This past weekend, “Proud Mary” starring Taraji P. Henson premiered in theaters. It was one of the year’s most anticipated films when the trailer dropped last year. When the end of the year rolled around, thousands of fans flocked to Twitter, not to share in the excitement of the movie, but to show concern for the lack of promotion for the film. Besides from the original trailer, there wasn’t any additional promotion leading up to the release date.
There could be two possible reasons for Sony Pictures’ lack of support: they are trying to hide how bad the movie is or it could be the bad habit of underselling black movies and an action movie with a black female lead is a prime opportunity for this Hollywood tradition.
“Proud Mary” hasn’t received a press tour nor has it been screened for critics so trying to interview the movie’s star have been rather difficult. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Taraji P. Henson herself has voiced her frustration as an actor and executive producer with the promotion of the film.
“I’m begging and pleading my connections and doing whatever I can to make this movie the best it can be. I don't just put my name on stuff just to say it; I get down and dirty,” she said. She spoke about how Sony doesn’t believe that the film won’t prosper internationally because the black culture doesn’t sell well overseas. “You go overseas and what do you see? People trying to look like African-Americans with Afros and dressing in hip-hop fashions. To say that black culture doesn't sell well overseas, that's a lie,” Henson added.
Hollywood has a history of this practice of showing lack of support for black films. Octavia Spencer, Henson’s “Hidden Figures” co-star, said, “Will Smith was told the same thing that he wasn’t going to be taken to promote his film. Had he not paid for himself to fly all over the world that very first time, he would not be an international box-office star.”
On Friday, “Proud Mary” brought in $3.175 million dollars from 2,125 across the world despite the lack of company support. It has received mixed reviews on all fronts, so Sony can now say they were justified in their decision.
Regardless of the reception of the movie, it is still a major milestone for black women in the modern film industry. Hopefully this is just the beginning for black women as leads in action movies.