Eddie Murphy (yes he's a problematic human...let's not pretend there is a dearth of those) has of late shown moving talent as a dramatic actor. The idea of "this will revive his career" (as some studio promotion language suggests) is problematic for many reasons but let's just go with one: why should this kind of story be what does it? How many generations of black actors must go through this?
I see this and can't help but think -- would it KILL the industry to cast the family as black too? Just ONCE?! (Without it having to be a "black movie" (code for strange or foreign, also code for "only (of interest : relevance to) black") rather than a "family movie" (code for white, "normal," "universal" etc.) or...whatever.) Then maybe the idea of a story about "finding family where one least expects it" might have some semblance of teeth and a fresh, new (to big screens) perspective rather than the same old "mysterious & magical negro" storyline.
And why does this black man have no family? No community at all? In 19wheneverbeforetheinternet? Really? Black folks are just islands waiting to be saved by saving and serving white folks and getting out of it their ... Gratitude?
It's not even that the story itself (which might have been written without race, and then "gifted" Murphy with casting and reimagining of the role, I don't know) is not moving or tear jerking. It's the tiresome repetition of it. Sure, it's nice that this is an honorable black man. But what we must do to be considered honorable...when is it too much? And how outrageously honorable must we be to be "acceptable"? "Loved"? "Identified with"? "Marketable"? (haha)To tell our stories and have them writ large across the culture?
And when do suffering black mothers and their smart, tortured daughters get imagined with some savior who comes with unreciprocated love, affection, financial support, etc. just because they're human and nice and beautiful and deserve it. When do we get imagined at all, for what it's worth? When do women stop needing to be savedthankgod by some random dude anyway? Vulnerability is real, saviorism is not our only response. In fact, it's barely a realistic response.
It just get me...tired...sometimes. There is so much creativity all around us, but the absolute insistence (there's something very "all lives matter" about this to me) on retreading these "feel good" Driving Miss Daisy storylines when there is so much more to work with in this big, vibrant, culturally rich society that is only one of many all over the world can be very dispiriting.
I know there are better, realer, and even (imagine it!) non-white-centered stories all around us that can make, sustain, elevate out of orbit the careers of writers, actors, filmmakers, audiences, little girls, little boys, grown folks and people everywhere of every everything. I've seen them. I'm related to them. They're my family. They're my neighbors. They're camping out by this river because they're homeless. They're camping out by that river because they enjoy a night out of the city under the stars. They're everywhere. They're just the tip of the iceberg.
And once again they're erased. And this same same story get drilled in so we'll stay erased. Better yet -- when do we accept that it's being drilled in so that we'll all remember our place. When do we say stop? Say: No. Say: Look around. We haven't even begun to tell the story of who we are.