Welcome to the super fun game show that's sweeping the Internet: "Is It Racist?"! Tonight, our contestants must judge whether the British poster for the film Couples Retreat — in which black characters are conspicuously missing—is racist!
The Daily Mail reports on the "race row" (Oh, Brits: Everything's a 'row' with them) sparked when black stars Faizon Love and Kali Hawk were cut from the UK version of the poster for the new Vince Vaugn vehicle Couples Retreat. This left a phalanx of palefaces begging passersby to spend some of their hard earned pounds on a film that scores 12% on Rotten Tomatoes.
A quick reminder of the rules before we get started: Each of you has two buttons in front of you—one marked "Racist," one marked "Not Racist". Once we begin, you may hit either of these buttons at any time; just be ready to state why you think the poster for this movie is or is not racist! Alright, contestants, let's take a look at this helpful diagram created by the Huffington Post that points out very clearly why the UK poster on the left may or may not be racist. Are you ready? Let's play! Is! It! Racist!
This was a shameless, racist move by Universal to play to the historical aversion of foreign markets to black actors. As this Newsweek story on Will Smith points out:
Black actors have had a tough time appealing to foreign audiences, because the films they're often cast in are specific to African-American culture or history-they are films about African-Americans, as opposed to films that happen to have African-Americans in them.
Removing black people from a poster just because it's a sound business decision is offensive—not just to the actors, but to foreign audiences you're assuming are so backwards and scared of the Blacks that just seeing a movie starring African-Americans will fill their dreams for weeks with the terrifying image of a thousand dark hands grasping at them from some ancient, howling forest.
Lighten up: The whole point of advertising is to make people want to come to your movie via making it seem good. Who has ever heard of Faizon Love (maybe best-known for his turn as "Big Large" in 2007's Who's Your Caddy) or Kali Hawk ("Popcorn Girl (uncredited)" in Celebrity)? As the Daily Mail article says: "A spokesman for makers Universal Pictures confirmed the poster had been changed to ‘simplify' it for the UK and international market outside America." When compared to Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristin Bell, Jon Favreau, etc., it's surprising is that these two no-names even made it on the U.S. poster.
Not (Any More) Racist!
Uh, never mind the British poster: Did you see the U.S. version? Not exactly a paragon of post-racial harmony: Love and Hawk are literally sitting in the back of the bus asking, "Um, hi, guys... can we come up to the front now? Did the Civil Rights Movement happen yet?"
Who Gives a Shit, the Movie is Terrible!
Love and Hawk should say a silent prayer of thanks for being left out of the poster, racist-ly or not. Maybe this way everyone will eventually forget they were in "Couples Retreat," and their nascent careers won't be killed by starring in a film Time magazine calls "just sad."