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Why I won't recommend ‘Red Tails’

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D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat. Her column is published here each Tuesday. Opinions expressed are solely her own.

Spoiler Alert: Details of the film are discussed in this column. Read it at your own risk!

I finally went to see the movie “Red Tails” over the weekend and was disappointed. While I don't object to interracial dating or marriage, I am baffled by the producer’s decision that the only love interest, in a totally black cast, would be between the most successful and valiant airman and a white Italian woman.

The much-talked-about, action-packed movie depicts the military successes of the 332nd Fighter Group, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The movie follows the group of young African American pilots as they overcome discrimination and bigotry to prove themselves invaluable and fearless during WWII.

I, like many others, was lured to the movie out of respect for the story of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen and because of the calls from Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey and other voices in our community saying that we must support this movie.

“Red Tails” was produced by George Lucas, largely with his own money, after being rejected by other Hollywood studios who feared that an all-black cast would lose them money at the box office. So I went, with my husband and daughter, to show my support for the movie and to do my part in sending a message to Hollywood that such a movie could be financially lucrative

I feel like I was duped.

I am tremendously disappointed that the ONLY love interest in the entire movie was between the most elite and heroic black pilot and an Italian woman. My husband and daughter were likewise appalled.

It was disappointing to see our men depicted as having passions only for military success, combat and a white woman, when in truth they surely yearned for those they loved back home — and would have been lynched for even looking at a white woman during those times.

I feel insulted that black women, so often the wind beneath the wings of our men, were ignored in the making of this film and that the only example of male-to-female love, involving our heroic men, was with a woman of a different race and color.

Did anyone question how black female viewers would feel about paying for a movie that not only totally failed to include them but that effectively replaced them, in the hearts of our black heroes, with a foreign white woman?

Some would argue that the story was based in Italy and so the absence of black women is justified. I completely disagree and can see any number of ways that black women and black love could have been portrayed in the making of this film.

Where were the pictures, the memories or the flashbacks of the black wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters and sisters these men left behind? Did any of the Airmen receive letters from home? Did any of them dream about their wives and lovers? "No," according to George Lucas. It was as if the men were aliens who suddenly appeared as fantastic pilots without any ties or allegiance to their home life or their women.

It is hard to witness the phenomenon of many successful black men, who these days seem more and more willing to reach across racial lines to white women and women of other races, taking with them the love, power and wealth that could and seemingly should be sewn back into the fabric of our own communities. It is even harder to have it pictured and subliminally suggested that those are the only relationships that matter — that relationships between black men and black women aren't even worthy of mention.

I cried at the end of “Red Tails.” To see our heroic men finally receiving the accolades due them was very touching. But I was unable to mourn the death of the best fighter pilot because I was still angry that his interracial love story was portrayed by the film’s producer as the only love story worth telling.

So I am unable to celebrate the movie. I won’t buy the DVD nor will I recommend it to my family and friends. I will not take my grandson to see it.

For me, seeing “Red Tails” was like being invited to a gourmet meal — without beverages. The meat of it was really good. But I almost choked trying to swallow it.

And the only tip I will leave is this: If you are going to make a movie about black people and you want my dollar, you had better not ignore our beautiful black women nor our glorious black love.

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September 2, 2015
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