Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom Movie Plays to Modest Success

by Latoya Peterson

Well, look at what slipped under the radar.

In the midst of the election run up, the results, and the waves of discussion about proposition 8, Logo launched a movie based on their popular (yet mysteriously canceled) series Noah’s Arc.

The New York Press’ Armond White has a thought provoking review on the significance of the movie, titled “MEET THE BLACK CARRIE BRADSHAW – LOGO’s Noah’s Arc makes the jump to the big screen—showing a completely different African-American experience”:

Noah’s Arc’s quartet of young black men counteracts the prevailing image of gayness as a young, rich, white male phenomenon. The title refers to Noah (Darryl Stephens), an L.A.-based aspiring screenwriter whose love and social life resist Hollywood storybook cliché. Noah may dress in couture like Carrie Bradshaw (he enters Jumping wearing a Russian toque, cape and calf-high boots) but his style is provocative; he flouts ideas about masculinity, blackness and class. If you accept Noah (his gentle, gazelle-like demeanor stresses effeminacy), his friends still test your tolerance: Chance (Doug Spearman) is a snooty, over-enunciating university professor; Alex (Rodney Chester) is a plus-sized drama queen who likes to cook when not dispensing counsel at a gay men’s health center; and Rickey (Christian Vincent) is incorrigibly promiscuous.

All these characters are dark-skinned except for Ricky, whose light (possibly Latino) complexion gives him social advantages—such as racially determined sex appeal, which he squanders in self-destructive ways. Yet Polk’s affection for these characters equals his determination to validate them. (The performances have gained substance; even a “voguing” sequence is in character.) Like ABC-TV’s 1977 production of Roots, Noah’s Arc acquaints viewers with aspects of African-American character and experience that are usually hidden or ignored. Noah and friends inhabit a parallel universe to the whites-only stereotypes of West Hollywood and Chelsea. When they discuss the image tyranny of pop figures Terrell Owens and Fitty Cent, they articulate stress all men feel. Ethicized pioneers always perform this breakthrough in the arts. Disrespect and discredit is the price they pay—whether it’s Noah’s Arc being screened like a B-movie, or Wong Kar Wai’s profound gay Asian love story in Happy Together being denied the acclaim given Brokeback Mountain. […]

Basic questions of human happiness have a different ring in this context than they did in Boys in the Band (1970) and Love! Valor! Compassion! (1999) because Polk and Brocka don’t take social privilege for granted. Their humor poses a radical re-take on mainstream virtues: Wade complains to his shocked bourgie mother, “It’d be easier telling you I was an axe murderer,” which connects to the campy defiance of Alex calling his African foster child “O.J., short for Ojomodupe.” Polk uses different (radical) examples of love, valor and compassion. That these marginalized men don’t acquiesce to the mainstream’s oppressive morality is confirmed in the measured vows Noah and Wade exchange. They seek an answer to male companionship that redefines love and sex. Describing “a fear and yearning beyond lust,” Noah breaks past the superficial blandishments typically used to attract, sell and distract gay audiences from their truest well-being.

Polk has more in mind than the LOGO idea of placating a potential market. Jumping the Broom exalts an underserved audience yet Polk’s discussion of the socio-economic connection of slavery and contemporary gay politics doesn’t patronize them.

The IMDB message boards report:

by thebigham69 (Sun Oct 26 2008 18:35:08)
Noah’s Arc had the second highest per screen theater average ($32,200) at the box office over the weekend.

It came in second to Angelina Jolie’s Changeling.

I think this bodes well for the movie. Hopefully, it will convince Logo to put the movie in more cities

The movie opened on five screens.

Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom is currently playing in nine cities.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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