I've lived in Mississippi for almost 40 years. Does racism still exist? Yes. Do the aforementioned movies represent life in Mississippi before 1970? Yes. I'm not denying that it happened and that it should some how be swept under the rug.
I'm just saying can we be about something other than racism for a change?
Hollywood provides a look into different cultures across the world, but how can non-Mississippians that are watching know when a view is skewed? I've met people who visited Jackson for the first time and expected dirt roads, drinking wells and cotton fields. At first, I thought they were just stupid, but over time, I begin to realize that they had no other reason to think differently. They're only expecting what they see on TV. They're looking for a bunch of racist, slow-talking, sweaty, country people a la "In The Heat of the Night" (which actually wasn't shot in Mississippi).
Even when a movie didn't involve white people, it still involved race. An example is "Mississippi Masala." This movie was shot less than 10 miles from my college. In fact, me and my friends stood in line hoping for a chance to be an extra in the movie, but never got selected. We did have a classmate get picked, but he was too high to even remember shooting his part. Seriously. He had a scene dancing near a bonfire and he was high out of his mind.
But, I digress. This movie was about a black man who fell in love with an Indian woman and neither of their families were down with it. Even as a 21-year old, I thought to myself, "Dag, does anyone like black people?"
|This movie was shot a few miles from my college.|
I kid you not. These movies even had an affect on me as a black man. I think back to my teen years and my days in high school and college. I had plenty of opportunities to date outside of my race, but I passed each and every time. Was it because I truly preferred black women or was it embedded in my subconscious that if I stepped outside the race that I'd wind up having a future movie based on my run-in with another race?
Wait. I did go out with a curvy Latina from Ole Miss a few times :). Speaking of Ole Miss (Univ. of Mississippi), they suffer from the stereotypes, too. Because their mascot is the Rebel and they have Rebel flags waving all over the place during their games, some black kids refuse to go to school there. Could it be because their parents have flashbacks of the Rebel flags in these movies and they think Mississippi is still living in the '50's? It's possible. A lot of people want Ole Miss to do away with the team name and the flags. That's a blog post for another day.
Well, before this movie, "The Help" comes out in a theater near you, let me make this public service announcement on behalf of all Mississippians:
"Here in the Hospitality State, we have our faults. We have a lot of improvements to make in order to better our education system and job industry. Our past has been spotty, but don't think for one second that bigotry spawned here. Blatant racism was once rampant across the nation, not just in one state."
There are a lot of good things about Mississippi we can focus on when it comes to the media's exposure of us: We have arguably the three greatest football players of all-time in Brett Favre, Walter Payton and Jerry Rice. We have talk show greats like Oprah Winfrey and Robin Roberts. Well-known singers like Jimmy Buffett and Faith Hill (who went to middle school with me) were born and raised here. Great authors like Eudora Welty and William Faulkner were rooted here. Entrepreneurs like Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx or Robert Pittman who founded MTV are both Mississippians. Even people I could care less about like Ray J and Britney Spears grew up here.
So, let's get away from making a movie about races hating on black people in Mississippi. Try to recognize my state for the positive things that it currently has to offer:
Like your favorite blogger! :)
|That's my brother in the tie. He was an extra in "A Time to Kill."|
* UPDATED: 8/8: * I found an excellent post on this same topic from a local blogger, but with a twist (and video). I wasn't able to comment on her page (although I tried to follow her blog) nor did she have contact information. Hopefully, she'll be able to follow the bread crumbs back to my site so I can commend her on this post.