Quoted: Stacia Brown on “Black Film Fatigue”


In The American Prospect, writer Stacia Brown explores the seven stages black moviegoers confront when faced with the latest “important” black film.

The stages are doubt, guilt, self-preservation, annoyance, anger, vulnerability, and acceptance.

You may have never heard these stages named, but you’ve likely experienced most of them. And if you’re one of the fortunate few who’ve escaped the cycle, it’s safe to presume you’ve seen someone else struggle through it on social media. For some, the cycle starts as soon as a new black film, chronicling an important issue or public figure, is announced. It persists through marketing, early reviews, and opening weekend, as we wonder what effects the film will have on us. We may predict, with doubt, annoyance and anger, “This writer or director is not going to do this story justice.” We might declare, with some vulnerability, “I’ll have to mentally prepare myself to watch this.” Or we may opt out of a viewing altogether, with the self-preservation explanation, “My heart just can’t take seeing this.” Box-office numbers tell part of the story; the better attended an Important Black Film, the more of us have reached the acceptance stage.

For the black filmgoer, movies set during slavery or the civil-rights movement, as well as biopics which take place in contemporary, racially-charged America, are not mere entertainment or popcorn fare. Films like 12 Years A Slave, Fruitvale Station, Django Unchained, and The Butler hold particular emotional resonance. They re-enact (or subvert) sorrow with which we have some experience, sorrow that has worked its way through our lineage in the form of oral history.

This is why we deliberate before attending Important Black Films. It’s also why so many are marketed to us as moral obligations. We’re told we must support these films because they advance the narrative of our people in this country, each ostensibly offering one more chance to flesh out details that have been willfully overlooked in history books or minimized in favor advancing a post-racial objective. Read more…

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  • Michelle Kirkwood

    I don’t ever get tired of black films—I only get tired when there seems to be only a certain type of film about black folks pushed out there—like Tyler Perry films,for example. More importantly, there’s a difference bwt films made by black people about certain issues pertaining to us, and films made about us by non-white people—-in films made by black folks, the characters come off more as fully rounded characters, with all the little cultural signifiers that go along with acknowledging the uniqueness of African-American culture. Plus, it’s not as Hollywood is making film about black folks every week—hel,they only seem to make them every couple of months.

  • Michelle Kirkwood

    12 YEARS A SLAVE is actually an independent American/British production. Hollywood hasn’t made a film about slavery since AMISTAD (which,interestingly enough, was Chiwetel Ejiofor’s film debut) and that’s been nearly 17 years ago. And it’s not as if Hollywood even make aparheid & Jim Crow movie as much as they used to,anyway.

    • Delevan

      You are incorrect it’s a Hollywood-backed movie.

  • justlikeoldtimes

    Sadly, I still want a film or mini-series made about the Haitian Revolution.

    Besides that, I’m all for Hollywood taking a break from slavery, Apartheid, and Jim Crow-era “race” films, even if they are well made and avoid typical “pander to white guilt” tropes.

    Shame some comments there are contorting his point into a condemnation of all identity politics.