Monday, February 1, 2010

Denzel Washington and the Last Taboo

If ever there were a black actor who could be said to have crossed over to appeal to all audiences, it would be Denzel Washington.

According to the Internet Movie Database, he's made more than 50 pictures, with half-dozen or so in development. He's one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. His co-stars have included such luminaries as Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, and Julia Roberts.

In all his movies, though, I don't think I've ever seen one where Denzel Washington kissed a white woman.

In several pictures--Deja Vu, Out of Time, Training Day, Devil in a Blue Dress--Washington's had love interests, but they've always been women of ambiguous racial appearance, women like Paula Patton, Jennifer Beales, and Eva Mendes.

Worse, in the kinds of pictures (The Pelican Brief) where a white character would at some pivotal point bed his white female co-star, Washington's character just grins likeably and moves on.

It's enough to make you think of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple, the archetypes of the selfless, sexless black man and his white, female sidekick.

". . . there are at least three themes that are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned," Vladimir Nabokov once wrote, among them "a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren..."

Nabokov was talking about books, but he could as well have meant the movies.


ronnie brown said...

i say last taboo is a Black couple on screen expressing their love in a stimulating, dynamic fashion. At some point in time white people will have to cease with the notion of being the center of everybody's universe.

junebug said...

He Got Game. He bangs Milla Jovovich. The whitest chick in the movies.

David Garrett said...

Ronnie: I agree. Though the movie I'd like to see a movie would depict ordinary moments in black life with tenderness, grace, and clarity.

Spaceman Spiff said...

Hi, David.
Please forgive my posting an unrelated comment here, but I could find no other way of contacting you. Could you please connect with me through my email address, spacemanspiff["at" symbol] when you have a moment? If possible, I would like to inquire about a black filmmaker who was profiled in "Black Film Review" several years ago and I'm hoping you might be able to assist.
Thanks very much in advance.
P.S. I will be traveling tomorrow through Sunday, so please forgive a delay in response if during those days.