I wanted to share my thoughts on a topic that has been on my mind for the past year. I know, year? Yes, YEAR.
In this post, you see a LIFE Magazine cover of three of the greatest to ever grace the big screen: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Sammy Davis Jr. I’ve seen films by all three of these men and I have nothing but respect for the artistry/God-given talent that they possessed. The fact that they are black entertainers who succeeded in a time during immense racism just makes my admiration for them even more prevalent. However, these black entertainers, along with the Dorothy Dandridges, Eartha Kitts, Dianne Carrolls, Ossie Davises, and Ruby Dees that I admired, are rare and even more rare in today’s entertainment medium. The majority of black media (today, unfortunately) has left me unimpressed and uninterested. I’m not saying that it’s the black entertainers’ fault because the industry has been unimpressive all across the board. But I would like to see more depth and challenge behind the minority based content that’s shown on television/film.
I was born in 1987, so I grew up in a time when the black sitcom/film era was in full swing. Family Matters, A Different World, The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Coming To America, Soulfood, The Wood, and Love Jones are just a few of my favorites that can never be duplicated, but I’m unsure if classics such as these can even be made again. Which is sad, because there are a lot of talented filmmakers and entertainers of color who can create record-breaking projects, but the medium seems to be so transparently different from what it used to be.
Substance based entertainment seems more like an afterthought in today’s society rather than the driving force behind the industry. From the outside looking in, it’s very easy to see that money is the motivation, and whatever makes money is what the viewers are going to see. That’s the reason why I’ve lost (well, have since lost) respect for the industry as a whole—substance replaced with instant gratification.
I’ve seen the debates and have read the articles about the damages of Reality TV, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but that along with this obsession with celebrity gossip, social media personalities, and other trivial matters have played a part in the demise of the ART that is entertainment. Being a graduate of Full Sail University (MS in Entertainment Business; ironic), helps me see the industry with a different lens that most people wouldn’t, but at the end of the day I’m still a kid at heart who likes to visually live vicariously through characters and stories that are different from my own. That’s what the industry used to help me do, but things have changed.
I’m not going to spend my days throwing stones at who I think it is to blame for this. Instead, I’ll just continue to ignore the foolery—which happens to be mainstream media—and start supporting the independent projects even more. Media is a powerful tool, and if used the right way it could actually help make our society better. Maybe that should be the driving force behind the industry instead of money.