A Tenth Anniversary Re-Post: January, 2009
Practically everybody in print has been finding a way to speak to the great historical occasion of our 44th President's inauguration, and I was particularly taken with Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott's take in the NY Times: How the Movies Made the President. Subtitled "Evolving Cinematic Roles Have Prepared America to Have a Black Man in Charge," their piece insightfully analyzes just how that's been accomplished, shrewdly identifying the movie archetypes that have arguably paved Obama's way, among them the Black Everyman, the Black Father, even the Black Yoda (think Morgan Freeman).
There was only one role missing from the list, through no fault of Ms. Dargis and Mr. Scott: the lover, the romantic -- call him the Black Mr. Right. And you might as well call him the Black Blank Space, for as much screen time as the guy's gotten, so far.
Where is The Great African-American Romantic Comedy? I've found myself wondering, or even the best of the near-greats? When I went looking for a Top 10 Black Romantic Comedies, I emerged from an afternoon in cyberspace more perplexed and vexed than victorious. Obligatory disclaimer aside (not being black, I'm not the most qualified, etc.) I could only settle on a rough half dozen or so clearly top-notch American movies that feature black men and women in funny love. Which makes a rom-com lover wonder.
Meanwhile, some of comedy's best black minds have found the romantic comedy genre challenging. Witness Chris Rock's admirably adventurous but nevertheless box office tank-erous I Think I Love My Wife. Interestingly, half of my thumbnail "top six or seven" rom-coms starring black leads come via Eddie Murphy and co. -- but two out of three (Coming to America and The Nutty Professor) are high concept comedy hybrids that wouldn't immediately register as traditional romantic comedies, leaving only Boomerang as a straight-up genre pic.