My friends and I have been discussing the philosophy of race in light of the recent release of “Obsessed”, a movie about a successful, black businessman (Idris Elba) married to a beautiful, black woman (Beyonce Knowles). The business man is stalked by a white, female co-worker (Ali Larter) that jeopardizes his happy life. I won’t give any further details away, since most people intend to watch this movie. It sold out the first night we tried to watch it.
When we were standing in line talking about our expectations for the movie and the masses of people who came out to see it, I mentioned that the racial conflict of the movie certainly drew interest. My friends insisted that race wasn’t the main issue and that the husband-snatching was the main appeal. But to think that is to be colorblind. I thought about stating that, but such a response would not be well taken. So I decided to play around with the roles of the characters and their racial attributes to better demonstrate that the racial conflict was important.
Let us say the successful, black businessman was married to the white woman and stalked by the black businesswoman. Catering to the American public and status quo, the interracial relationship would either have to be defended by some virtuous scenes of romantic chivalry and acts of true love or the marriage would be seen as on the rocks. This sort of sequence seems to be unnecessary with same race pairings in American film, they can just be assumed as good or bad with only a brief mention without the elaboration. Given these characters, Hollywood would probably turn it into a romantic comedy, where the black, businesswoman was “pursuing” the black businessman. They would create tension between the interracial couple and the two black people would eventually find one another.
The actual racial setup of the movie, with a happy black couple being stalked by a white woman, is cast as a thriller. The black man and woman are heroically defending their racially homogenous marriage against the heinous miscegenation attempts by the white adulteress. As overly dramatic and hyperbolic as that synopsis sounds, it clearly establishes the setting for the thriller by playing into the social constructs of the viewing public. Sadly, this was proven to me when I did a Google search for “Obsessed” articles and immediately found the label “miscegenation flick” in a few of the findings.
Now, these assumptions about race in Hollywood aren’t definite or certain, but merely observations of the stereotypical trends in past movies. Switching the roles opened the eyes of my friends to their colorblind attitude toward the movie and gave them something to ponder. I heard them talking about the racial role reversal tonight with some of our other friends, so it seems to have sparked a thought or two about the racial stereotyping of roles in Hollywood. I have yet to actually make it into the theatre with all of the crowds, but I am eager to see how the roles are played out and what sort of racial stereotypes are enforced.
If you've seen the movie, perhaps you would care to note any socially constructed racial themes you saw?