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Nash Simpson | Throwblack Thursday

Coming to terms

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 08:01

Honorable citizens, randos, gremlins and freshmen alike, thanks for choosing to take part in the excusable waste of time that is this column: “Throwblack Thursday.” My column’s name of course deserves explanation, so I’ll start from the beginning.

My  inspiration for “Throwblack Thursday” was a recent conversation that I had with a friend of mine, Nash (no, I was not talking to myself), with whom I enjoy discussing the latest pop culture news, politics, music and Richard Sherman shenanigans. During one of our talks, Nash felt like bringing up classic black movies from the late ‘80s and ‘90s.

“Hey, Nash,” he said to me. “Have you seen
[insert name of a black film here]?”

More often than not I answered, “No,
no,
uh ... maybe? No, not in a long time,
no.”

As he continued naming these movies I kept shaking my head — although I elected to nod every now and then just to change things up. Lies on lies. Apparently I still didn’t nod enough times: Nash eventually concluded that I hadn’t seen “too many” of what he referred to as “landmark, must-see black movies.” As the days passed, he kept asking me questions: “Have you seen New Jack City? Rosewood? Juice?”

And I would consistently respond with the honest “no.”

I initially found Nash’s discovery off-putting since I consider myself to be relatively in tune with black culture. My general lack of knowledge of pre-21st century black films felt like a disturbingly deficiency. Perhaps, I thought, if I just pushed Nash’s discovery aside, I could simply ignore this deficit of sorts and move on with my life, peacefully dwelling in the comfort of ignorant bliss.

I attempted to carry out this denial tactic only to find myself — almost involuntarily — surfing IMDb and other movie sites to research many of these classic black movies. I had quickly become obsessed, and I had no choice but to make time to just sit down and watch the films. I had quite bit of catching up to do — and I still do. You know, falling behind like this is what happens when — over the course of an entire childhood — you skip over BET too many times while quickly flipping through channels. Damn you, Nickelodeon!

In a delayed response to that brief encounter with Nash, I decided to make a New Year’s resolution: I plan, over the course of 2014, to watch as many of these classic black movies as possible — not necessarily because I feel pressured to do so, but because I feel compelled to explore the deep-rooted cultural themes that are often conveyed through comedy, film, music and scattered amalgamations of all three. I’ll delineate the topics I find interesting in “Throwblack Thursday.” 

This column will be an exploration of black movie entertainment and an analysis of the films’ cultural implications. I will use varying points of emphasis that will change depending on the type of movie and/or the way in which each movie was made. The discussed focal points will range in theme — from blatant allusions to historical events, to clever but often offensive satires of the ways in which we — as subjects of modern American media — define contemporary black culture.

To conclude, I’d like to point out that I prefer to keep the term “black movie” as fluid and subjective as possible. As a matter of fact, in a deliberate attempt to avoid the perpetuation of arguably separatist tendencies of minority subcultures in America, I refuse to define the term. As far as I’m concerned, if a pre-2000 film movie sheds light on black culture in any discernible way, I’ll include it in the category of classic “black film.”

Worry not — this refusal of labels will not get out of hand, and at the end of the day you will undoubtedly enjoy embarking upon this journey with Nash — me, not the other one. Note, by the way, that the article title will sometimes hint at what the next column will be about. Randomly placed puns will also foreshadow future topics. Anyways, be sure to come back next Thursday and the Thursday after next and the Thursday after that.

 

Nash Simpson is a senior majoring in English. He can be reached at Nash.Simpson@tufts.edu.

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