You Don’t Want to Support “Red Tails?” Grow Up.

By Nick Chiles

Let’s call it the Black Solidarity Backlash. In response to a wave of community exhortation and pleading for African Americans to go out and support the movie “Red Tails” on its first weekend, I’ve detected an undercurrent of resistance. On websites, blogs, comment sections, some black people are proudly proclaiming that they won’t go see it because they don’t think the movie looks very good and they won’t be guilted into supporting it. One popular blogger even said he has no particular need to see black faces on the big screen.

To these dissenting voices, I plead: could you please keep your ignorance to yourself? The rest of us are still fighting against oppression and hatred in a world where calling Barack Obama the “food stamp president” barely raises an eyebrow. The movie made $19 million its first weekend—numbers that definitely got Hollywood’s attention. I guess I should be happy that the community responded. So far. But something about this backlash bothers me. And I want to talk about it.

There is nothing quite as blissfully ignorant as the arrogance of youth. Or nothing as infuriatingly selfish. To be a smart, educated black twenty-something in 2012 apparently means that you can ignore history, turn your back on consequences, give a finger to solidarity. After all, you went to college. You can dissect the intricacies of fine cinema. You are too brilliant to be bothered with some feel-good Negro foolishness.

There was a time when being twenty-something and black meant being angry, militant, always down for the cause. It meant forcing the world to hear us, to take notice. When I was a twenty-something, we couldn’t wait for the next offering by Spike Lee or John Singleton so that we could run to the theater and show our support. We understood the power of numbers. If Hollywood only cared about the bottom line, we wanted to make sure we beat the hell out of the bottom line. Of course, this was only a couple of decades from the days when the sight of a black person on TV would prompt folks to run up and down the street in the black community, yelling out, “Colored on TV!”

I’m 46. In the mind of a twenty-something, I’m old (mind you, not too old to whup a twenty-something’s ass if I have to), I’m corny, I’m out of touch. I get that. I can still remember my youthful arrogance, my feelings about those old folks trying to harken back to the good old days.

But young doesn’t necessarily mean smart. If you decide you’re not going to see a movie precisely because many people are telling you that you should, you know what that makes you? An immature child. A five-year-old.

So let me put this in language these young folks might be able to understand: Hollywood is disrespecting you. Hollywood thinks you’re stupid. Hollywood knows that you will not go to see anything that contains positive black images. So Hollywood doesn’t care to make anything that contains positive black images. You say that you don’t feel compelled to see some mediocre black flick with mediocre writing, less-than-impressive acting, laughable special effects? Well, guess what? If you turn up your nose at movies like “Red Tails” or “Jumping the Broom”—my wife and I heard similar comments about that movie from the twenty-somethings around us—you’re never going to get high-level black flicks with top actors, scintillating writing and impressive effects. Those movies won’t get made because Hollywood will think you won’t show up.  It’s a simple proposition. Going to see a movie like “Red Tails” means that, for once, you have to step out of yourself and think about somebody else. Think about the future of your community. Think about that ten-year-old black child who wants to one day make Hollywood movies.

I don’t know, maybe you have to have kids before you start thinking and caring about things like that. Or maybe you just have to be equipped to act like a grown-up.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Hear, hear. Thank you for saying what I’m feeling.

    • I so disagree with this estimation of youthful defiance toward the establishment. I’ve read some very compelling arguments in regard to not going to see Red Tails on the Big Screen. One being that there are good indie flicks with multi-faceted, three dimensional Black characters written, directed, produced and promoted by Blacks that are released each year which don’t receive the support from “The black community”. To pigeon hole folks, young or old, as selfish and childish is not only shortsighted but also a bit demeaning and immature as well.

      • Thank You. I agree. Who but the Black community in America tries to guilt people into seeing a movie with an all black cast just because it’s a black movie?I think the folks trying to push someone else’s agenda are the ones’s that need to grow up.

      • Indie films don’t get shown in most theaters around America and they don’t get much advertising because the budget is too small. If Hollywood saw Black films as economically viable they would seek out more indie films with better storylines, directors, and actors to turn into Blockbusters to be shown nation wide. Until then I will never see an indie film (no matter how badly I would like to) because I don’t have that luxury in the place I live. I support ALL black films that come here just so the theaters here will continue to ask for them. If not they would pass on a Black film in a minute and show another lame movie on 5 different screens.

  2. (from facebook):
    The numbers could have been better but bear in mind the “real” Hollywood demo, white males 18-30 and their friends , was already out supporting Underworld or Marky Mark’s latest. This left a possible spillover from some older demos but they either sat it out b/c it was, still, a “black” of they were looking at their usual Sundance-like fare. I think it’s unfair to blame this on young and.or college educated black folks; Pookie on the corner still has the actual numbers of bodies on his side, and he’s not going to spend $11 on a movie ticket, especially if it’s not some ghetto comedy or melodrama.

  3. FABULOUS & PITHY! Thank you. I so appreciate what the younger ones are doing and their critiques — as they ARE the generation of CGI, geekdom, nerd girls and boys; they know a vast amount re: technique and technology; they know production quality when they see it — I also appreciate the contextualization required for ALL of this. In fact? What made me MOST sad about some of the reviews was the declaration that one or two made that they are “through with The Struggle,” that they shall boycott/avoid “all Black everything” (wow: look at how quickly THAT has been trashed!), and they are “tired.” That FLOORS me. A lightning-quick trip through the tiniest bit of recent history — e.g., check out “Freedom Riders;” glimpse and episode or two of “Eyes on the Prize” — should cure that illness, yes? But, their inability to soldier the micro-aggressions of these times is telling.

  4. So I have to sit through a crapfest like Jumpin’ the Broom in order for quality Black movies to be made? No thanks. I ran to Spike Lee and John Singleton movies because they were, first and foremost, entertaining. Bottom line: People don’t like to be “guilted” into doing anything, including seeing a movie.

    • Exactly.. No one responds to negative marketing. And they already made a movie about this. I’m supposed to run and go see it because George (I stole the Starwars theme from a Japanese comic book character) Lucas made it.. Folks need to wake up.

      • Ok,
        So are you saying you are not going to see this movie because they “already made a movie about this”? And you are telling everyone else to ‘grow up’. Oh please!

  5. agreed i was orginally upset by the concerns shared but really we should overlook personal issues for the greater good.

  6. I saw RED TAILS, and though I’m glad to have supported, it was a really bad movie, and so that leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I love seeing so many black actors working, and telling such an important story. But the cons of the film were: the script, the CGI dog fights, Ne-Yo’s accent, Terence Howard, the editing, the usually perfect Terence Blanchard’s overdone music score, the sloppy opening credits, the dialogue…..I could go on and on. I won’t exactly say I’m sorry I saw it, but I do feel manipulated. Already knowing the history of the Tuskeegee Airmen, this movie left me with more questions. Why would George Lucas employ a very talented comic strip writer (Boondocks Aaron McGruder) to write a World War 2 screenplay? Why was there not even a photo of a family member or sweetheart from back home that was black? Why were the characters so 2 dimensional? Why was the dialogue so bad and the storyline so predictable? I feel sad because the Tuskeegee Airmen deserved better: To have their story told AND for it to be excellent. It’s not enough to just be grateful to see black faces; we need to raise the bar in quality and expectations. I understand that Anthony Hemingway (the black director) is a fine television director, but this was his first film. Why not Charles Stone, who showed he can handle a large budget and great story with “Drumline”? Apparently George Lucas also oversaw the direction, and though Star Wars was a smashing success, even rabid Star Wars fans will tell you that he sucked in terms of his direction and cheesiness. These Tuskeegee Airmen deserved better! The basis of them doing what they had to do to become heroes was founded in their relationships–their relationships to each other, to their school, to their black community, and to their country. None of this was believably portrayed in this movie. You want to see real relationships of black men at war, rent Soldier’s Story.

    • I agree that the Tuskeegee Airmen deserved better, but without Hollywood backing the movie in the first place George Lucas had to what he had to do to get the movie in theaters. Maybe after this we can afford better efforts. If we can’t prove that we even care enough to see SOME effort, how can we expect Hollywood to gamble on Black audiences when the opportunity rolls around again?

  7. Thank You! This article finally conveys what I’ve been thinking about the whole “Boycott Redtails” for various stupid, and selfish reasons. My son deserves better options and he deserves to see positive Black roles on the BIG screen. Indie films do not make it to rual areas. So, saying that such and such indie film is better and deserves our support more is pointless, especially to those who live in a city where we have to personally request pretty much ANY black media, let alone something that get’s shown at only a few places anyway. Black Blockbusters NEED to be supported so that we can move forward. Period.

  8. From most of the comments I’ve been seeing, people were boycotting the movie because there were no black women in it at all.They also said tahe story was not actually based on facts. I personally agree that we should support black films when they’re released. We need more diverse films and our actors and actresses need more roles that can show their diversity, but if someone doesn’t want to see it – fine by them. It’s their money, and despite what popular belief says- they don’t HAVE to do anything that tey don’t want to. . It’s not a written rule somewhere that says rush the theatres for black movies just because they are black movies. I actually think that’s how Hollywood worked to get this movie to these big numbers. Kind of like reverse psychology. I haven’t seen the movie (yet) but I’m planning on doing so this week.

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