a rare occurrence when the plebeian reflections
of white superiority converge in the public
arena. Interestingly, and regrettably
they have in two recent Hollywood films
– "Million Dollar Baby" and the
"Cinderella Man". In both
movies the filmmakers attempt, yet again,
to revive the myth of the inherent goodness
and nobility of the average white guy;
one who confronts the collective evils
of the world and rights its wrongs, against
all odds and in spite of government constraints
or public conventions.
our first film, we have a product of Clint
Eastwood, the cherished, impervious former
Army Ranger who epitomizes the American
hero. The "take the law into your
own hands" vigilante was the first in
American fantasy lore to extol this concept
in film and as a result became a millionaire
many times over (and predictably, a brief
stint as a politician).
recall Clint lecturing Negroes at the
NAACP Image Awards when he received some
type of commendation for his film, "Bird".
He reminded us that there should
be opportunity for everyone to participate
in the Hollywood dream, as long, of course,
as you don't prevent someone else from
participating. Translation: who
needs affirmative action? This
is perhaps the first tenet of the average
white guy's American philosophy: know
nothing and respect nothing of anyone
else's history, especially that of African
latest take on this American life is a
predictable yarn about a fictional white,
female boxer (warrior). Terribly
overrated, the movie meshes two of Clint's
treasured interests – boxing and
film. In many ways the film epitomizes
what is wrong with Hollywood, in particular
its treatment of people of color.
of all, the two protagonists are white,
as are 99% of those who appear in feature
Hollywood films. The colored folk
are stereotypical: Morgan Freeman, Eastwood's
sideman is the quintessential house negro,
continuing the American film industry's
parade of black, lifeless alter-egos,
from Hattie McDaniel to Eddie "Rochester"
Anderson. Their own existence of
no consequence, their only importance
in the film is to serve as a sounding
board for the main character, in this
case, Eastwood. The other colored
characters are even less favorable: Eastwood's
best boxer who appears in the beginning
of the movie (a brother), has little or
no honor, and leaves Clint for a more
lucrative contract; another promising
young black boxer at the gym is an arrogant,
ignorant jerk with no manners or respect.
Finally, the Latino woman who fights
Eastwood's female contender is little
more than a vicious animal, whose illegal
punch causes Hilary Swank (Eastwood's
co-star) to suffer paralysis and a life
confined to a bed or wheelchair.
won't dwell on the specific scenes of
the movie, too many of us have seen it
anyway, but it comes off as typical Eastwood.
Anti-hero, dark and brooding, upset
over God knows what. All that is
important is his way, the way of the individual
- the vicissitudes of life and society,
the needs of the community, the struggles
of the masses – be damned.
It's about my life, my reality –
the individual white, Anglo-Saxon, American
male reality. Eastwood delivers,
and we swallow, another incredulous tale
of Joe America, a regular guy.
Despite dubious character flaws and imperfections
(thuggishness in Mystic River ,
sadistic cruelty in Unforgiven ,
disloyalty/unfaithfulness in The Bridges
of Madison County )
Mr. America reconciles and triumphs over
daunting universal questions, and sets
worship comes in a slightly different
form in the other bombastic Hollywood
opus, "Cinderella Man". Again,
the white male superhero is cast in the
role of sportsman, and again, as a boxer.
This time we retreat back seventy
years to a more "honest" time during the
great depression; a time when the "greatest
generation" was just coming of age and
every man knew his place – especially
if he was black. The film is, according
to its own hype, "the quintessentially
American story of a man who was not so
much a great boxer as a great man who
boxed his way out of darkness and defeat
and into the stuff of immortality."
story is about former heavyweight champion
J.J. Braddock, played by another self-consumed
actor, Russell Crowe. (I have to
concede I couldn't bring myself to go
see the flick. I can't take much Crowe
these days.) Braddock, according to the
movie promos, helped lift the nation out
of the financial doldrums during the '30s.
He saves America by beating then
heavyweight champ Max Baer, a feat none
thought possible. This type of
story is just what former Andy Griffith
star Little Opie (Ron Howard) was looking
for: "Cinderella Man is a true American
story about what it's like to cope in
the moment, facing life's daily hardships,
and to continue to passionately strive
toward a goal-even a simple one like putting
food on the table-no matter what the outcome
turns out to be. It's that kind of story,
that kind of cinematic journey that has
always intrigued me as a filmmaker."
of this is prime rib for Joe America.
And, as you would expect, that
frighteningly ignorant soul of Joe America,
today's sports talk show hosts, just can't
handle the excitement of yet another great
white hope on the scene.
One "great American" sportswriter,
Ian O'Connor, of Fox Sports.com, lamented
in a story on June 7 th , "Boxing in Desperate
Need of Another Braddock". The
article is too convoluted and ridiculous
to seriously consider, but the implication
is quite clear: boxing needs a white champion.
can bet Little Opie nor Ian O'Connor will
not recommend a sequel to Cinderella
not one that describes Braddock's years
of ducking fights with Joe Louis.
Prior to finally accepting a fight with
the Brown Bomber, Braddock demanded a
deal that pledged 10% of Louis' earnings
to himself. It's unlikely you will
see that film, or any other about the
legendary, incredible black pugilists,
e.g., Henry Armstrong, Joe Louis, Sugar
Ray Robinson, Jersey Joe Walcott or Archie
Moore. With Ali and Jack Johnson,
Hollywood has filled its quota for the
next few decades. Can't prevent
white folks from their heroes, can we?