George Lucas struggled for 23 years to make the movie “Red Tails.” The film is inspired by the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators to see combat, during World War II. The film is patriotic, inspirational, and action-packed. It stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.Why? Because it features an all-black cast. Black protagonists. Black supporting cast. White people are peripheral to the story.
And Hollywood won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
It’s not a story about the plight of African Americans and how a noble white person entered their world and saved the day. (See “The Blind Side,” “The Help,” etc.) It’s an old-fashioned, American-flag-waving war movie. The heroes just happen to be black.
Here’s a trailer for “Red Tails”:
When Lucas couldn’t find a Hollywood studio willing to foot the bill for the production of the movie, he decided to finance it himself. Once he had a finished product in hand, he went back to the studios to seek financing for marketing and distribution. Still, not one studio was interested. “We don’t know how to market this movie,” they said. So Lucas put up his own money again.
Now George Lucas’ movie-making style is not known for subtlety. I haven’t seen “Red Tails” yet, but I’m not anticipating Oscar-worthy dialog or nuanced story-telling.
I do, however, want to support this movie (and I want you to support it too!) for several reasons:
- Lucas said he wanted “to make [a movie] that was inspirational to teenage boys.” For this mom of two pre-teen boys, I love him for that!
- Hollywood creates precious few portrayals of heroic, young black men. Americans of all races would benefit from watching African American males on screen who aren’t thugs, crass sidekicks, misogynistic hip-hop artists, or magic Negros.
- I hope Lucas makes a boatload of money from the movie. I appreciate the emotional, professional, and social investment he has made, and I want it to pay off.
- I want to honor the Tuskegee Airmen.
- Just to tick Hollywood off. I understand: the movie-making industry is a business first and foremost. Studios need to make money. But to not take a risk on this story, when every year they choose to invest in dreck like “Take Me Home Tonight” or “Bucky Larson: Born To Be a Star” instead, is unconscionable.
- It looks like a great popcorn movie.
How can you support the movie “Red Tails?”
- The movie opens this Friday, January 20. Go see it this weekend (on Friday if possible). Hollywood places a great value on “opening weekend box office receipts.” Take your friends and your older kids. (The movie is rated PG-13, “for some sequences of war violence.”)
- Tell everyone you know about the movie! Tweet about it, post about it, email about it, text about it.
- If you do see the movie and like it, give it a favorable rating on a popular site like Rotten Tomatoes.
To find out a little bit more about this movie, watch this Jon Stewart interview with George Lucas.