Friday After Next: Should We Lighten Up or Boycott?

By Bakari Akil II

The trumpets sounded in advance for the film Friday After Next. Activists such as Min. Paul Scott, of the National Hip Hop Reformation Campaign, wrote articles calling for the boycott of the movie due to the stereotypical characters, which would be presented. The movie was also under fire for the extremely degrading advertisement where the words “Ho! Ho! Ho!” were juxtaposed next to Black women at the end of the commercial.

Other writers such as James Hill, of, claimed the movie is funnier than the second installment and even though there were stereotypical characters in the film the “stereotypes (are) not only likeable, but familiar. There's enough of our own friends and family in them to allow us to laugh without feeling like sellouts.” Similar to the Barbershop controversy, groups are diametrically opposed on different sides of the equation. One group wants to call for an all out boycott while the other says “People need to lighten up, its just a movie!”

Both have valid points! So what do we do?

Bad Press is Better Than No Press

First, let’s discuss the call for an all out boycott or a strong rally to provide negative press. Such a strong call for this type of action usually creates the opposite effect. For instance, many people who were interviewed about the movie Barbershop, both average citizens and well-known public
figures, such as Min. Louis Farrakhan, stated they saw the movie because of all of the attention and hype surrounding it. As a result, the extra attention helped Barbershop set an unprecedented record of being the first African American movie to sit at the top of the box office for two weekends in a row.

It also created a public rift between famous personalities such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and the King family on one side and Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer and the movie industry (MGM) on the other. Although both sides did not resort to personal attacks, the tension was visible. The dispute also exposed rifts between the community at large and demonstrated a social and political disconnect between the civil rights generation and the younger generations of our present era.

A dialogue was created and more people begin to re-evaluate their views but the monetary results are what the “powers-that-be” considers when choosing to make films. The negative attention Barbershop received actually made the movie industry wealthier.

The Flip Side

On the other side, attending a movie on the opening night and purchasing the DVD or video when it hits the rental stores will demonstrate to marketers, writers and movie studios that they have a successful formula. This behavior does not convince them to explore untested waters. Thus, a negative cycle perpetuates itself.

Economic returns are more important for the studios than what Black audiences think.

Furthermore, all of those dollars do not come from Black people. Young white audiences as well as increasing numbers of older white audiences attend Black films in droves. This means Black audiences aren’t the only consideration when decisions are made on what type of “Black film” the major studios will make or what type of marketing it will receive. As the Black moviegoers and their white counterparts continue to overwhelmingly support films that present negative imagery of the Black experience more of these movies and the accompanying disrespect of Black culture and people will result. At this point, the situation reaches an impasse. Although both groups have to play their positions, one based on ethics and the other based on monetary success and/or survival, creating deadlock a positive outcome can still be created.

Instead of attacking each other vehemently and creating a situation where each side refuses to listen or work with the other, camps should practice cooperation. The groups who oppose negative images should seek avenues to create, fund and support those who are trying to create positive images of the Black community. Also, more effort should be spent trying to work with major players in entertainment to influence them to exercise greater control over how their product is marketed and to bring more balance to their projects. This will work much better than adopting a hostile adversarial position. We must also remember that studios often bypass positive material and artists for more negative ones and some of these individuals may not be capable of creating a balanced or positive product.

The artists, writers and other major players should make sure they do everything within their power to prevent the negative marketing that Friday After Next experienced as well as push for or add balance to their films. Ice Cube did the right thing when he called for the cancellation of the commercial that New Line Cinema approved. In addition, they should consider creating positive movies or fund individuals or projects that will do so. They don’t have to be a direct participant but can help enormously indirectly. (This is not to say many aren’t doing this now.)

In the final analysis, neither side will make headway if they continue to ostracize and distance themselves from each other. It is easy to see that money smoothes the conscience of many people who hold powerful positions and that no amount of “speaking out” will change their behavior. For those groups who oppose negative imagery, it is imperative that they seek alternative ways to affect change. As others notice that the current tactics do not work the groups will lose clout as well their chance to make an impact.

However, if both sides will agree to cooperate and if those who oppose negative imagery begin to seek ways to leverage their power and position in other ways than providing bad press, progress can be made.

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