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March 27th, 2013

Fortunately, Denzel didn’t win the Oscar for ‘Flight’

Chris Stevenson

Some of you out there are a trip. I listened to ya’ll complaining about "Django Unchained". In fact, I heard so much moaning and complaining about ‘Django’ that you almost made me forget about "Flight".

You were upset over the "n-word" being used, you and your boy, Spike Lee. You weren’t really upset with the word being used multiple times; you just had a problem with it being Quentin Tarantino’s idea. Well, there’s another movie out there, this time about a black commercial airline pilot acting like a fool, that you said nothing about.

I am done. Two of ya’ll and two wooden nickels don’t add up to a dollar, because you let this go right over your heads literally and figuratively.

Still haven’t caught on yet? What flick am I talking about? The Denzel Washington one where the black captain - William "Whip" Whitaker - falls asleep after openly doing drugs in the cockpit. When his co-pilot wakes him up because the auto-pilot button failed, Denzel’s character hits the nigger-pilot button and the plane lands upside-down.

You missed the whole tricknology behind it, didn’t you? All it was, was "Training Day" at 30,000 feet, this time co-starring another black actor (Don Cheadle) who is known for playing a character who regularly scolds a flying drunk man.

You almost made me forget about being pissed over a movie starring America’s premier black thespian, who became Hollywood’s top actor back in the ‘90s. A man who has been nominated multiple times by the little bronze bigot, winning once for playing a Union Soldier and another time for playing one of the worst cops ever portrayed on screen. Many of you didn’t let that get by you, and I couldn’t hate on you. That was black year for the Oscars, and the little bronze bigot tossed us three bones; Denzel for "Training Day", Halle Berry for her virtual-porn in "Monster’s Ball," and Will Smith competing directly against Washington for "Ali". Spike Lee - always mis-directing us towards the wrong target - raised some noise about not counting Smith’s nomination because he accused him of being gay (can’t have that in Hollywood, of all places).

A lot of you said the movie with the black pilot who snorts coke, does meth, smokes crack, drinks "Henny" like Kool-Aid, shoots heroin and flies a damn plane upside-down was really brilliant acting. Really? Okay, whatever, I’m on your time. I may be slightly exaggerating on his amount of substance abuse, but Captain Whitaker is portrayed as out-drinking his white alcoholic girlfriend, goes to an NTSB hearing loaded on alcohol and coke and you say this is all right with you?

This is not a "nobody’s perfect" moment that too many of you tag almost everything as. What Captain "Whip" really needed was Django to ride by, see that upside-down plane lying in that field, take out his whip, and put some slave-lashes on the pilot’s buttocks. He needs that more than Spike Lee’s lips need Crazy Glue.

The reason "Flight" was even made was because Hollywood was still pissed over "Red Tails". Just the idea that George Lucas went and did a movie about some real life Black superheroes - WWII heroes at that - and rammed it down their throats after they told him "Hell the F no" twenty years ago, still resonates with them. It exposed the lie in the hundreds of all-white WWII movies we were told to accept as reality. "Flight" was a get-back movie on so many levels, and it is for that reason I was glad it didn’t win best picture or best actor at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Like "Monster’s Ball", "Flight" was a story far more indicative of the disturbing mindset of the writers and production company than anything else relating to the film. It has an approval rating of 77% from the 186 tough critics of Rotten Tomatoes (versus the 39% they gave to "Red Tails"). The only criticism worth listening to was coming from actual pilots, who wondered why Whitaker was continuously allowed to fly with such a glaring substance abuse problem. The answer lies on a completely different landing-strip. The Tuskegee Airman strip.

What I’m about to give you is White Hollywood Psychology 101. Many of you think movies like "Flight" are a victory for blacks in major film simply because of who starred in them. Wrong. When you see most movies and TV shows depicting black criminals, what you are really seeing is a white interpretation. When you see a movie or TV show starring a black addict or actor playing an addict, you are in actuality seeing a white interpretation. Some of you brothers and sisters still haven’t figured this out.

Though it doesn’t really matter what the race of the filmmaker is, most of them are white. "Red Tails" was a splendid project made by a white producer who consulted with the remaining black fighter pilots (people that black directors like Lee have ignored) to give you a movie consisting of black images. By contrast, Jesse Terrero, a black Dominican director, gave you a white image movie about black pilots called "Soul Plane." When Spike Lee gave you "Malcolm X", he gave you a black image. When Lee gave you "Four Little Girls", he gave you a black image. When he gave you "School Daze" and "Jungle Fever", he gave you a white image. John Singleton’s "Boyz in the Hood" and "Rosewood"; black images. "Higher Learning"; white image.

People criticize Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood for essentially always glorifying the white male image. Why shouldn’t they? They’re white. Stop hating white people for doing what their DNA tells them to do. Credit white filmmakers like Lucas for breaking Hollywood policy and thinking for himself. Credit and support black filmmakers who truly love black people and aren’t afraid to show it.

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Reader Response
  • Ann
  • July 3rd, 2013 I beg your pardon, I spelled Mr. Mays' name with an e. How'd that happen? Inattention to detail. And I'm born and bred in the San Francisco Bay Area, after all.

    Reader Response
  • Ann
  • July 2nd, 2013 Mr. Stevenson's article gives plenty of food for thought. Let me get this straight. Using Mr. Stevenson's reasoning, Willie Mayes, Reggie Jackson, and Alex Rodriquez, as men of color, should never have pursued a career in--or allowed themselves to be recruited for a career in--major league baseball because the teams are owned by white men?

    Reader Response
  • ed
  • March 28th, 2013 I think the movie Flight was brilliant and so was Denzel, We live in a time when everybody black or white knows of someone struggling at the hands of there addiction. I think the movie shows how powerful the grip of addiction is that it can grab anybody black or white even a rich and powerful Pilot and bring them into the clutches of the Devil. Denzel shows even facing a life in prison the only thing worth getting up for in the morning is Drugs. This was an important movie showing the world it doesn't matter what color of skin you have how successful you are Drugs are bad choice and will ruin your life. Just say No!!

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