Is #BlackLove Boring on the Big Screen? By Kayla Howard, Spelman College

Photo from Burst by Brodie Vissers @TheNomadBrodie

In the past few months, we have seen the release of two highly anticipated black movies, Queen and Slim (2019) and The Photograph (2020). Each of which expected to be “groundbreaking” as it relates to the genre of black love movies. Queen and Slim which is described as a 21st-century black Bonnie & Clyde story. On the other hand, The Photograph (appropriately released on Valentine’s Day) sought to change the narrative around black romance, without the element of trauma, common in black love movies.

I attended a screening of each of these movies during the week of their release and in both cases the theaters were completely full, so the public interest in these new narratives is not a question. However, whether or not our expectations were met is a completely different, more complex issue and can speak to the bigger conversation; the future of black love movies. 

In many ways, both Queen and Slim and The Photograph were very successful movies and I was very excited by them in certain respects. Both movies, at least partially set in New Orleans, relied very heavily on its location to make for a more visually interesting film. Frequent shots of local architecture and landscape was common throughout the films and maintained my interest, despite some of the films’ weaknesses. I cannot discuss these two films without bringing into the conversation, Moonlight (2016), another black love film, centered around the romance between two teenage boys, which I share a very similar sentiment towards. Also very visually interesting, I feel that Moonlight had some very obvious weaknesses. Overall, I generally enjoyed each of these movies, but like most, there are some changes that should have been made to improve its perception by the public. 

When the trailer for each of these films was released, I was excited to see them as they were very different from many of the typical black romance movies I had seen. Typically loaded with dramatic plot twists and domestic drama, these movies strayed from this archetype of black movies and created their own lane. After watching each of these films, I went online to see what other people thought, and there were an overwhelming number of people who described them as “boring”. Aside from the visual component of each of the films, which were their strongest elements, their stories were not very engaging. While the intention to ameliorate the genre of black love movies was clear in these movies, their respective directors ultimately resorted to a bland love story to rid them of these harmful tropes.  However, I am confident that interesting black romance can successfully exist in film without resorting to either of these extremes. The film industry is ever changing and regardless whether or not you liked the films, they each started important conversations around the narratives of black love. I am excited that there are strides being made to change the realities of Black Hollywood, however, there is still a long way to go!

Did you like these films? How would you have changed them?

What is a successful black romance movie, in your opinion?

One Comment

  • Erica H. says:

    Very much enjoyed this blog post! I think it is extremely important to shed a light on black movies when it comes to the romance genre of movies. Typically, movies with a predominately black cast the movie is either categorized as either action, comedy, drama, etc and romance being the very last focus. The lack of portrayal of black romance in movies is why I think some people will call it “boring”, we as a people are not used to having just a movie with black actors and there not really being a significant problem that overshadows the romance. I liked the films and I wouldn’t change anything about them because these movies are a step in direction to bringing back the portrayal of black love in cinema and though others may not be used to it yet, the more we produce and refine these movies they better they will be in the future.

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