Within the last year, I began looking at films differently. I stopped going to see the latest releases and began watching movies from various top 100 lists.
With my new appreciation for film, I engaged in a general debate with my co-workers about two very different comedies: “Coming to America” and “Friday.”
I heard both sides use highlights from the films to support their positions.
Whether it was an infamous barbershop debates or front porch dialogue, the debate was limited to the films’ punch lines.
I later came to the conclusion that Coming to America is by far a better film.
I based my initial opinion solely on the representation of blacks depicted in the two films.
Coming to America showcased an assortment of black characters, while Friday did not.
Coming to America painted blacks as royalty and business owners while not overlooking the street hustler and layman. Although Friday is entertaining, its protagonists are lazy, jobless drug users.
I view Friday as a catalyst in the resurgence of blaxploitation films. In the 1970s black action films, the protagonist is often a character who resorts to illegal means to “beat the system.”
Although similar characters are seen in Friday, the film ignores the possibility of a greater existence. The two main characters are 20-somethings who seem content living with their parents.
With so many obvious differences, can Coming to America truly be considered a black comedy?
It may surprise some people that Coming to America was not directed by a black person, but rather a Jewish man named John Landis.
I would not consider this a black film. I consider this film, responsibly presented by Jewish Americans, a genius social commentary of the ongoing black culture.
F. Gary Gray’s first feature length film, Friday, had obvious rookie mistakes.
The presentation of minorities on screen relied heavily on stereotypes for laughs.
I believe film should be an artistic medium to communicate theories about human emotion, meaningful events and the overall human experience.
But black comedies rely on less than honorable stigmas to generate revenue.
I challenge black directors to make more responsible material when working with black subject matter.
I find it ironic that the Jewish director and writer of Coming to America view black culture in a more complete fashion than the director and writers of Friday.
I challenge the black community to diversify its cinematic libraries with not only black- made films, but films from around the world.
Alex Acosta is a junior photography student from Atlanta. He can be reached at email@example.com.