#OscarsSoWhite vilified Hollywood for its historical disproportionate affinity for white actors and films that equally lack diverse characters as well as diverse narratives. The Oscar is cemented as the pinnacle award when it comes to film and in its 87 years of vindicating artists in the medium, 2,947 of the golden guys have been awarded and 35 of them went to black people.
The infographic above breaks down the alarming imbalance that exists not only on screen but also in the writing room– where this problem is rooted.
That brings us to the movie trailer for A Weekend With The Family, scheduled to release on April 1st of 2016.
An April Fool’s joke, maybe? If so, a very bad one. Here is the synopsis for the movie as written by their writers.
A young attorney looks to gain a position at a prestigious law firm while secretly dating his boss’ daughter, who he’s hoping to marry; but when his loving girlfriend decides to arrange a surprise family weekend get-together, his plans blow up in his face, especially with the arrival of his ghetto-fied family, the Stankershets. Travis (Marques Houston) and Courtney (Karrueche Tran) portray love interests who struggle to hold on to their relationship all while their two families wage war in an explosion of hilarity. It’s the far east against the deep south; strict, traditional, Korean customs versus a backwards, country way of life. In the end, Travis must find a way to make the two families peacefully co-exist long enough for him to propose to the woman he loves.
AWWTF is a seemingly innocent slapstick rom-com that admirably makes light of the heavy topic of interracial dating. The film isn’t blazing any trails (see: Guess Who, Made in America, Malibu’s Most Wanted, etc.) but the slight spin here is instead of a black/white relationship, the producers enlisted the “talents” of Marques Houston (go home, Roger) and Karrueche Tran (go with him) to juxtapose the black experience with the Asian experience. Not only is there not anything wrong with that but, in fact, this is exactly what is needed. To combat the systemic problems of the Oscar’s being so white, diverse stories must be written and told, but they must be written and told purposefully, because people of color don’t get as many minutes on the silver screen or as many seats in the writing room. When we do, we have to make those minutes and seats count.
A Weekend With The Family does not count.
The IMDB page states that the estimated budget for the film hovered around $4,000,000. More of that budget was spent on culturally inaccurate prop chopsticks that kept Karrueche’s hair together than on a consultant that could have told the writers that they fucked up. There’s so many cringe-worthy, offensive, and inauthentic moments in the two and a half minute trailer that if it is any reflection of the movie as a whole, then AWWTF should have been left on cutting room floor in it’s entirety.
Things turn suspect immediately in the trailer when Karreuche’s father greets his daughter in a kimono (Japanese) rather than a hanbok (Korean) all while karate chopping and hi-ya’ing in the most mocking way possible.
Suzanne Whang plays the token chingchong role to add comedic relief with the punchline being that she can’t speak English well (even though she can). The irksome kimonos multiply in numbers as the trailer continues. A consultant could have told the wardrobe department that the colors of a hanbok actually mean something and are not simply decorative. The style and color of garb is dictated by special occasion and even marital status. But for AWWTF, the style was dictated by “fuck it.” One second into the dinner scene I notice that the dining ware is of Japanese design, down to the sake carafes. The running joke in the film is that the Stankershet family is ignorant of culture; the actual joke is that the whole writing room was.
Not only is this ignorance completely unacceptable, it’s completely unnecessary.
All it would have taken to not piss off an entire community, as well as anyone not blind to ignorance, would have been one person in that writing room with enough cultural knowledge, or at least the curiosity, to question the validity of this movie’s imagery and rhetoric. This insensitivity and unintentional malice could have been avoided with a Google search, but that would have taken actual caring.
Not every actor’s name or movie title is meant to be etched in that gold plate that Oscar stands on, and I am not asking every performance or script to be of that quality. The Academy Award is reserved for the best of the best, and as biased and subjective as that “best” is defined, validation needs to come from a real place for it to be rewarding. And of course, A Weekend With The Family was not written to win an Oscar and is more suitable to Netflix and chill, but does that mean we can adulterate people’s histories and trivialize culture completely? A cheap laugh can cost more than you think.