Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rare Movie Role Models for Kids of Color

I was just talking to my friend and filmmaking colleague (now NYU film professor) Alrick Brown about how much I enjoyed taking my son to see the new Karate Kid movie starring Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan and Taraji P. Henson.

I enjoyed The Karate Kid as a typical fun summer blockbuster, but I especially enjoyed it for the "break out" characters it presented to my 7-year old son. To clarify, it wasn't so much the characters that were break-out, as the fact that they were all people of color in a mainstream movie who my son could relate to and identify with.

While that may not sound like much to some, it's a huge deal to many of us parents who's kids struggle to reconcile the fact that no one looks like them in 95% of the media images they consume. (And the few that do, are often poor role models, impoverished or flawed characters.)

See, a few months ago my son told me he wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Not be like Luke Skywalker, not be a Jedi, but actually BE Luke Skywalker...he wanted blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin, because in his 7-year old head, that's what good guys and heroes are supposed to look how could he possibly be a Jedi if he doesn't look like a Jedi?!

My son is Black and Chinese, so I racked my brain to offer him alternative Black or Chinese movie heroes, but I couldn't think of many outside of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, because so few exist in the mainstream media. So The Karate Kid was an answer to my parenting prayers.

In talking to Alrick, we just saw each other and said, "Did you see The Karate Kid?!" and each of us knew exactly what we meant. I can only hope that this is a sign of things to come and that Jaden Smith's (and his producer/actor parent's, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith's) career will continue to blossom and Hollywood will continue to put people of color in mainstream blockbuster movie roles.

Media images have such a powerful and long-term psychological effect on our society, that I believe such a sustained move could alter a whole generation's self-perception....for the better for a change.

We need and like to be heroes too.

Here's filmmaker, Alrick Brown's, Blog Post on the issue.

The Karate Kid Trailer:

THE KARATE KID: Movie Trailer - Watch more top selected videos about: The_Karate_Kid_(2010_film), Jaden_Smith, Jackie_Chan, Harald_Zwart, Taraji_P._Henson

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