'The Words' and Swirling in Hollywood

The Words is a film that came out this past weekend from directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. The pair also wrote the screenplay, and this is their directorial debut. It is one of the first films I've seen in a longtime depicting an interracial couple on screen and this prompted me to grab a movie ticket. The story unfolds as Rory (played by Bradley Cooper) struggles to write a commercially successful manuscript. During a trip to Paris, his wife (played by Zoë Saldaña) buys him a gift which contains a masterpiece of a novel. Pressured to produce a viable manuscript, Rory passes the work to an agent as his own. It is a success, but Rory finds it hard to accept the praise knowing it is not his own written words. When an old man (played by Jeremy Irons) shows up and takes claim of the novel, emotional turmoil consumes Rory's life. This leads him to question himself as a writer, and if he is a good enough husband. The film's storyline unfortunately fell short, and after reading the write up in The Hollywood Reporter, critics agree. Thus, I would like to circle back to seeing a realistic interracial couple on the big screen.

Swirling is a common term used in the African-American community to describe an interracial relationship. In America, the history of miscegenation provides an invisible psychological tear in our culture that transcends to modern times. The subject has always been taboo and unfortunately a dark part of our history. Despite the past, the number of interracial marriages has gone up according to the 2010 Census count. In addition, new dating books like A Black Girls Guide to Dating White Men by Niki McElroy and Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed by Christelyn D Karazin propelled many in the African-American community to discuss this issue. Most recently, the comedic film Think Like A Man paired the beautiful Gabrielle Union with Jerry Ferrara. I was disappointed in the match, and in my opinion they did not convey a true couple on screen. The Words, however, did show a very loving couple that kissed, and even passionately embraced a few times. Unlike most films, I was convinced they were a bonafide couple.

When I brought up the idea to write about this topic in Hollywood movies, most of my friends could only recall one film quickly -- Something New. The story centered around a prominent African-American female falling for her hired help. The film did well, but there are other notable ones beginning with Shakespeare's Othello, The Bodyguard with the late Whitney Houston, and my favorite: A Bronx Tale, directed by Robert De Niro. An Australian film from the early '90s titled Flirting, tackles the subject in a boarding school starring Nicole Kidman and Thandie Newton. Speaking of Thandie, Simon Pegg wrote her as the romantic lead in his hilarious film Run Fatboy Run. Since I am a self-proclaimed film geek, it was easy to rattle off at least a half dozen films. But is that it? In 2011, 940 movies were released. The only film I can think of with an interracial coupling is Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Nicole Beharie. This is sad.

Hollywood often ignores pleas for more diverse casting and continues to deny the negative impact it has on society as a whole. Seeing more diverse couples on screen makes the subject easier to discuss around the dinner table. Diverse couples equals diverse families which is a much better representation of the world we live in today. Many in Hollywood would suggest having more writers of color to pen stories. If it were only that simple. Less than 10 percent of the membership in the Writers Guild of America are people of color. I feel that the solution is to have more writing programs that would continue mentoring women and minorities even after they break into the industry. Television does a better job of diverse programming, but both could use improvement.