So I just watched Will Smith’s new movie “Hancock” two nights ago. I don’t mind telling you that it was somebody else’s bootleg copy and I’m glad I didn’t spend any money. Maybe somebody else might have really enjoyed this power-packed, action flick but somebody with my racial-sensitivity issues and my sometimes out-of-control “What’s the real message here?” angst…well, maybe I should explain.
Hancock: shining example of a Black superhero
First of all, Hancock is a superhero, a Black superhero. Great! Someone our children can relate to, right? Sure, if you don’t mind the ragged, unwashed, alcohol-guzzling, profanity-laced, irrational, out-of-control dysfunctionality of the character.
And, considering that he seems to be the only one of his “kind,” you can almost understand him. He’s lonely. He’s confused. He’s isolated. All that stuff. He inadvertently finds a kind of mentor — a PR man named Ray whose life Hancock saves. But for some reason, Hancock seems to be “drawn” to the man’s wife Mary: your typical tall, blond, slim white woman whose wiles have been making men go crazy on (and off) the big screen for longer than I have been alive!
Take, for example, the slick way that the writers managed to elevate these white women to sainthood. Mary is actually Ray’s second wife, and his son’s stepmother. As the story goes, Ray’s first wife died — giving birth to their son. Pretty good way to get rid of her, I had to grudgingly admit. There is no more saintlier way to die. And that saves the writers all the problems of divorce, alimony, child-support and the bitter legal battles that can make the average woman look considerably less than sweet. Mary (I don’t think that name is a coincidence!) swept Ray off his feet when he was the confused single-father of a brand new infant (how touching), trying to figure out diapers at the supermarket (we all know how hard THAT can be — I think any non-movie dad would be insulted at this point). And the rest, as they say, is history. Mary and Ray fell in love and Mary generously raised the son who was not her biological child — the only mother he ever knew! She’s no scheming homewrecker, instead she’s Ray’s saviour.
After one excrutiating scene after another where this “tension” between Hancock and Mary is played out, finally we are let into the mystery: Mary has the same powers as Hancock! A cruel trick of amnesia has separated the two: she is his powerful alter-ego and wife!
Unfortunately, when the two are together, they are like Kryptonite to one another: causing them both to weaken and lose their powers. So Hancock is safer and better off living his life separately and leaving her to continue to live her own.
The picture-perfect suburban family
My frustration with the film was not really built around the fact that this white woman is the center of all power, beauty and desirability in the film — come on now, I get that on a daily basis just from your everyday shampoo commercial! What concerned me is that the film continued to portray this loving, happy, functional white family with angelic mother, devoted dad and spunky son. Hancock had no such situation. Even when all the drama had passed with Ray finding out about his wife’s hidden superpowers (total deceit!) and matrimonial link to Hancock (umm…that had to be a shocker!), at the end of the movie, they were still able to pull it together (magically?) and come through as a stronger, still functional family. Hancock, of course, was the lone ranger, cast out on his own — and pretty damn happy about it all the same.
And you wonder why it is so hard for Black actresses to find quality roles. Whether lead character or sidekick, the Black man almost never has a quality life-partner, wife, girlfriend, whatever. Anyone remember Hitch? Would it have been so crazy to have Will Smith fall in love with a Black woman instead of the usual “pseudo-mixed-maybe-Latina” symbol? Anyone see “The Game Plan” starring The Rock and Morris Chestnut? Morris was all good playing the functional family man. The only problem is that his family was never once shown on screen. I just experienced the disappointment of Jennifer Holiday’s nothing-role in the Sex In the City movie. Maybe SHE could have played Hancock’s wife; turned that poor sucker around.
Well, at least I can take comfort in the fact that the real Will Smith is married to a real strong Black sistah and not selling out in that regard (thank you Ms. Jada Pinkett). But, with as much influence and bang for the buck that he has in Hollywood (or maybe I’m making a big assumption here), I just think that he could do a lot more to help portray images of functional Black families in movies. And that’s my rant of the day. What’s yours?