Why would anyone remake a Rob Lowe movie?
Don't get me wrong; I like Rob Lowe when he's on TV ("The West Wing," "Parks and Recreation," "The Stand") but can you think of a single good movie where he was the lead?
So you can imagine my surprise when I heard that one of Lowe's 80s romantic comedies, "About Last Night" was being remade. I know of the movie because it also stars Demi Moore, who I have had a fondness for since childhood when my parents mistakenly received a copy of the movie "The Seventh Sign" when they ordered a video game named "The Seventh Saga" for my birthday.
Terrible movie. Great actress. Also, great game, but that's beside the point.
Naturally, I was curious about this ill-conceived remake. Was this another in a long line of signs that Hollywood truly has run out of ideas? Was it going to be some wretched gritty reboot of the series, with an aged Rob Lowe playing some kind of cyborg bounty hunter, scouring the wasteland, looking for fresh water ... and love?
It was with great trepidation that I looked up the trailer, wondering which of these unwanted scenarios would play out.
Then I got my answer: It's the all black cast version.
Yes, the all black cast remake, a staple of Hollywood's continued racial insensitivity that stands shoulder to shoulder with such legends of the game as "exclusively hiring Mexican actors to play Native Americans" and "The only countries in Asia are China, Japan and Vietnam."
For those unfamiliar with the all black cast remake trope it goes like this:
1: Take a movie (it doesn't have to even be popular).
2: Is the cast all white people? (chances are, yes, considering the history of movie making)
3: Now, find a group of respected black actors and actresses that are too talented for this kind of schlock but need the work.
4: Remove any plot holes that could be easily fixed by a cell phone. (A necessity when remaking any movie made before 1995)
5: Remake the movie, take a victory lap around the glitterati for your "racially sensitive" accolades, then rush the movie to DVD, all while looking for a white actor to play Langston Hughes in your next movie.
All black cast remade movies of note include:
"Steel Magnolias" (2012),
Originally "Steel Magnolias" (1989)
"The Preacher's Wife" (1996)
Originally "The Bishop's Wife" (1947)
"I Think I Love My Wife" (2007)
Originally "Chloe in the Afternoon (1972).
"The Wiz" (1978)
Originally "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
A remake almost never surpasses the original so it should be noted that, yes, most of these movies are worse than the original version. Although I'd watch "The Wiz" any day (Michael Jackson and Sydney Lumet AND Richard Pryor? What's not to love?) and Chris Rock's "I Think I Love My Wife" may be dull by try slogging through the French art-house original and see which one you prefer.
So, the obvious solution is to not make any more movies with all black casts, right?
While I might get on board for a moratorium on remaking ANY movie (especially lame Rob Lowe movies) its the thinking behind the all black cast remake that needs to go away.
Being a white guy growing up in central Iowa my perception of the black experience in the United States is limited to say the least. My parents were never racists, raised me to respect everyone, and to not assume that I could understand what it meant to be a minority simply by consuming popular media, something that sticks with me to this day.
When I was 18 I really wanted to be a novelist, a science fiction novelist at that. I had worked on a number of stories and one had risen to the forefront in my mind. Every time I pictured the lead character in my head he was always black; his race didn't inform the story nor did it impact the character at all, it was simply that every time I thought about the story I thought of the lead as a black man.
So, filled with naive but ignorant questions, I wrote to a comic book author I enjoyed greatly, a man named Dwayne McDuffie who co-created "Damage Control" which I'm sure you haven't read but you really should.
McDuffie was also black.
I say "was" because he passed away on Feb. 21, 2011 during emergency heart surgery.
And what was my now cringe inducing question to this great author?
"How do I write black characters?"
I wanted to write a black character and I assumed that I needed a black person to tell me the secrets to writing him realistically.
I know, I know ... I was young.
But McDuffie's response, which he was under no obligation to write, simply said that people are much more alike than different; and that there was no special trick to writing black characters, just make sure you write a three dimensional person.
So why, 10 years later, do I have to have every Youtube video I watch be preceded by Kevin Hart flailing around in a role originally played by Jim "I'm Not John" Belushi?
Hollywood: Try making a movie with real characters, black or otherwise. But don't give us a "black version" of another movie just to pretend you're progressive while raking in a few dollars more.
And don't let Rob Lowe make another movie either. That's unrelated to your race problem, but a rising tide lifts all boats.