Yes, Black art should be critiqued
Black Twitter is a beautifully vibrant, diverse and fun online space where many Black folks can find solidarity in ideas, views and interests. As a film lover, I particularly find myself following Black people who watch, discuss and engage with Black media. Recent tweets within the community have ignited discourse on whether or not Black people should negatively critique Black art.
In January of 2020, Black writer, actor and director Tyler Perry released a film titled A Fall From Grace on the streaming service, Netflix. Black Twitter users were quick to critique the film for the lack of continuity and a plethora of mistakes that are jarring to say the least.
For example, in a scene that shows a character’s phone screen, the audience can clearly see that it’s a screenshot and not a text conversation. The lack of attention to detail is worrisome.
As we can see from this photo, an actor is reading directly from his script.
A different scene shows the main character in one shot, but in the next cut, her wig is completely different. This is a noticeable continuity issue.
These mistakes along with others are laughable, but for a lot of people who really value film, it is embarrassing. Especially for a collaboration between someone as esteemed as Tyler Perry who worked alongside streaming powerhouse, Netflix. Looking at a project with this caliber of resources, we expected these problems to be caught on set or during the editing process, and certainly not make it through to the final cut.
I’m really not a fan of African Americans speaking down or negative about Tyler Perry’s work. — Josh Mikkel (@JoshMikkel) January 18, 2020
I’m really not a fan of African Americans speaking down or negative about Tyler Perry’s work.
— Josh Mikkel (@JoshMikkel) January 18, 2020
The argument these two tweets present comes from the sentiment that Black people should support other Black people no matter what. In the United States, Black people have not had an equitable or accurate amount of representation since the creation of film and television. Now that we’re in a place where more Black actors, writers and directors are given the opportunity to bring stories to life on the small or big screen, showing support and solidarity for creatives in the community is important to a lot of people.
At this point in history, we have made great strides in terms of representation. However, I don’t think this kind of blind support will help more Black art achieve greatness. Just because a Black person made something does not mean that I, as a Black person, have to accept it or support it without thinking about it critically. Without taking a deeper look at the media that is made for us and by us, we are doing a great injustice for ourselves as a community. We deserve beautiful and thoughtful movies while also being okay with the fact that we cannot expect a perfect film from all Black filmmakers, just like we cannot do the same for other races.
Viewers have higher expectations of films in 2020 and there is definitely more than enough criticism to go around. Receiving criticism is not inherently bad and in fact, it is a part of the filmmaking process. In order for directors, writers and actors to improve, they need to know how their work actually impacts audiences as well as identify areas that can improve.
At the end of the day, Black films are films, period. Black people shouldn’t have to be content with the unsatisfactory ways in which some filmmakers depict our lives. The plot of A Fall From Grace aside, the lack of attention and care that this film was given is disgraceful. It was only filmed in five days for crying out loud!
When films are supposed to represent the experiences, lives and cultures of real life people, especially those belonging to marginalized populations, we deserve the right to freely criticize it, no matter who is behind the lens.