There’s a new question in town: Why the hell are critics so shocked when black films do well?
Tongues are a waggin’ and headlines are ablaze because of the onslaught of commercially successful films with predominantly black casts over the past year.
The new buzzword to quantify the success of these films is “overperforming.” Not only is this not a compliment, its an insult, and African Americans even consider it a bit racist.
“So are we calling The Best Man: Holiday yet another overperforming black film or are we ready to admit that the model is wrong?” tweeted Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List and an outspoken voice on race and Hollywood. Or Defamer’s blunt headline: “Critics need to stop being shocked that black films do well.”
Contrary to what was once popular belief in Hollywood (“That black folks don’t come out to support black films”) the past year has tested this theory and proved it wrong. ”Fruitvale Station” was the sensation of the Sundance Film Festival, ”The Butler” was a major commercial crossover, “12 Years A Slave” is the art-house breakout of the fall and an early Oscar favorite; and The Best Man Holiday gave the highly anticipated “Thor 2″ a good run for its money.
With headlines touting words like “overperforming,” some are actually calling this low-expectation racist.
Read more of this illuminating L.A. Times article on the issue of low expectations and tracking in black films here.