Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory

Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier in the original film version of A Raisin in the Sun

There is a lot that can be said is negative about the African American experience in America. Many of us face racism, whether blatant or subtle, on a daily basis. The media is constantly showing every negative image of us that it can find or manufacture.

So it's very easy as a blogger to focus on the bad and sometimes not recognize the good even when it's right in front of our faces. I have seen a really good example of people in the blogisphere focusing on the negative when it would have been just as easy and more productive to focus on the positive.

Monday night ABC aired a version of Lorraine Hansberry's classic American drama A Raisin in the Sun. Even before it aired I read many posts decrying it as a travesty. I repeat; that was before the broadcast even aired. Mainly it seemed that people were upset with the choice of Shawn Combs aka P. Diddy to play the role of Walter Lee.

Lorraine Hansberry

While I too believe that Shawn Combs acting ability is suspect at best, I was pleased to look forward to seeing African American faces on network television that would not be the usual stereotypes that we all complain about.

After the TV version aired many people compared ABC's version of A Raisin in the Sun to the original film starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and others. Sure it's tempting to compare the two but ultimately it's setting the TV version up for failure.

ABC's A Raisin in the Sun

It's not reasonable to compare a film made for theatrical release to one made for TV. There is less money involved in television productions, the talent on and off camera will likely be less experienced and sometimes less talented.

I watched Monday night's airing of A Raisin In The Sun and I was happy to see African Americans portrayed as complicated and thoughtful people. To see such portrayals is rare indeed on the small screen or even on the big screen.

We are fed a constant diet of comedy and buffoonery on TV. We see African Americans portrayed as criminals, and usually stupid criminals, whores, rappers and miscreants.

So I celebrate ABC's version of A Raisin In The Sun. Will it win any Emmy Awards? Likely not but it was an island of realness in a sea of stereotypes.

And for that I say bravo!

Hopefully all the negative chatter about the movie will not prevent other networks, either cable or broadcast, from stepping outside the norm and producing more films that tell unique slices of African American life.

ABC's A Raisin in the Sun was a victory, it was a victory for those of us who are tired of what's on BET and VH1 and rap videos and Tyler Perry films (that mock Black women). It's just too bad that many people were so busy looking for a defeat that they missed the victory.


Did you watch A Raisin in the Sun on ABC Monday Night?

What did you think of it?

23 comments:

Miriam said...

this was definitely an important message. Adds more light on the matter.

Symphony said...

I didn't see the movie.

The blogosphere has convinced me no one believes the negatives about Black people like Black people. The statistics, the images--we buy it hook, line and sinker.

I know we all want to fix the bad but we ignore the good. There is A LOT of good going on.

We complain about the negative images of us but when movies, shows and music that aren't negative come out we don't support them though we say we want it.

I think every now and then we just need to put things in perspective.

Jackie said...

I enjoyed it. I had to suspend the Sidney Poitier version I've seen probabaly 20 times or more. This new version by the Broadway cast done on location was simply, different. I thought Combs did a good job showing his frustration and longing to be somebody. I felt his pain and growth as he finally realized that his family, united and strong, is more important than getting rich.
I join you. Bravo!!

jjbrock said...

MDC thanks for coming at this from a different way. I did watch the movie and thought that Sean did an OK job considering he is not an actor.

With due respect his acting was not bad, you could tell in some scenes that he had no experience, but over all the movie was good.

Lisa said...

I fell like you, MDC. I am just glad there were some different images on television. I absolutley adore Felicia Rashad!!!

New Black Woman said...

Ugh, I hate I missed it. I had to work.

How was it? Does anyone know when and where I can see it?

theblackactor.com said...

Frankly, I couldn't bear to watch it with Sean Combs in it. Right, wrong, childish, juvenile -- so be it. I just can't stomach him. I can't stand to watch him -- even in videos and such.

However...

I have recorded it. I will watch it.

I'd be interested in knowing what others thought about it.

Homeland Colors said...

I didn't watch it, but I think a lot of net activist have a habit of judging before seeing. I think that is a dangerous road to walk because it leads to close mindedness, and it starts with the small things. I've never seen the original either though, i've only read the play.

PCD (Pretty Circle Drawer) said...

i did watch it and i thought it was a great success. diddy performed much better than i expected...phylicia rashad was awesome and it was a nice change to the usual programming.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

couldnt even watch it had sidney and the black in white in my mind for too many years

Don said...

I wanted to see the movie, but I ended up getting home late that night and missed it. I agree with your post.

I have seen a really good example of people in the blogisphere focusing on the negative when it would have been just as easy and more productive to focus on the positive

Mes, stop talking about me. lol.

theblackactor.com said...

@ don

"Mes, stop talking about me. lol."

Yeah, me too, Mes.

LOL.

tasha212 said...

MDC,

I watched it and I must say, liked it. Sean Combs' acting was o.k. It wasn't the best but he is not a formally trained actor so what do you expect? I thought it was nice to see a movie about black people that didn't have us acting like bafoons and criminals. I also think the generational conflicts and the issues that the Younger family dealt with mirrors the issues that alot of us deal with today. I would recommend anyone watch it.

12kyle said...

I watched it. I had initially tuned in to see my next wife...Sanaa Lathan. But I was very impressed with the acting. Puff tried but he's just not an actor. Overall, it was very good. Got it saved on the dvr

SheCodes said...

I watched it. I don't have as much emotional history with the story, as I grew up in a West Indian household and didn't see it until I became an adult... so I guess I wasn't as scandalized as my friends were.

I thoroughly enjoyed the COMMERCIALS... all of those positive, black people! I was thinking to myself, "THIS is what BET should have been all along!!"

Just imagine where we would have been in if we grew up with a steady diet of images like that!

As for the story, the side of me with feminist leanings really rejected the overwhelming patriarchal overtones (put the man 'in leadership' over the women, no matter how unqualified he might be, and then everything will eventually turn out fine)

But all in all, it was a really enjoyable experience, and I was a little wistful for my childhood self not having such good 'black TV' since moving away from the islands.

lboogie said...

I watched it...and I thought it was good. Sean Combs did a lot better than I expected, and Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan were great.

I was talking with my coworkers about it and both were saying they couldn't watch it because it was Diddy and not Sidney Poitier, and I personally think it's sad that many didn't even Diddy the chance to prove himself as an actor. Sure, he wasn't great, but he wasn't horrible and it was one of his first acting opportunities.

Don said...

Mes,

I hate to pollute your clean blog with my semi-filthy content, but here is the video which inspired the picture of Hillary and Obama.

Its just a portion but it was one of the most popular videos online. Freestyle battle that got out of hand when the one contestant (Hillary...lol) started to take the rap battle personal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff_gAV--x3M

12kyle said...

@ Don
I remember this video. You are stoooopid! LOL

mp1 v.8.0 said...

I watched it and I loved it. The acting was great, although Combs' facial expressions needed some work. Other than that, he did a decent job of potraying Walter Lee. I know that wasn't easy. I also recorded it on the DVR. I have the original version and the modern version on it, and I've seen both in the past month. I just found out that I have the full text of the play, so I plan on reading that now to compare the film versions to the "genuine article"

I agree with you as far as the reality of the black experience portrayrd on tv. I'm certian that there were some who rejected it as not truly encompassing the black expereince. That's because we're only on tv for sports, music, crime, and other areas that the media believes defines us. I'm curious to see what the ratings were like. Hopefully they were high enough for the networks to take another chance soon.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Miriam,

It's good to talk about this stuff.

_____________________________________

Symphony,

"we buy it hook, line and sinker"

You are soooo right; especially about the statistics. If someone releases a crazy study about us we accept it without question.

___________________________________

Jackie,

I need to buy the original version on DVD. I haven't seen it in a long time.

I agree Diddy wasn't terrible. Lol
___________________________________

JJ B,

Yep the movie was enjoyable. I give Diddy an A for effort.
___________________________________

Lisa,

Ms Rashad was her usual great acting self. I enjoyed her part.
___________________________________

NBW,

It was worth watching. I'm sure it will be available on DVD any day now.
___________________________________

TBA,

I think you might be pleasantly surprised. I'm not a Diddy fan but he wasn't terrible. Lol
___________________________________

HC,

You should really see the original. It's amazing.


____________________________________

PCD,

Yep Ms Rashad was great.

___________________________________

Torrance,

You should give it a try. I was a good version.
___________________________________

Don,

Lol, I am not talking about you!
___________________________________

TBA,

Or you either! :)
___________________________________

Tasha,

Wasn't it great to see a film on TV about us with no criminals! That alone made it worth watching.
___________________________________

12Kyle,

I should have recorded it too.
___________________________________

SheCodes,

"Just imagine where we would have been in if we grew up with a steady diet of images like that!"

That would be wonderful; hopefully it will happen one day soon for a generation to come.
___________________________________

L,

I agree; Diddy wasn't horrible. He didn't detract from the story.

Some people are so used to being disappointed that they expect disappointment all the time.
___________________________________

Don,

Lol, okay I'll check it out. Thanks

___________________________________

MP1 v.8.0,

I heard that 12 million people watched; that's not bad.

___________________________________
___________________________________

jose said...

I most def. watched Raisin in the Sun, and honestly, I thought it was OK. Sean Combs did lack a little in the acting arena, because that's actually how he is, especially the speech about owning yachts and jewelry. However, I'll also say that it honestly made me feel a range of emotions, because really, it hurt to see some of the situations they were talking about, from abortion to the wanton ways of Walter Lee.

Miriam said...

MDC, SheCodes,

re: steady diet of that...



What do you think of that as a YouTube project?

My husband is very excited (don't laugh) that someone was gracious enough to down load ALL the transformers cartoon.

Well, I am crazy happy that someone downloaded Prince of Egypt, and Joseph:King of dreams. I show those to my kids.

And, what if there was somehow free access to black movies not bent on blacksploitation? Instead of a station, just YouTube with movies broken into parts?

Does that sound do-able? (not sure about copyright stuff)

thanks.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Jose,

The film/ play does deal with some very real issues. That is part of the appeal of the work.

And imagine how controversial this play/ film was when it was originally released.

_____________________________________

Mriram,

That's an interesting idea. It's somethig we can all look into.
___________________________________
___________________________________

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron