Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Romantic Comedy- A Rant in Three Acts

I’m a guy. I like romance. I like comedy. My question to Hollywood is: Why isn’t it possible make a decent romantic comedy these days?

I mean, Hollywood used to be able to make great romantic comedies. Classics like Marty, Working Girl, When Harry met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, As Good As it Gets, Boomerang, Pretty Woman, and Waiting to Exhale are all favorites of mine. All these romantic comedies had perfect balance of plot, story, character development and action to keep most girls and even most guys like me glued to the screen.

Then Legally Blonde came along. And all of a sudden it was okay to be DUMB. Maid in Manhattan came along and it was okay to be SHALLOW. Deliver Us from Eva Came along and it was okay to be MEAN. Worse, thanks to these movies it was okay to LIE and MANIPULATE, because in the end the man of your dreams will still love you in spite of the fact that you CONNED him into believing you were something that you AREN’T. Because being yourself is WRONG and no one will LOVE you for BEING YOU. Seriously, what kind of messages are we sending to girls about how to court the opposite sex in these movies?

I’m not saying all the romantic comedies of the 2000s blew; I did enjoy 13 going on 30; that movie had a great message about being yourself and the ramifications of lying and manipulating. Plus Jennifer Garner was a delight to watch! But most of them like Maid in Manhattan, Little Black Book, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Confessions of a Shopaholic and that damn Sex and The City movie are wretched brain numbing drivel, and the messages in these films do not promote good values to men and women or model how healthy relationships are developed.

In today’s romantic comedies there’s little to laugh at and even less to learn about love. I have to ask: When did love get so mean? When did comedy get so cruel? When did romance become a game? Where's the humanity? Where's the depth and substance? More importantly: Where's the LOVE, the HEART and the SOUL?

And on the black side of the romantic comedy: Why is there so much misogyny in black romance? Why are brothas always at odds with the sistas in black romantic comedies? Why can't I ever see a true balanced picture of black-on-black love onscreen? When did it become wrong to see two black people in love on a movie screen? Is it even possible to believe that two black people can love each other since we don't see it in media these days?

There's just so much anger onscreen that I can't feel the love in a romantic comedy these days, black or white. And while some will say I’m a man and I don’t understand romance I do understand what I like in a romantic comedy. Unfortunately, it’s not on the silver screen of most multiplexes. Here’s what I want to see in a romantic comedy Hollywood:

A female lead that can do stuff like fix a car, build stuff and knows how a PC works. Yeah, smart is SEXY.

A male lead that isn’t a Jerk. A nice guy that isn’t bland. A guy with some charisma. And more importantly, a guy who can keep his shirt on.

Two people who are attracted to each other by their hobbies and interests. Yep, things in common drive people together. Likes attract in most cases.

Some real chemistry, attraction, and desire between two characters. Two people who CARE about each other.

Some depth and substance in the storylines. Marty, Working Girl, Pretty Woman, As Good as It Gets were all love stories with humor and substance. And that’s what made them classics.

Women who have interests outside of shopping, hair, and nails. Guys who aren’t into cars, money and clothes.

Men and women who aren’t dumb. Stupid is not cute, nor is it sexy. Stupid is Stupid, and the audience hates stupid. Trust me.

People who don’t lie and manipulate each other in a relationship.

Two people who meet through a once in a lifetime fluke, and not through some predictable set-up. Think the greatest romance of all, Marty.

People who aren’t obsessed with having another person in their lives. Insecure and whiny aren't cute. They're annoying.

A woman who is fine with being alone. A woman by herself at a table and is comfortable with being alone is sexy and mysterious.

A sense that while love is hard, it can be fun too.

Plus sized people in a romance. Yes, Hollywood it’s possible for people over a size 2 dress or 40 regular to fall in love.

Older people involved in a romance. Yes, Hollywood it’s possible for people over 35 to find love.

Role reversals. Instead of the nerd pining for the hot chick, how about the hot chick pining after the nerd? It’s a great change of pace and might grab more viewers than the standard formula.

A true sense of what’s funny.

And yes, it is possible to write a great romantic comedy about heroes and heroines who are NICE, HONEST, and KIND to each other. Put the conflict in the STORY like you did back in the day with those romantic comedy classics and I guarantee you people will go out to see romantic comedies again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why I will NEVER write a Street Lit/Urban Lit Novel

I’ve written a lot of stuff in the 20 plus years I’ve been writing.

I’ve made home-made comics.

I’ve written novels.

I’ve written short stories.

I’ve written feature-length screenplays.

I’ve written TV episodes.

But I will NEVER write a Street Lit or Urban Lit book.

I’ve lived through enough poverty in my life and I know there’s nothing glamorous or exciting about being a drug dealer, gang member, or a prostitute. Growing up poor in the South Bronx during the 1980’s and early 1990’s during the height of the crack epidemic, I know that most black people are NOT criminals. Most brothers and sisters I knew were out trying to get an education and improve the quality of their lives.

I know for a fact the handful of individuals that went for the fast cash of criminal enterprise and terrorized inner-city neighborhoods across the country weren’t seen as heroes by most of the people who lived there. Nor do I feel they need to portrayed as such today by publishers. While it may profit many in the publishing industry financially to produce these urban tales and distribute them to the public, I cannot in good conscience write material that I know will be harmful to an impressionable young reading audience.

Personally, I feel it would be irresponsible for me to write stories making heroes out of people who participate in the destruction of my community and have no qualms about taking the lives of their own brothers and sisters for a few dollars. Furthermore, I feel it’s ethically wrong to mislead readers by writing exploitative tales that exaggerate the realities of what transpires in the inner-city. There are a million great stories about the experiences of African-Americans across the country, and I feel it would be very narrow-minded of me to only write about crime and urban blight.

“With great power comes great responsibility”- Ben Parker

I read that in a reprint of Amazing Fantasy #15 in Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics and those words have stayed with me growing up. As I got older and I returned to the pen at sixteen, I realized I had the power to create any story I wished using my imagination. However, I understood I had a greater responsibility to make sure the stories I put down on paper and eventually published enriched people’s lives. Outside of the flash of cash, bling, cars, designer clothes, graphic sex, and violence in most street fiction stories I’ve read there’s very little substance. Readers don’t learn anything from these stories outside of entertainment.

As a writer, I feel people should get something more out of the books they read besides entertainment. Good literature gives readers better understanding of a subject and an insight into a different part of the world. Great literature inspires people to change their lives for the better.

I want my stories to do the latter and the former.

I feel writing Street Lit and Urban Lit wouldn’t enrich the lives of my brothers and sisters. Writing these types of exploitative stories would only continue to perpetuate the worst images of black life and reinforce numerous pre-existing stereotypes about African-Americans. These types of stories only validate and justify what most readers all over the world think they know about African-Americans and don’t detail the diversity of the experiences of African Americans within the black community. Readers learn nothing new from these stories and get no insight into a different part of the world. It inspires no one to make changes to their lives or the world around them.

My mission as a writer is to create positive stories about African-Americans and the African-American experience. I want to educate, inspire and uplift my brothers and sisters. I want to create stories that give readers an expanded perspective of black life. I want to show my brothers and sisters parts of the African-American community they’ve never experienced. There’s a whole world of African-Americans and African-American experiences outside of the ghettoes of the inner-city. And I won’t be able tell stories about those experiences writing in the limited categories of urban fiction and street lit.