by guest contributor Christopher Chambers, originally published at Nat Turner’s Revenge
Overheard among the stacks of booze at Liquor King liquor store in Franklin Park, NJ, Route 27 outside of Princeton, December 9, 2006:
Man #1(30-ish white guy, casually dressed but appearing to be a professional, shopping for some sort of Christmas or football party): “You guys going to the movies tonight?”
Man #2(30-ish white guy with dark features, dark mustache and goatee): “Yeah, maybe the Mel Gibson thing about the Indians or Mayans.”
Man #1: “Yeah, ‘Apocalypto.’ What about ‘Blood Diamond?’”
Man#2: “Maybe. But’s it’s, like, in Africa. Looks depressing and, like, it’s about Africa, so I don’t know. I don’t have any clue. So?”
Woman (Man #2′s wife or girlfriend; 30-ish short white woman with long brown hair and a ski headband, Rutgers University sweathood): “It got good reviews [Blood Diamond]. The other thing looks pretty violent. I think it [Blood Diamond] looks interesting.”
Man #1: “OK ‘Blood Diamond’ is pretty violent, too [laughing].”
Man#2: But yeah, it’s Africa, so who cares? Is it gonna blame people for buying diamonds [laughing]? I like DiCaprio’s stuff. If he wasn’t in it, and that girl [Jennifer Connelley]…sheesh remember what a hottie she was? I think she’s a good actress. If they weren’t in it I wouldn’t even think about it, OK?”
Woman: [giggling] Hottie? I think she’s like an activist or something now, right?”
Man#2: “Like Angelina Jolie, probably. That explains it [chuckles]. Let’s see ‘Apocalypto’ because it has more action and I can’t take the other stuff because that’s too violent [query: what's the difference between action and violence? answer: sobering reality]…[pause, shopping cart rolls, then...] She [Woman] likes ‘Deadwood’ and ‘The Wire’ and that has got some crazy stuff.”
Man #1: “Yeah, I’ve seen ‘Deadwood’ a couple of times, but I can’t get into ‘The Wire.’ It’s like [voice lowers], all these black people. I don’t even recognize the actors. I think Will Smith’s wife–Jada Pinkett–plays a crackwhore in it. She [?] says the dude from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ who started the fight is in it. But yeah, it’s like, too real. All these black guys and then there’s stuff about politics and that’s confusing if you don’t really follow it.”
Man #2: “You see these people on tv and I just surf to another show if the game is over. I think it’s a black show.”
Woman: “They call it [The Wire] the best show on tv. Um…it’s hard to get people to watch it ’cause it’s about real things but I think they [?] see unfamiliar things and just watch something else, ya know?”
Man #2: ” ‘Blood Diamond’ looks depressing. We need Will Ferrel during Christmas [chuckling].
I think another experiment would entail showing a trailer to HBO’s current movie special “Tsunami” to sets of viewers–one white, one black, and track who tunes in. The two principal characters are black Britons on Christmas vacation, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sophie Okonedo. The movie’s set in the wave’s aftermath; they are searching for their daughter, lost in the carnage that was once a posh Thai beach resort before the morning of December 26, 2004. I smell Emmys, but hey, middle America wants to see Emmit Smith dancing again, not people of color in a TV drama. And don’t get me started on Blood Diamond. Nobody saw Hotel Rwanda either. Maybe if Lindsay Lohan, or, to be fair, Beyonce, were in it, people would actually buy tickets to the film?
If this little slice of life doesn’t encapsulate and elucidate on the role of race and ignorance in the entertainment industry–and I include books–in our pop culture and our entrtainment tastes, then please school me otherwise with your comments.
I hereby certify that the conversation above did in fact occur and I have transcribed it to the best of my recollection. I merely pretended to browse the cabernets as the threesome wandered about, talking. I saw them later in the checkout line. I am not ascribing anything racist or similarly base to these people. They are a reflection of reality, in my opinion.