Black romance movies, Tyler Perry and why nobody needs another Emma movie

The Photograph

So Essence Magazine posted something for Valentines on the Evolution of Black Romance movies. I was excited. The Photograph and Queen and Slim have been talked about. Not sure Queen & Slim is romantic but, Yay! We need a palette cleanser after the nonsense that was Tyler Perry’s wigging, 5-day Netflix offering, right? We deserved it!

Essence mentioned Love Jones which I personally found to be the most frustrating ‘romance’ out there. Apart from the overly pretentious spoken work and nu black / neo soul soundtrack I didn’t find any of the characters likeable. I wasn’t rooting for Larenz when he stalked her. Or when Nia Long cheated on her actual boyfriend with Larenz and then went out with Larenz’s unlikeable friend.  I should call them Darius and Nina but I’m trying to forget that movie as much as I can.

This got me thinking on why we have so few black romance films that we are forced to like the few that we have.  It was one of the few films of its time not to have gangstas and violence. I mean, Tyler Perry got 26milion views in the first weekend and we KNEW it was going to be shite.

 And then I saw a bus go past with a massive s Emma banner and the reason hit me: Hollywood is a massive industry run by a bunch of people who don’t look like us. Haven’t we already had 2 versions of Emma hollywoodified* for us? Excluding Clueless we had the one with Gwyneth Goop and then the one with Jonathan Reese Myers. That’s a lot of Emmas! We all know how it ends. [spoiler alert] Emma doesn’t realise she’s privileged despite helping those who can’t survive the patriarchal society because of [lack of] wealth. She’s taught a lesson on being less haughty and is rewarded by getting Mr Knightley all to herself. Well done Emma!

Period dramas are limited. We’re allowed a chaste kiss at the end, some awkward classist fumbling in the middle, maybe a villain who is usually just a selfish dude who des what best suits him. Don’t get me wrong; as an English major I love a good Jane Austen but, I want to see stories that are relevant today and reflect actual stories. Like gaslighting, ghosting, the constant catfishing online or the dangers of meeting strangers at their houses (yes, I’ve been on a Catfish binge watch.)

I want to see Black and Asian love stories and joyful others such as gay love. I do love a good gay love story. Weekend is still up there. But above all I want to see British stories that aren’t Bridget Jones, which is basically an insecure woman who can’t express her feelings and has a thing for arseholes and repressed British and woman from a time when gyms didn’t exist for women and the suffragette movement was only just starting. And not knowing who the Daddy is Bridget? Come on!

Black love and romance are a thing. The only black British stories on the big screen are interracial and that’s not everyone’s narrative. If Beale Street could talk and Moonlight are great movies but the endings are typical of their time. Are we not also allowed to see ourselves in a Happy Ever After?

Right, that’s my rant done. I’m off to watch Just Wright again because no matter how wooden Common is and how annoying Paula Patton is generally. I love me some curvy girl romance.

*It’s a word!

© Chelsea Black 2020

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