Inequality in Film


I went to see that new movie The Call starring Halle Berry today. While the movie was action-packed and suspenseful, I was more interested in the previews.

First of all, we literally sat through about 35 minutes of previews; I mean we must have watched about eight or nine. As I sat there wondering, “When in the world is this movie going to start?” I figured the super long previews must be fate. It was destined for me to write this post today.

Why, you ask?

Well, out of the eight or nine (I lost track after no.6) consecutive previews, I noticed only one was an “African American led” movie. By this I mean, a Black man and woman were the focus of the film; they were the leads. And the movie was produced by a Black man’s production company.

By now, I’m sure you’ve all guessed it, but the movie was Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor by Tyler Perry. It was the second preview shown so I thought, “Okay, let’s see if there are more before I jump to conclusions.” But the extended previews must have been to prove my point, because, besides the occasional “darker skin tone” I’d see every now and then in the backgrounds, none of the other previews were ‘Black-focused films.”

And the “all-White” films ranged in subject matter from superheroes saving the world (Ironman) and the classic we-made-it-through-the-odds-romance, to the mystical, fantasy worlds like Harry Potter and demon-possessed horrors.
Now, I know many in the Black Community have had their fair share of dislike and criticisms to offer Tyler Perry and his works:

TP’s characters are coonish and support buffoonery.

His movies and shows reinforce negative stereotypes of Black people.

TP does more harm than good for the Black Community.

But, especially after seeing the previews today, I cannot deny that Mr. Perry and his production company is “doing it” for Black folks in film. Name another Black filmmaker whose works constantly make it to the big screen alongside their “white counterparts” while raking in millions?

And although I applaud Mr. Perry for trying to get ‘Black-focused films’ on an equal playing field in Hollywood, the fact that he is really one of the only successful (most recognizable films) and consistent right now upsets me. Why is it so difficult for Black people to be represented in the media?

This brings me back to a few years ago when I was a columnist for my university’s newspaper. I’d noticed that those Nicholas Sparks-inspired romance films were everywhere during the summer of 2010. It seemed like every time I turned on the TV, a new trailer was showing for a love story between a white man and a white woman.

I wanted to write a column on this and ask why do you rarely see love stories of minorities. When is the last time you went to the movies to see a film where the entire plot revolved around one black man and one black woman in love? Or a Chinese couple? What about Indians? Or Mexicans/Latinos? Needless to say, my editor did not approve my idea as, and I quote, “it wouldn’t appeal to many people.”
A friend of mine offered an answer to this “inequality in film” question: It’s unrealistic. There aren’t many Black love stories on the big screen because the “story” of Black love is unbelievable. A Black man writing love letters to a Black woman? Yeah right. A brotha traveling through hell and high water to win over the sista he loves? Chile, please. Most important, a successfully in-love Black couple? Girl, you better go on.

Another friend of mine offered an interestingly different answer: We don’t see little Black kids as Harry Potter or vampires like in the Twilight series because we don’t have many authors writing science fiction. Most movies come from books. To get more Black faces on film, we need more Black faces writing.

While I understand the viewpoint of my second friend, we do have plenty of AA authors writing about love; yet, only so few Terry McMillans and Alice Walkers whose novels have successfully debuted on the big screen.

So, I’m asking for your feedback, my sistas. It’s upsetting to rarely see a Black woman be the sexy and clever agent like Angelina Jolie in Salt or the beautiful love interest America’s superhero is willing to risk his life for like Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider Man. But, then again, are these images unrealistic? Why, out of the plethora of movies created every year, only a pinch (if that) are led by a Black cast?

Service is her passion, writing is her platform, women and the Black Community are her avenues. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be author. Marks aspires to help make a difference in society through the messages in her writings. She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Check her out at:




  1. I really enjoy Tyler Perry! The first film I watch of his was Diary of a mad black woman, and it spoke to my soul. So I congratulation him for standing his ground and making films for Black people, black families, and black community!

  2. Nice article. I do agree that most would find it unbelievable. The last love story that I saw that focused on 2 blacks loving each other was Love & Basketball. I really liked that movie because it also promoted college and the need to have something to fall back on. There is real love in the black community but I think people tend to release what they feel is most common or what is more real. IDK,

  3. Wow, what a good read. You said everything I thought. I’ve noticed as well that minorities are not in a lot of commercials yet we spend just as much on products. If there is s black woman she is fairly light skinned.

  4. There are no black films because black Hollywood isn’t doing anything for themselves. During the Golden Era of Hollywood, blacks were shut out completely, so what black actors,actresses,producers,etc did was create their own. And during that time, the films were diverse in content, and made sense. Now, black Hollywood sit back and complain or create coonfest. So, I say, let them do it. I’m tired of defending the black cause in Hollywood’, but they don ‘t make a real effort to produce anything worth while. TP is bringing his view of the world onto the big screen, so others can do the same. Black Hollywood live in the world of can’t. and that’s sad.

  5. Shala,
    I think that TP does a wonderful job generally speaking, but I never understood the purpose of Kim Kardashian in his new movie, she is not an actress not sure we should be glorifying someone’s fame come from making a sex tape. I beleive he received msny complains about her being in the movie. He has a right to choose whoever, so therefore I as many have the right to support his flim

  6. First thing nice article. I generally support Tyler Perry’s effort. the current film will not get my support, and it is mainly because of him putting Kim Kardashian in the movie, not quite sure what the purpose of her being in the movie becasue she is not an actress. Mr Perry received many complaints on that choice and he choose to ignore his supporter so we can ignore his movie which is unfortunate because of the other professional actors in the movie. I beleive that is why he changed the name from the original play. That is just my personal thought, and again there might be others that will ignore the fact, but I do not see white producers using people whoaw claim to fame comes from making a sex tape.

  7. I agree with your analysis of the situation and especially appreciate your point that while there are painfully few black stories front and center there are even fewer for other groups. I can’t even remember when I saw an Asian family story since Joy Luck Club and an Indian one since Monsoon Wedding. Just to be clear, the fact that other communities are even less visible on film doesn’t make the black situation OK.

    And yes black men and women do write poems and express love.

  8. This is an excellent article and a refresher on what has been going on for decades. Blacks have always been shut out when it comes to Hollywood unless you make the cross-over like Denzel, Morgan, Will, Jamie, and a few others. My take on this issue is we have to start looking at ourselves and how we tear each other down instead of supporting. Tyler Perry and Spike Lee are perfect examples of this. We supported Spike for a minute (Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, and Inside Man) but turned our backs on him by saying his movies were corny and to preachy (he had to scrap the bottom of the barrel to make his last film, Red Hook Summer). Perry was hot for a minute but we are slowing turning our backs on him because we “think” his films and shows make us look bad (His attempt at Alex Cross tanked). Right now SCANDAL is a surprise, breakout hit for Ms. Kerry (when was the last time we have seen a Black woman in a successful, leading TV role??) but many of us dog the show because she is kissing on white guys. Above all, the boot-leg selling of our films is killing the chance of success at the box-office. Hollywood has made it clear they are not going to invest in us unless they know the film will make money. George Lucas learned the hard way when 20th Century Fox, a company he has helped make billions of dollars for with the Star Wars movies, refused to fund his film Red Tails (the action story about the Tuskegee Airmen). In the end he put his own money up and the studio company did distribute the film; but guess what? We as a community didn’t support the film and it didn’t do well (I took my kids to see it and we were the only Blacks in the theater). In the need we have to support these films in order to for Hollywood to invest money in supporting films with an all Black cast. T.D Jakes’ company has produced some decent films but we are not going out to support them (why didn’t we go see Sparkle?). Kin Folks, it’s not like we can’t do it because we went to see Think Like a Man, DreamGirls, Obsessed, and many of Perry’s films (all successes) so we just have to keep it going. Right now Idris Elba is in serious talks within MGM studios to be the first Black James Bond, but they are nervous whether it will work. It’s time to prove MGM and the rest of Hollywood Black and Brown is here to stay and will attract an audience….!!!
    Check out these films:
    Black Hollywood: Blaxploitation
    Paul Mooney: Know Your History
    It’s Black Entertainment!

  9. Sistas! Thank you for your comments. I read every single one. I wanted to speak directly to two people: Anna B and OldPopEyeSalt.

    Anna B: I too wash shocked and disapponted after seeing Kim Kardashian in the movie trailer. I think his purpose for adding her is to appeal to a wider audience. Let’s face it, TP has a business and he wants to make money. The more people who see his films, the more cash flowing through his pockets. Like it or not, Kim Kardashian appeals to a large group of people; therefore, by adding her I assume TP hopes to bring those “other” movie goers to his film. Look at all his other films. Diary of a Mad Black Woman started out with a few “mentionable actors and actresses,” e.g. Shemar Moore, Kimberly Elise, and as his movies garnered more viewers and gaine popularity, he added bigger and bigger stars, e.g. Sanaa Lathan, Angela Bassett, etc. Like Kathy Bates in The Family That Preys, I think he’s looking for Kim Kardashian to show a “different face” of TP films and attract a different set of viewers. Like you, Anna B, I disagree with his choice in her, but, again, at the end of the day it’s about getting that $.

    And for you OldPopeyeSalty: You said, “It’s time to prove MGM and the rest of Hollywood Black and Brown is here to stay and will attract an audience….!!!” Just wanted to say I completely agree and hope more discussions like this will take place and then move past discussing to promoting awareness.

    I’m in a rush so please excuse any typos!

  10. It’s because we are behind the power curve. Money is sprinkled through the Black community not heavily concentrated and those of us who are wealthy are not worried about making films or writing books, they are worried about continuing to make their money. Minorities for the most part are still struggling they haven’t had time to relax and do what they love or share their arts, they are just busy trying to make it. Perhaps in the future when more creative wealthy minorities come about they will be able to have more hands on the entertainment industry. Until then those who have enough money to play with will be leading the entertainment world.

  11. love the article and my two cents is that if more black people who have money will spend money banking on other black people in film then what seems unrealistic will become the possible. but when you have fairly wealthy black people just spending all their money on bling, having more than one house they live in, and trying to outdo others, then we will always be at the beck and call of those like white hollywood who will spend their money promoting what they believe in. so when black people start spending their money and investing in themselves then we will remain shut out.

  12. love the article and my two cents is that if more black people who have money will spend money banking on other black people in film then what seems unrealistic will become the possible. but when you have fairly wealthy black people just spending all their money on bling, having more than one house they live in, and trying to outdo others, then we will always be at the beck and call of those like white hollywood who will spend their money promoting what they believe in. so until black people start spending their money and investing in themselves then we will remain shut out.

  13. @shalamarks I hear what your saying about trying to attract a wider audience but quite frankly watching a television show and paying money to go out and see someone are entirely 2 different things and for the audience he’s supposedly drawing by using Kardashian he’s alienating his core bread and butter audience and that just doesn’t seem worth it to me. Sorry just had to speak on it.

  14. Actually there are Black love stories being made into films. But, they are almost always indies films. Medicine for Melancholy is an example. And there are more. We just have to do a little extra work finding them as most are not in wide release.

  15. I think the lack of stories come from experience in the community itself. How many broken homes and single parent homes do we have? When have you ever seen something positive from black people as a whole when it comes to relationships? We are glamorizing being the other woman, or the other man….cheating with someone’s husband or wife…I would love to see more stories about black love, superheroes, or a black man trying to save the woman that he loves that happens to have my skin tone-but the truth is it will not happen because we have let society tell us for so long that we do not matter and we are only good for so much in life. I have to tell my daughter everyday that her brown skin is beautiful…that her eyes are gorgeous and that she does not have to conform to what society thinks as long as she holds herself in high regard. I am married, my husband is her stepfather and we are showing her that black love works-through the arguments and bad days, it works. It’s up to us to show the masses that we are here and we want positive representation. I understand you have a business and you do conform to certain things, I get it-in certain issues I believe there should be someone that stands up and says enough is enough.

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