Content beyond the norm!
With the release of the new feature film 12 Years A Slave, a new conversation about the portrayal of African-Americans in media has gained some steam. Two well-known actors have already expressed their disdain for the lack of variety in the imagery of black people. The first was Nick Cannon who took to Twitter and stated, “If I see another d@mn slave movie…AARRRGGHHHH!!!!! I think they keep making them because they want to keep Black folks on edge! They don’t want us to get to comfortable! Yeah we know about Obama…But don’t forget about Toby!” Joe Morton, who now can be seen on ABC’s Scandal, said in a live interview on HuffPost Live that there are more stories in our history than just slavery.
Both men bring up valid points. There has not been a major motion picture about African royalty played by actors and actresses of African descent. Generally, “black films” are either historic slavery/civil rights period pieces, “ghetto” comedies, gang stories or romantic comedies with possible religious undertones.
Here are the problems concerning royal portrayals of blacks in film and television:
Movie Moguls: Some people would blame those who have positions of power in Hollywood with money (white executives), but they can no longer be the scapegoat. With 2014 on the horizon, there are people like Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry who not only produce narrative, but have creative control and distribution rights. Blacks with power and money in creative narrative are not giving African period pieces a single thought.
Financing: Period pieces starring any ethnicity cost more money than modern day productions. A film taking place in ancient Egypt would everything from costumes, sets built from scratch, high number of extras and potentially visual effects. Internet Movie Database reports that 2004’s epic film Troy starring Brad Pitt had an estimated budget of $175 million. The site is also reporting that the movie Hercules: The Legend Begins, which will be released in 2014, had a $70 million budget.
Since movies about African royalty played by thespians of African descent are an unproven commodity, a studio would have to go with a smaller film in scale to see if this is something people would want to see. The same would go for a television series as shows constantly scratch and claw for season renewals.
Religion vs. Historical Accuracy: For these types of movies and series to be produced regularly, it will require a lot of support from the African-American community. The best way to support this type of content is watch it in theatres and watch them through television stations. The problem will come from the African-American community and the religious views. The majority of blacks in the United States practice some version of Christianity. However, the majority of African ancestry, prior to colonization and slavery, was not Christian. And if this content were to be made, and made with as much historical and cultural accuracy as possible, then the content will be visually graphic and possibly eye-opening. There will be nudity, non-monogamous behavior, erotica, human and animal brutality and Pagan worship. These things will not appeal to hardcore religious people.
The black community may be divided and/or appalled if they decide to watch this content in droves. That fact would cause any production company to pause for fear of this potential sub-genre failing.
It is still possible that this type of content could be made if those with the production resources financed it and the black community as a whole supports it by spending their money to watch. All it takes to add this potential sub-genre is for a writer to pitch an idea and/or a production company to take a possibly wise financial risk.