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“Will Hollywood Let Negroes Make Love?” – A Trip Down Memory Lane; But What’s Really Changed?

"Will Hollywood Let Negroes Make Love?" - A Trip Down Memory Lane; But What's Really Changed?

On a terribly slow day (week)… a flashback.

In the “How Much Has Really Changed in Hollywood in 50 Years” category… 

Here’s a 1955 cover of TAN magazine, featuring the lovely Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, from the movie, “Carmen Jones.”

TAN magazine targeted specifically African American women and was published by Johnson Publishing, the same folks who brought us Ebony and Jet magazines.

The main headline on the cover, “Will Hollywood Let Negroes Make Love?” is still a somewhat relevant question today, is it not, considering the fact that conversations on that exact topic have been had over the last 59 years since, and continue to be had.

I recall Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” being slapped with an X rating by the MPAA? Why? The exact quote, according to Spike, was that the MPAA said it was “saturated with sex.”

What was Spike’s response to the whole thing? “I don’t think it’s out-and-out racist, but the film portrays blacks outside stereotypical roles, and they don’t know what to do with blacks in films. They never have any love interests. Nick Nolte is the one who has a relationship in 48 Hours. And when it comes to black sexuality, they especially don’t know how to deal with it. They feel uncomfortable. There are films with more gratuitous sex and violence. ‘9 1/2’ weeks got an “R.” And look at ‘Body Double’.”

That was 27 years after the above Tan magazine cover. 

And in 1987, when Robert Townsend’s “Hollywood Shuffle” was released (in which his character was involved in a romance with Anne Marie Johnson’s), he was quoted as saying: “This year, I’ll be the only black man that kissed a black woman on screen. That’s deep.”

Other examples abound in recent years, like, in 2005, you’ll recall concern over the casting of a black female lead opposite Will Smith in “Hitch” – essentially his romantic interest in the movie. First, the producers were reportedly worried about the public’s reaction if the part was played by a white actress, which would mean an interracial affair (keep in mind this happened in the 21st century, not 1935). And secondly, the studio didn’t want to cast a black actress because they feared that two black leads would alienate white audiences.

So,“Will Hollywood Let Negroes Make Love?” 

How much has really changed in 25 years? Is there still very much a suppression of *black sexuality* in mainstream cinema, so much that some of our stars (especially our male stars) seem to have even given up, or given in to these tacit “agreements,” if we can call them that?

Was the Blaxploitation period the height of black sexual expression on the big and small screens?

Borrowing from Robert Townsend, how many films and TV series developed, financed and released by a Hollywood studio last year had a black man simply kissing a black woman (forget about having sex), or vice-versa, with mutual affection, and not juvenile or played for laughs? How about this year, 7 months in?

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to those independent black filmmakers, toiling away outside the Hollywood studio system, whose work reflects their own (as well as some of our own) romantic relationship realities. We look to them instead.

RELATED: Lupita, Michael, and the Future of Black Romance in Film

RELATED: Watch A Young Sidney Poitier And Diahann Carroll Fall In Love In ‘Paris Blues’

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Comments

anon

@Theblacktinafey I agree, I had a similar feeling when I saw jamie foxx and naomi harris in miami vice- it was uncomfortable for me it just was strange to see I also spent time in ghana (west africa) and seeing blk love, romance, sex etc.. is just par of the course, on tv AND film as you would expect lol and to be honest, it took a while to get used to but it was good to see. I'ts only in the west that blk love is restricted. Black relationships are BOOMING in blacK countries! You guys shold broaden your horizons and take a look at african cinema if you desperately want to see blk love; you'll be spoilt for choice!

NM PATTERSON

Anytime you see a person of African, Asian, or Latin@ origins on screen making love, or in a romantic situation with another person of color, it is a revolutionary act. Holding hands, kissing, bedrooms scenes, slow dancing, etc.– would show that people of color are human. And how can you keep exploiting people when you show them as being human? Hollywierd continues to promote images of white love in order to keep the oppressed oppressed. Support independent filmmakers who dare to show tenderness between people of color. Roll Call: Julia Dash "Daughters of the Dust"; Tanya Hamilton "Night Catches Us"; Charles Burnett "Killer of Sheep", Wong Kar-wai "In the Mood for Love".

Steve

Seriously, what you think about as you're watching a movie is whether the actors are married to white women or not? If that's what you're thinking, the movie sucks and so does the acting so demand your money back, go home and read a book… the characters will be just as you see them in your head. Who someone happens to love and marry should never be your concern. If that's your criteria for judging good movie, you're as racist as the movie industry execs who won't green light projects with two black romantic leads. In case anyone is wondering, this is coming from a black man who loves black women.

Theblacktinafey

@Troublemaker, Lincoln Heights was a drama with a black male lead married to a black female lead and they also had black kids. :-) I'm not denying the disproportion, I'm just quoting examples as others did for accuracy. There's plenty to b*tch about in Hollywood as far as racism and sexism are concerned. But I believe in giving credit and acknowledgement where they are due.

With that being said, no one mentioned Will Packer produced, "About Last Night." TWO black couples on screen and BOTH were shown in sex scenes. I think this should definitely be acknowledged… And discussed for the precise reasons the author stated above. When the first sex scene occurred I was at first engaged and intrigued and then almost immediately uncomfortable. I had to check myself. My mind was riddled… Until the epiphany. OMG. We NEVER see this. I told at least eight people after the movie ended. It hit me like a snow storm in L.A. in May. It's so rare that if it made me give pause I can only imagine how non-black minds have been conditioned to react.

Jess

Interesting article. As a black female, I've long been aware of issues of racism, sexism and what happens when the two are combined. I've also been aware of how black/non- white actresses often have a harder time scoring lead roles in Hollywood. I guess when I read the article at first I thought I'm a little confused on how large of a problem it is of not having enough black male/black female couples on screen. I could think of plenty of movies and tv shows where this was the case. However, after some deeper thought about it, all of these portrayals were in media that was diliberately meant for/marketed to a black audience (think like a man, the best man, love and basketball, Tyler perry films, spike lee films, etc). That is understandable as the makers of those films are thinking, black people want to see black love ok screen. I guess the issue is when films not specifically aimed at one demographic can't have realistic portrayals of minority relationships. Sadly, I don't think this will change until Hollywood stops seeing the "every man" and the "every woman" as a white man and here woman ( for example, a writer pitches a script with average guy john and his love interest average woman Jennifer. Even though no context of race is given, the assumption is that they are white and if either of them were any other race, then the majority of movie goers (white) wouldn't be able to relate toth and therefore not seeing the movie). I thinks previous commenter though made an excellent point about how important it is for veteran black actors with clout to start asking/demanding their female leads opposite themto be other minorities and/or black. If you really want will smith, Denzel etc in your movie then since they are in demand, the can start to deman change. (Again, everyone is free to love whoever they want but we can't sit back and ignore that we need more positive images of black/minority love in media.

Thatstlphoenix

THIS!!!! Add this discussion to television as well and the problem continues. It's disheartening and I've seen this continue and only get worse in my opinion.

Miles Ellison

I think Spike's comments summed up the issue. People would rather deal in stereotypical shorthand than flesh out real characters.

Barbara

Not just Black people, but other minorities are not allowed to be romantic on screen either. As long as the movies/tv shows are made by White Males, this will continue. Sexuality is the area where White Males feel inferior, so his movies/tv shows are done in a way to counteract that deficienc

If black movies are made about black romance, it would be good to see actors who are married (in REAL LIFE) to a black person play the role (no Richard Roundtrees). I can't relate to Black men married to White women playing a romantic role on screen with a Black woman. The recent movies had such Black male actors.

Alias

And one more thought, we may not see more black love until writers, directors, producers, and actors who are in a position to push for such couplings push for such couplings onscreen.

If actors like Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson, Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, and Idris Elba et. al. who have some sway with regard to the casting of their female counterparts, don't push for their love interests to be black, then how/why should we expect that the mostly white writers, producers, directors and studio executives would either?

Mike

@ TROUBLEMAKER I can understand why you are upset with "Scandal," but Kerry Washington is ,married to a black man in real like and has a beautiful baby girl by him as well.

@ALIAS The problem with black love in Hollywood is we don't see enough of it as we would like! Yes its there, but not as frequent and in a variety of situations as would we like.

troublemaker

I haven't seen a black woman married to a black man on drama TV within the past 10 years. I'm tired of seeing black women with white men or other and vice versa! That's why I hate Scandal so much. It's an insult to intelligent and professional black women.

Duane

I'd like to read what the original TAN magazine article had to say. Then I'd sneak a PEEK at the "Love Life of a Midget" article.

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