Thursday, March 8, 2018

The kind of conversation starter we need

A really good ad campaign, that really does what it sets out to do, is always something that I think should be celebrated.

And this one's flat-out great.

Two organizations in England called Legally Black and Advocacy Academy got together recently to mount a campaign of movie posters for famous movies and TV shows with black faces where we would usually see white faces. They hung the posters at bus stops in the South London neighborhood of Brixton, and they included not only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as you see here, but the movie Titanic and the TV shows Skins and Doctor Who.

No offense to Harry Potter, Titanic, Skins and Doctor Who, but this is bloody terrific, to use the local parlance.

And in truth, the only thing those cultural products did wrong was that they came out of a society that still doesn't do a good enough job casting people of color in significant roles.

You probably can't read the fine print on the top of that poster, but it says "If you're surprised, it means you don't see enough black people in major roles."

Then at the bottom: "Join us on our mission for better black representation in the media."

Campaigns like #oscarssowhite have indeed drawn attention to this historical imbalance, and they have indeed made some good progress. But it's still true that there are certain roles where you would still never, ever see a person of color -- at least not in a film that was meant to be consumed by the masses.

Black Panther is possibly changing that too, but superhero movies are still relatively "safe" territory, in that they have a built-in audience in addition to those who are likely to champion it simply for its progressive symbolism. It's also an existing property and benefits from being the 18th (!) in a long-running interconnected "franchise" that's beloved by audiences.

But if you tried to Black Panther a children's fantasy, like Harry Potter, or a large-scale love story, like Titanic?

People would look at those posters as quizzically as I assume they are looking at these ones.

But hopefully enough of those people looking at these posters will nod along like I've been doing, to replace that quizzical look. And the more that happens, the more likely we are to get Black Harry Potter or Black Titanic at some point in the future.

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