Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why The Black Man Dies


So I write: "CHRONICLE continues to prove the average lifespan of a black man in a genre film is about 30 minutes." And then Twitter gets angry for this spoiler, which wouldn't be a spoiler if that high school had more than one black guy in it.

So, yeah, if you haven't seen CHRONICLE...spoilers ahead. Fuck off.

But let’s be clear.

Who are these people who think a black man dying in a genre film is actually a spoiler anyway? Oh yeah…white people.

Because the rest of us who are not white immediately see that black guy step on a plane full of white people in THE GREY and go…he’s fucked. Yeah, spoiler, duh, shut up. And sure, everyone basically dies in that movie, but the one person we definitely knew was toast from the beginning was the black guy.

Except for the white audience. Who were sitting in their seats going, “I hope Jesus spares the black guy.” Then he freezes to death. A tear is shed, a latte is sipped.

What does this mean?

It means there’s the way white people view movies, and then there’s everyone else.

White people take it for granted that the average white guy’s life span in a movie is two hours. White people see every movie and get shocked when the minority gets killed in the eternal struggle of the survival of the white movie star. The rest of us watch the ethnic supporting cast get assembled and subconsciously prepare ourselves for a bloodbath. White people in return think we’re exaggerating and overreacting. That’s because lots of caucasians simply have no conception what this is like when there is literally a different cinematic universe that conspires to kill you whenever it gets bored of you.

This universe stems from the fact that aside from a few outliers, the vast majority of Hollywood movies are fronted by white movie stars, and by extention of that, these are white worlds. When people of color enter the picture, they may increasingly have more prominent supporting roles and indeed incredible Oscar worthy supporting roles, but they are not the main character. This is The Morgan Freeman Effect.


Thus, genre pictures that deal in life or death are particularly unkind to minorities. People must die in these movies, and the resulting survival list is a sociological study of race relations. The lead character generally survives, followed sometimes by his or her love interest. Since the main actor is white, the surviving love interest is 99% of the time white as well. Occasionally a hot Chinese import gets to be the love interest, but her accent is so terrible she’s packed back into a shipping container after the movie bombs.

That leaves the supporting cast where the rest of the races get stuffed into. If you’re going to shoot a gun at the cast, but pull out your two white leads, chances are you’re gonna kill a minority. Or Richard Brake.


Which brings me back to CHRONICLE. This film is a case study in the mechanics of why the black guy dies.

The film advertises itself in the trailer with three young unknown highschool kids discovering they have superpowers and getting into general mischief. I often confuse this teen found footage trailer with another teen found footage trailer, PROJECT X, except CHRONICLE actually looks like it has a black guy in it and the other one has a white guy who kind of looks black - Jimmy Kimmel. Anyway, the CHRONICLE black guy actually makes a black guy joke by stealing a car and saying “This time the black guy really did it.”

So now the Rest of Us™ know there is a black guy in this fucking movie, and his superpower is the ability to steal cars and joke about how people accusing him of stealing cars is racist. Ironically, minorities actually love stealing cars, so we flock to see this movie.

What the trailer then ultimately promises is that the nerdy white dude is going to go bad and shit will happen. Obviously, the other two superpowered teens must fight him and some dying will happen. The trick is the third teen is a good looking muscular white dude whose superpower is infinite movie exposition. So much time is spent on this guy singing Jessie J songs in his car the movie could be called The Chronicle of White Guy Sings Jessie J Songs: What Fucking White Guy Sings Jessie J Songs?

There is simply no way a white guy with this much post modern masculinity is going to die. It’s like killing Seth Meyers during Weekend Update. Which leaves our noble black guy to die and supply Seth Meyers with his Morgan Freeman Effect. It doesn’t matter that our black guy is a good looking, popular jock who unoffensively dates the only black girl in the pacific northwest. The filmmakers only wrote three characters, so by simple deduction, he’s Tupac in a sweater combo.


I truly believe that the moment he dies comes as a shock to the white audience. Having apparently no memory of every movie they’ve ever seen, this casualty of search for the next white action hero is just another gospel funeral lesson. How many more blacks, asians, hispanics, arabs, and talking animals must die to advance the careers of Chris Hemsworth, Garrett Hedlund, Channing Tatum, Taylor Kitsch? I admire the selflessness of minorities in these movies because it’s obvious if you’re buddies with one of these muscular white dudes, you’re gonna corpse up real fast.

In the final analysis, why does the black guy die? The final answer is this: he’s not the lead. He’s just a supporting character. And in the cinematic chasm that seperates the perspective of white people and everyone else, this is why it’s a spoiler to the former and a given to the latter.

Hollywood is a giant ship. The black guy dies because after the Titanic sank, there was only room for one person on that piece of wood.

And that person was Leonardo DiCaprio.