I did not need to watch The Green Book in order to know that it was going to be a terrible movie. The film’s trailers alone had all the makings of a movie about race made solely to make white people feel good about race. That didn’t stop it from coming out on top at the recent Golden Globes. Why? Because Hollywood doesn’t have a race problem . . . Hollywood IS a race problem.
Viewing isn’t necessary for a thorough understanding of the plot. Here goes my plot summary, informed only by the trailers I’ve seen:
Black man is special (not like all those other nigras). But Black man is not treated like he is special (white people treat still him like all those other nigras). White man is racist as fuck (but he isn’t a BAD person, he just needs time to come around!). White man is also dumb as fuck, but he’s a hardworking, honest man and he is redeemed from his brutish ignorance by his beautiful white family. White man is, naturally, the true hero and main character of the story (everything will be told from the point of view of white man). Black man encounters adversity (but white man finds a way to make it about him). Black man has a crisis of identity because he isn’t “Black” enough (by liking nigra shit) or “white” enough (by being articulate and educated and gifted and basically all the things on which white people have an apparent monopoly). Black man and white man come to understand one another, and are both “better” for it (white man is no longer completely and utterly racist, only against those nigras who are not “special” . . . Black man is more forgiving of white mediocrity and hypocrisy because that is what white media requires to support “Blackness.”). Naturally, onus is on Black man to forgive endlessly the virulent racism and ignorance of whites, while also teaching them how to be better people, even as they threaten his life and livilihood. White man stands up for Black man in critical moment to prove that he….has a Black “friend.” White man and Black man are “friends,” for the rest of their lives and the white man is here to tell you all about it.
For those who actually saw the movie, how did I do? 😜
I could be upset that this is the kind of rote mediocrity that Hollywood promotes, but I would just spend the rest of my life being upset. White people write these movies (three white men wrote The Green Book). White people finance these movies. White people produce these movies. White people watch these movies. Then white people give these movies awards and accolades. These movies aren’t for colored folk like me . . . shit, even the presumable main Black character takes a backseat to the white man in this one (pun intended). These movies are made to assuage white guilt.
How? Well, if the brutish racist man played by Mortesen can “change,” so can the grandfsthers and fathers of the white audience members. If not all white people in the deeply racist America of the 60s (and today) were racist as fuck, then the white audience members can hope and pretend that their own forefathers were freedom riders instead of klansmen. Finally, if a white man can be the star in a story “about” a Black man, then the latent (sometimes) feelings of superiority and entitlement of the white audience can be justified. We don’t even control our own stories, so no wonder we don’t get to really be the stars in them.
I would say that Mahershala deserves better than this, but then again, he read the script and still decided to accept the “leading” role. He’s already gotten a Golden Globe for his troubles. It’s really Don Shirley, the supposed main character, who deserves more. And, Black folks in general. Can we write our stories? Produce them! Star in them? Be righteously angry about white supremacy in them? Be unmitigatingly Black (even when that means liking “non-Black” things) in them? Be Black through the lens of Blackness and not through the lens of the “good” white narrator? Just be.
Maybe one day. Maybe a different Hollywood. One that doesn’t still revere Birth of a Nation as the birth of modern film making. One that dissects and dismantles the racist roots of the industry, from the racist tropes embedded in the films, the racist stars starring in them, and the racist antics of the few Blacks (or other minorities) allowed to appear in them to the modern holdovers, where minority-driven films lack financing, minority stories are cast with white actors, and truly excellent and original minority artistry is overshadowed by studio-backed white people feel good bullshit.
One thing is for sure. As long as the Green Books of the world are still getting this amount of play, Hollywood will continue be a race problem.