This year was supposed to be the year of great movie releases. Movie lovers looked forward to blockbusters like Wonder Woman 1984 and Disney’s Mulan as well as dozens of other titles. Only a few made it to theaters before widespread shutdowns, and even fewer found success with online releases and pay-per-view.
Jordan Peele’s Antebellum was one of many movies to make a highly anticipated pay-per-view debut in the last few months. Peele won one Academy Award and a Golden Globe, so Antebellum has been the subject of much speculation since the first trailer was released last year. While I won’t be watching it for several reasons, including its objectional content, my main reason for avoiding it is the premise. Antebellum is one of three high profile films about slavery to be released in the past year alone. I’m sick of them and ready to see something new: media with positive representation. Movies with Black leads and casts that tell new stories instead of wearing out a painful history.
It feels like every other year there is a new “inspirational” civil rights movie or yet another docudrama about slavery. Enough is enough. These movies endlessly relive the horrors of the past in unflinching, gruesome detail. Many of them have caused controversy and face widespread criticism for gratuitous violence and unnecessary focus on the traumas of slavery. They fail to tell anyone anything new, yet continue to be in popular demand.
I am not alone in my opinion that it’s past time for producers to look for something new. In a recent interview, Chadwick Boseman’s agent recalled the actor turning down a starring role in a slavery-era movie saying that he did not want to perpetuate slavery and stereotypes.
Of the 12 movies featuring Black leads that have been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, six are about the slavery or the civil rights eras. And while they are a very real part of history, it’s time to turn our focus on to other stories and other genres.
In fact, of the 12 Black-led films nominated for Best Picture, over half of them follow a struggle for freedom and human rights.
Black Panther was a sharp contrast to these worn-out themes, and I think that was part of why it did so extraordinarily well. Black Panther didn’t show people the same old painful footage and figures. It wowed with characters and a world new to the big screen instead of rehashing a depressing history. Black Panther isn’t the only success story. Movies don’t need to be big-budget or big-name to do well. Even small studio Christian films such as Overcomer and War Room, both of which feature Black leads, were well received. War Room by the Kendrick brothers was an unprecedented box office success to the tune of $78 million, making it one of the highest-grossing Christian films. These and other successful movies show that there is a market for movies with Black leads set after 1968 that aren’t about stereotypes and struggles. So going forward, let’s focus on movies like those.