Hollywood isn’t letting black people tell stories. And the proof of that is 12 Years a Slave with a black writer and a black director. Or the career of John Singleton, who has directed ten movies, but complains that Hollywood doesn’t let black people tell stories.
John Singleton criticized the major studios March 19 for refusing to let African-Americans direct black-themed films. “They ain’t letting the black people tell the stories,” the Oscar-nominated director-writer told students at Loyola Marymount University.
“[Studio executives say] ‘We’re going to take your stories but, you know what? You’re going to go starve over here and we’re not going to let you get a job.’ The so-called liberals that are in Hollywood now are not as good as their parents or ancestors. They feel that they’re not racist. They grew up with hip-hop, so [they] can’t be racist. ‘I like Jay Z, but that don’t mean I got to give you a job.’”
He added: “They want black people [to be] what they want them to be. And nobody is man enough to go and say that. They want black people to be who they want them to be, as opposed to what they are.”
So if they’re not giving Singleton, specifically, a job, they’re not letting all black people tell stories?
Singleton got his debut with Boyz n the Hood, a movie that he wrote and directed. He went on to do movies like Poetic Justice and Higher Learning that few people saw or cared about. He still got to write and direct Shaft, which did pretty well, and Baby Boy, which didn’t.
Before that he did Rosewood, which was Django before its time. Then he did Baby Boy, a politically incorrect depiction of black male perpetual childhood. He also produced Craig Brewer’s toxic racial fetishization in Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan.
Aside from that he directed one of the Fast and Furious movies and a few other forgettable pictures while working on his Tupac biopic.
It’s not exactly starving in a corner.
“The clear awards frontrunner 12 Years a Slave never could have been made by a major Hollywood film studio.,” Singleton writes in his editorial.
12 Years a Slave was backed by Brad Pitt’s Plan B and financed by Arnon Milchan’s New Regency. Milchan is a huge Hollywood producer and Regency is closely tied to FOX. Paramount was actually angry at not being allowed to finance and distribute the movie.
The obvious problem for Singleton is that his legacy is aging fast and he hasn’t done anything that anyone cares about in a long while. Hollywood is ageist and Singleton is headed for 50. That’s his personal career problem, not Hollywood’s.
Singleton was associated with a style of ‘street’ movies that is very much 90s. He’s still trying to make a Tupac biopic which sums up what’s wrong with his career. America and Black America have moved on.
The black movies that do well are different. They depict a black middle class or a black family. Directors like Tyler Perry and Steve McQueen have found success in Hollywood by representing a different perspective. Historical fictions like The Help, The Butler or 12 Years a Slave have also done well. Singleton is just out of phase with what black viewers want.