What’s more outrageous: the fact that HMV orders its movies by race or the fact that Enemy of the State is considered ‘Black Cinema’?
You know those moments in films when the character walks past something that catches their eye, steps back, and does a double take? Well, that was me the other day when I noticed something in HMV – something that bothered me quite a bit. This something was located just to the left of the HMV entrance, amongst the hundreds of (mostly mediocre) films on sale. Standing alone, far from the rows of action movies and rom-coms, was a section titled ‘Black Cinema’.
It seems absurd that the race of a film’s cast should influence where those films are displayed
I struggled then, and still do now, to comprehend why it’s necessary for there to exist a separate collection of films that exists because they feature a black cast. Imagine if all films were arranged in order of the race of their cast – there would be outrage if HMV introduced a section called ‘White Cinema’, and rightly so. It seems absurd that the race of people appearing in a film should influence where those films are displayed, let alone mean that an entirely separate area is created for them.
Amongst the few DVDs stacked on the ‘Black Cinema’ display, I noticed a handful of well-known titles: Malcolm X, a biopic; Bad Boys II, a comedy (debatable); and Enemy of the State, a Tony Scott thriller starring Will Smith. Each of these films were of entirely different genres, and each had their own space on the many other displays in the store. The only thing keeping them both alone and together was the fact that their stars are black – and, for some reason, that’s enough.
This DVD-apartheid may well have been HMV’s attempt to come across as inclusive and supportive of minorities, but instead it’s failed miserably and achieved the complete opposite. It’s not even as though the language or production is so far removed from what most of us are used to that it requires a different section to find a specific film; everyone loves Will Smith. Everyone. I really do wonder who it was up there in HMV’s lair that genuinely thought “nothing says ‘racial equality’ quite like segregating African American movies from every other film in the shop.” How did this unnecessary – and mildly racist – piece of coloured cardboard reach consumers without one person objecting to it?
The ‘Black Cinema’ display is almost as ridiculous as HMV introducing a section named ‘Bearded Cinema’
Of course, this is just my view – there could be plenty of people who feel that a Black Cinema section of a home video store promotes and encourages acceptance of minorities, especially in an industry as widespread as film. I was curious as to whether my view was a shared one, so I asked a few friends and found that we were all unanimous in our opinions. Even those who haven’t seen the display were as baffled by its existence as I am. One friend, who herself is of Ghanaian descent, told me, “I don’t go into a shop looking for films with an all-black cast, and I doubt anyone else does; it’s just not a factor.”
My friends and I agreed that HMV’s ‘Black Cinema’ DVD display is ridiculous, so I will assume that lots of other people do too. Because it is. It really is. It’s almost as ridiculous as HMV introducing a section named ‘Bearded Cinema’. Though that would be something I’d enjoy rather a lot.
Featured image: Warner Bros
Inset images: Buena Vista