as an enemy for the films hero to fights against. (Already, the film is associating the bad with the white lady, and the good with the black couple.)

    Finally at the end of the movie, the black female becomesa a strong hero, opens a can of whoopass and defends and protects her family from the evil white woman. Black heroism defeats white evilness, the end.

    So i think when you break it down, the underlying themes make it a positive film for black women, black families, and to a lesser extent, black men.Even though beyonce isnt the main actress, when it comes down to it, most people would go watch the film just to see her anyway, so actually i think she has a more important role than the films lets on.And shes a hero. And shes black. Defending her loving family, husband and kid from a white person who is the threat.

    anyone agree?

  8. I’m surprised no one has said anything about the exotification of the BM in today’s media.

    I think that since the heroes lady kind of leave the image of a slightly psychotic person around that she’ll just come across as psycho. But there may be a small chance of the BF putting on the angry BF image – which if it were good, or bad, I don’t know.

    Maybe we should see if we can get some BF’s onboard?
    was stuffwhitepeoplelike a group of BFs? i forgot who they were…

    Hmm. I think it’s different though – a bit of a conundrum because I think that Beyonce has her own public image and quite detached from your standard BF.

  9. i’m surprised, and maybe a bit envious, that Hollywood allowed a black couple to be the leads and portraying a minority couple as just regular people. But like you pointed out, it also helps that Beyonce has the money and ecomonic clout to produce this movie and control how audiences view black people. and I dunno how disenfranchised minority groups can affect how they’re viewed by Hollywood without that kind of star power and economic clout.

    you’ll notice that the gay and lesbian community has fought to make images of them “normalized” and more accepted; it’s been happening with roles for black actors as well. i suspect that maybe it’s a struggle that all minority groups will have to endure in their fight to be non-stereotyped or caricatured by Hollywood? maybe the only thing we can control is the visions and works of art we do OURSELVES. I think of David Ren’s indie movie with Ken Leung “Shanghai Kiss” as a good start. That’s a movie that actually shows someone’s HUMANITY.

  10. Black people – Good,……White people – Bad……A normal married Black guy would never carry on an affair with a beautiful, sexy, White woman.

    Thanks for tuning us into reality.

  11. “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?”

    Because Beyonce is the “star”. You can’t show another black woman as a “threat” to her character.

    She (and her father) are basically saying that only other woman who can be a threat to Beyonce, in terms of coming between her and husband, is a white woman.

  12. “Movie theaters probably wouldn’t sell nearly as many tickets mostly because non-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.”

    I’m not sure who “non-people” is a cute dehumanizing term for but that doesn’t matter. I’ll try to give some insight that could aid you in seeing more all-Asian or all-black films on a bigger scale, and reaching a bigger audience. It is up to you to decide whether to overtly fight the system from the get-go, or cleverly take over the game from the inside by first learning and following the rules, and later exploiting and overthrowing convention once you are in a position of power. Basically the age-old choice of pirates or ninjas.

    (PS, I’m just messing with ya about ‘non-people.’ I assume that’s a typo.)

    First, for profit’s sake producers want to sell films to all territories in the world (who’s censors will approve the film). So when it’s possible to get a diverse cast, they feel there’s a greater chance that a territory will find something familiar to latch onto, and a distributor will pick it up. For as much prejudice as you may find in the US, there’s some territories with far more extreme discrimination and far narrower cultural interests. I’m not saying it’s right – it ain’t – but that’s what you’re dealing with.

    Secondly, action and sci-fi do the best world-wide. Comedies (excluding pure slapstick) have too many cultural and pop-culture in-jokes. Drama’s require too much “reading” subtitles for the lame audience members and too much expensive dubbing for willing import distributors. But blockbuster action is simple and visual and can mostly be understood without words. That’s why over here we only get Wuxia films in theaters instead of great Asian dramas. We do get some Stephen Chow because there’s more slapstick than in-jokes. Asia also gets American action and sci fi blockbusters in their theaters, but rarely ever dramas and comedies.

    I am hoping that even though Slumdog Millionaire was a British writer and director it will encourage distributors to try more films based on merit and story and not skin tone or stardom of the leads.

    Which leads to the third hurdle. Stardom. The first thing investors want to hear is who’s in it? Well, this is what it really comes down to as far as your struggle here. Because there’s something keeping Asian-American actors from getting a fraction of the limelight as white and even black actors. (Martial Arts guys are the ONLY filmmakers that have an equal amount of stardom for Asians (Bruce, Dacascas, Ernie Reyes, Jackie, Phillip Rhee, etc) and whites (Norris, Seagal, Van Dame, Eric Roberts, etc) in America. As an MA film guy, one of my interests is seeing how we can add more black MA stars to the roster of Snipes, Jim Kelly, Blank, Michael J. White, etc).
    Anyway, sidetracked – how can we get more juicy unique leading roles for Asian Americans? We have to think about this. I fear there’s no easy answer, but it is inevitable. It will take a visionary filmmaker with a charismatic Asian lead to break the ice, or someone with interests in an Asian lead to infiltrate the decision making power, or society becoming more integrated and pluralistic. Those are some possible eventualities.

    Making films is really expensive and time-consuming, and studios hide behind tried and proven formulas to minimize risk – especially when it comes to casting. Personally I don’t have that “whatever it takes to get by” mentality. I have a personal code of ethics and would be quick to off myself instead of getting over on other peoples misery. But I do have to be clever in finding ways that satisfy the suits desires with my own code and message. So think about that. What story can you tell that satisfies the formula but also upholds your message? Plenty exist for the creative, I’d imagine. But if you don’t write it and put forth the money and effort to market it, who will?

    Lastly, it’s Hollywood. Do you understand how shielded people in Hollywood are from the real world? I had to babysit reality stars from vh1 and mtv recently who didn’t know you needed an ID to buy alcohol. They are handled, cut off from everyday experiences. They write a lot of ludicrous stuff, and don’t usually care about cultural representation and thoughtful messages as much as rehashing past formulas that made them rich.

    On the other hand, Hollywood liberals are very progressive in their personal lives – many I’ve been around have abandoned any idea of culture and any deference to skin tones and sexualities. They may be more progressive than some viewpoints like Jaehwan’s with all respect. It’s easy for me to forget that anyone actually cares about mixed couples until I have to drive through certain locales, or read blogs like this. I’m one of those futurists that thinks maybe we’ll end up looking like Miami, with those fine fine ladies that are part black, asian, white, latino, and indigenous and finer with each ingredient. If people are all like that in the future, it’s kinda hard for racism to exist.

    Point is, some people making these movies don’t give a second though to “mixed” couples; it’s just normal to them. Just two individuals that love each other based on individual interests and merits. And Hollywood isn’t really bothered by gay couples either, hence the blockbuster Brokeback Mountain and the acclaimed Milk.

    Now, if there were more mixed couples in the US, it would actually be way easier to get all-Asian and all-Black films off the ground, because investors and producers would feel there’s plenty of relationships where there’s at least one person that fits their demographic, but two ticket sales. So one thing you could do to help see these in-culture movies reach fruition is promoting tolerance of mixed couples, and encouraging people from other cultures who’d want to watch those films with open minds, thus supporting the filmmakers, and encouraging the investors. Personally I know there’s people out there who do appreciate cinema from other cultures, but Hollywood doesn’t quite get it, nor do distributors.

    Now if you’re aiming at only a specific audience, and not encouraging a more diverse audience, then simple economics will mean you can either spend less on the film’s production and it’s marketing in order to create the product and not starve to death in the process, or someone with funds will actually have to willingly lose money to make a bigger more epic film. Can you make a culture-specific film that appeals beyond that culture? I think so, because there’s a universal human condition we all share. Things like hope, love, fear, revenge, etc. Broad stroke stuff that a larger audience can understand, and insider details for the chief demographic.

    ————————————————-

    So, the plan. Make your own.

    I’ll tell you though, the biggest first thing is to get a charismatic Asian-American lead actor in an FX-heavy PG13 non-MA-specific action or sci fi flick that will bank around the world. Even if it has other cast with different skin tone, it will send a message that Hollywood will interpret as Asian lead = money and you can go from there.

    The other message, going out to individuals, I already know. It’s the genre, story, and individual actors that matter, not skin tone, or where their grandparents lived.

    As much as i find some elements on this blog knee-jerk and biased (hey, I’m biased and imperfect too), there’s no doubt that black Americans get a very small amount of story-telling time and Asian Americans even less around the American campfire of mass media. I’d love to see that change.

    I choose a different approach than protest or focusing on ethnocentricity, but I have no problems with the groups struggling to be heard approaching it those ways. My group is big with people from all heritages. While I identify with no group of pre-established beliefs or expectations, if I can use my random skin tone to open the door for all my circle, knowing we’ll all get a turn to tell our story, yeah, I’ll go first if that’s the way we can all get ours respectively.

    So if you’re ok with being sneaky maybe you can use the cultural diversity of your own circles to open the door to a narrow-minded industry, and pass the scepter once you’re inside and the decision-making power is within your grasp; that is if you think the ends justify the means. The means of having diverse friends and initially approaching something in a multi-ethnic pluralistic fashion, to justify the end result you desire, of having more high-profile all-Asian and all-black films.

  13. The white girl is the star of the movie. she should be nominated for an academy award. I wish the people put credit where credit is due. All Miss BB did in the movie was scream and holler, kiss on that man, and got to wrestle with a true women. See, that is whats wrong with you small minded people, of today, you let money blind your most truthful thoughts and answers. If a nomination is awarded, to be fair the white girl deserves it. Please don’t let this be another “Dancing with the stars”.

  14. When will white people understand that it is time to realize that Black People are not stupid. 🙂 The white woman in this movie is the kind of white woman that all to many times black women witness. White women are constantly throwing themselves at black men, and this is what the movie showed. Many black men have come to realize that they do not have to put to much effort into getting the attention of black women anymore, because white women are there so easily for him to have, and have is way with her. It’s funny how times have changed though, because there once was a time white women screamed of being raped by black men when many times the sexual relationship was consensual, and now white women can’t get enough of black men to show and tell everyone. Yet, in today’s time, if white women have no problem with being so easy, and are needing to display their relationships with black men, and there are black men who like the fact that so many white women are easy and can’t wait to show and tell him ….(no insults intended) no harm done to no one. Yet, there are black women who have black men who are their husbands, and who are the men she is in committed relationships with, and are the men she loves dearly and she will not allow a white woman to just ease here way in on trying to be with her black man.

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