Now Playing: Something New
Topic: Movie Reviews
When the movie Something New was being advertised earlier this year on the Black radio station that I listen to, it was being touted as "a movie by Black women for Black women about what Black women want." Because the movie is about a love affair between a Black woman and a White man, are we to believe that what Black women really want are White men? My husband and I would guffaw imaging how Black women would react if African-American sex symbol Morris Chestnut would star in an interracial love story claiming to be "a movie by Black men for Black man about what Black men really want." Can you imagine the riots in the street that Black women around the United States would have started? They would have been burning Morris Chestnut in effigy! As the DVD came to the stores, they changed the marketing a bit. It's now a romantic comedy about a Black woman trying to find Mr. Right, and race is not even mentioned. After watching the movie, the latter marketing strategy was more accurate. This movie is not as much about race as we are led to believe although some people are not going to get past the race issue and pay attention to the deeper issue. (For a movie about Black women and the White men that love them that discusses race, check out the indie flick Restaurant starring Adrien Brody and, 'lo and behold, the male lead of Something New Simon Baker!)
Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya McQueen, who is a top executive at a financial firm, a homeowner, a six-figure earner, and is the daughter of an upper-class Black family. This character is smart, beautiful, well-off, and a successful professional. All of the Black people in this movie are all smart, well-off, successful professionals, educated, and firmly entrenched in the middle-class and upper-class and all the long-standing traditions that go along with being a part of the Black Bourgeoisie (also see Talented Tenth) There are no single mothers, drug addicts, slackers, or hustlers among these people in this movie. It is a slice of Black America that is rarely, if ever, portrayed in the media. It is also a life most Americans believe only White people live. Although it was probably not Something New’s intention, this movie reveals the real division in the United States. It isn’t racism at all, but classism.
(On an extreme side note, the Black Bourgeoisie could also be called the Talented Tenth that W.E.B. DuBois wrote about--educated Blacks who would come back to their poorer Black communities and lift their people up. In reality, this has not happened to the degree that DuBois probably envisioned. The TT/BB separated themselves from the lower-class of their race causing a type of intra-racism. Educated and professional Blacks have been slapped with the monikers of Uncle Toms, sell-outs, and wannabe White folk from those in the Black communities they left behind. See, they also believe that middle- and upper-class living is only something White people can achieve.)
When Kenya and her girlfriends go out for champagne together on Valentine’s Day, they give a list of their ideal man. Besides being Black, he has to be well-spoken, well-educated, have a job, and be close to the same professional caliber of these ladies. They want a man who is their class equal. It has been theorized that this is a problem among new generations of Black women. They can’t find a Black man equal to them, because Black women are outpacing them in getting a higher education and in the workplace. What’s a woman to do? If this were the typical Black and White sister-girl movie or an episode of the now-defunct Rikki Lake Show, the women would have shallowly agreed that it was time to go White. This is not Kenya’s plan at all. It is to keep hope alive to find a Black man that meets her qualifications.
Enter landscaper, Brian, played by Simon Baker, an Aussie native. He’s a man who wears blazers over tee-shirts and spends his days elbow deep in dirt and flowers. He’s not rich but he makes a decent living. He is also White. Brian and Kenya have a strong chemistry, but Kenya is very resistant to their relationship even before it begins. On the outside, she plays the race card saying she would prefer Black men. As the movie moves along and we get a deeper look into her upper-class upbringing, we realize that race is only the second problem. Brian is not upper class in the slightest. This is clearly illustrated when Kenya’s younger brother refuses to shake Brian’s hand upon meeting him for the first time. With a shocked look to his sister’s look of reproach, he declares rather indignantly that “He’s the help.” and not "he's white."
As the romance goes through ups and downs familiar to all rom-com fans, class and race battle it out for the cause Kenya and Brian's relationship problems. When Kenya wants to discuss the subtle racism she bears at her job, Brian wonders if she’s being paranoid because her upper-class education and life has taken her further than most White people. Kenya isn’t being paranoid, but as the argument continues you can understand Brian’s stance. A moneyed life has given Kenya a leg up over everyone even with the racism she endures.
As a romance movie and a study of class in the United States, Something New was a refreshing movie albeit the metaphorical language was heavy handed. Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan heat up the screen with their furtive glances brimming with lust. When they finally come together romantically, you’ll exhale as though you were in the romantic clinch. Sanaa Lathan proves she is a great actress as she conveys a thousand inner feelings with just a mere expression. Simon Baker is no chump either, with his genial charm and his rugged pretty-boy looks, letting his eyes and gentle touches convey his feelings more than his words. I don’t know where Hollywood has been hiding Simon Baker, but they need to get him into more movies pronto. Preferably with his shirt off, but that’s my own Black woman’s bias. ;-)
Posted by Kiki Shoes at 12:24 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: June 11, 2006 10:26 PM EDT
Updated: June 11, 2006 10:26 PM EDT