“It just seems that in almost every movie, if the black man’s not some toadie or being manipulated, he’s got to be carrying,” Molanda Moses pointed out.
Vaughn Temple looked at her with a mix of contempt and curiosity.
“You know, I’ve had to play both.”
Temple narrowed his eyes. “In college, regional theaters, independent work. I’ve been on both sides of the law and they called me ‘hero.’ At best, I was an anti-hero in some cases. Others, where I was the full-fledged ‘good guy’ my character was diminished, brought down a few pegs, but still moral somehow.”
“And that’s just it. You deserve to be portraying men of color who have a sense of duty about them.”
“I wouldn’t say duty,” Temple said. “I would say purpose. I want my character to have an understanding of himself and the world. That would benefit my body and soul. Just to have that sense that I can take the reins and continue without ruining it for everyone else. Someone who is thoroughly morally pure.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t trying to diminish you right there,” Moses replied.
“It’s okay. You’re not the problem. Hell, the writers and directors aren’t even the problem. It would be easy to pick on producers and studio execs. I think it’s a confluence of issues that compound over time. All of the different people that make up the industries, they truly cut into the spirit of the game.”
“I could tell you stories,” Moses said. “I know about some dirtiness that goes on in those meetings, those cocktail dinners. It’s like bloodless (for the most part) gang warfare. If you deal with one producer, you're mostly in with him. Say you wish to do another project after you get asked for a favor by him. You turn it down and somehow you become a pariah. You’re shut out of the club just by being honest. You have to sacrifice in this business.”
Temple cleared his throat. “Again, I have to correct you. I sacrifice nothing. I seek out and obtain values based on my own expectations and the sweat off my back. I don’t expect anyone to sacrifice for me, either. I make deals based on mutual trade. That’s it,” Temple corrected.
“Who’s gotta score?”
Moses breathed. “I just think with as many roles that can be created, there’s gotta be a strong black lead who wins in the end and doesn’t have a piece on him. Yes, this has happened in the past, but far too rarely,” Moses argued.
“I have to agree with you there. With all the roles given to blacks, whites have the same problem. They fall back on a postmodern fantasy that no one can think for themselves, you have to have some dirt on you, you have to present yourself in a way that is interesting but not heroic. I would venture to say the whole world is like that. Look at Bollywood.”
“Korea is mixed. They’re pumping out material that is both brilliant and beautiful and scathing and scandalous. I do agree it’s the whole world,” Moses nodded.
“Look at Nigeria. Thousands of hours of footage but where are the heroic leads, both male and female. And of course they have to have a gun if they’re involved with anything even remotely moral and ethical. Of course, there’re degrees to all of this. Some characters have total morality and there’s a sliding scale of other characters who share partial senses of ethics. That’s fine. As long as there is a standard of virtue—”
“I get it.”
“Do you, though?”
“Good,” Temple relaxed a bit. “I just can’t stand anyone no matter the race or what is portrayed in the performing arts. It goes back to what you were saying about the gang mentality. People see two carrots dangled in front of them and if they don’t accept the two carrots, they get three sticks. The game is all messed up. I swear, there is a severe issue with the way human beings are being projected on page, stage, and screen.”
“Alas, it doesn’t have to be this way,” she observed.
“That’s right. People are always talking about the ‘gatekeepers.’ The gatekeepers determine where your project will go. The gatekeepers will determine your pay. Why don’t we get together, raise funds, and be our own gatekeepers?”