Not Feeling Nick and Norah

Have you seen the trailer for "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist"? I just did and if I go off of the trailer, Nick and Norah don't have any black friends. None at all. In fact, in the grand tradition of sitcoms like "Friends" and "Seinfeld", Nick and Norah are in NYC and there are no black people around anywhere. It's like the Republican convention got vomited up onto the big screen, except that everyone got 50 years younger and threw on some wannabe hipster t-shirts.

Seriously, these Nick and Norah teens, featuring the guy who played the baby daddy in "Juno", are sooo edgy that they play in a queercore band, but they don't have a black friend anywhere. Not even an imaginary one! I guess the casting folks figured they have the token Asian buddy in the film and that's all that's needed for a film set in NYC. They couldn't even be cool with some sort of edgy Santogold type? And no Dominicans or Puerto Ricans either!

And I'm supposed to believe they're cool kids hanging in Manhattan? Uh, okaay...

You ever notice how if you have a movie with a predominantly white teen cast, it's a sweet, coming-of-age story, even if the kids are acting like complete idiots. But if there's more than one black character the film will somehow involve gangs, drugs, dancing or escaping the hood. Black teens never ever get the sweet, coming of age story.

I am SO through with a John Hughes type teen movie casting where the only black folks around, if there are any, are doing the modern-day equivalent of the racist and embarrassing-as-I-don't-know-what Ferris Bueller dance moves.

Yeah, it's not the '80s anymore, so why are we still seeing these kinds of films and this sort of casting?

I hope Nick and Norah is a humongous coming-of-age flop.


Maybe it's because America is post-racial now so it doesn't matter anymore who is or is not portrayed in the images of our popular culture. (I'm mean that rhetorically of course).
thailandchani said…
Wow.. there's something I could say here definitely. LOL

I've never seen Nick and Nora and probably won't. However, the other night I was channel-surfing and stopped for a moment on the new 90210.

There were all sorts of skin colors represented but the attitudes were all the same. There was no diversity, if you get what I mean. Even though they had Black, Asian and Hispanic characters, they all had a very predictable message and very similar behavior.

I guess I can't really see that as diversity, even though there were different types of bodies on the show. (No different body *sizes*, mind you.)

This is a huge subject, of course. Bigger than a comment on a blog - but I thought it might be worthwhile to scratch the surface.

There was no diversity of thought is perhaps what I'm getting at.

Anonymous said…
I'm flabbergasted. How can a film set in NYC not feature a single black character? I'd like to think filmgoers will stay away in droves but probably the reality is that a lot of people are indifferent to realism and racism and just want predictable entertainment. Sad.
Jen said…
Um... just NOT the NYC I grew up in. That's for sure.

One of the absolute JOYS of NYC (and I say this now that I'm living in Michigan) was that I had friends of all stripes and flavors - races, cultures, religions, the whole bit. Because we were all there together. All. the. time. So, yeah, it would have been weird to have friends that looked just like you did.

Well, another movie I can skip.
Mango Mama said…
I often wonder when so-called "cool, hipsters" find themselves in an all-white environment, or in this case on a set with the principal cast and extras, doesn't anyone look around and say, "whoa, what's up with the lack of diversity?" Or does it simply look normal to them?
Lisa Johnson said…
I've never understood this phenomenon either. I mean there are people of color around just about everywhere. Maybe this is the writer/creator/producer's vision of how they would like things to be or maybe it shows the lack of diversity of people that they have in their own lives.
It reflects the reality that the creators of these shows and movies live a certain way. I've written scripts set in NYC and they didn't look like a Friends episode.

As a black women working in Hollywood I cannot begin to list some the insane stuff I have heard regarding casting decisions.

At least George's boss on Seinfeld and the lawyer were black. Friends? don't get me started.

I saw Ferris years ago. I don't remember that clip at all. WTF?
I never could stand Friends or Seinfeld and thought their popularity was evidence of the remarkably dumbed-down culture we have become. But this is the 21st century. White people are actually in the minority, worldwide, so it's unbelievably unrealistic, arrogant and racist to portray any society with no diversity.

What are they thinking?
Anonymous said…
Wow, look at all these happy black people! Ferris is really hip and happening if he can get them to boogey down. And then, you see the little back baby in the crowd to make the connection. Ferris is really hip and BAD. As if his coolness is so magnetic that it induces black people into a trance, making them dance out of nowhere. What was really weird was that they were not anywhere near the parade. Just props for the character to emphasize his coolness.

Well, John Hughes was not known for being politically correct. The 80's had a lot of racist movies.
Liz Dwyer said…
Folks want to believe we're post-racial because it makes us feel better psychologically and morally about what's happening in our world and the choices we each make. Not that some things aren't changing, but we're a long way off of post-racial.

Yes, there's a great lack of diversity of ideas and images/types/people. Even in music, there are so many talented people but they don't have the right "look".

I often wonder if that indifference is a conscious or subconcious thing. I'm not the "demographic" for the movie but I don't know if teens/young twenty-somethings will go check this film out.

My friends who grew up in NYC are exactly that way, lots of friends from lots of different backgrounds. Every time I'm there I love walking down the street and seeing everyone from all around the world. This sort of film is just a total racial fantasy.

Mango Mama,
I think it looks normal to people and also, the stories of people who are not white are not seen as being as valuable or as interesting, unless they play into that "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" stereotype. And it's also what's perceived to be profitable. Like that movie "Hitch" -- Eva Mendes was cast because the studio didn't feel a black female romantic interest across from Will Smith would sell to a world wide audience.

Probably both the vision of how they'd like things and the lack of diversity in their own lives. And that Americans keep paying money to see this sort of thing. We seem to be OK with a more diverse cast for crime capers (like the Ocean's movies) but not for drama or romance.

I can only imagine some of the insanity you've heard about casting. What do you think it would take to get more scripts like the ones you've written made into feature films?

I never saw Seinfeld till the very last episode and I've only seen Friend's on commercials advertising it, thank goodness. But folks looove those shows. I read somewhere that those two shows and Sex and the City are responsible for a mass influx of twenty-something white kids moving to NYC. I wonder how true that is.

Isn't that dance scene SO ridiculously racist? I like so many parts of that movie but every time it gets to that scene, it just makes me cringe. Why oh why!
Anonymous said…
Totally puketastic. I'm so bored/disgusted with the "cozy little white movies." WE CAN MAKE BETTER FILMS THAN THIS! Christ, you think the white youth of America isn't ready for a challenge? CHALLENGE US ALREADY. Even Mtv Films made "Save the last Dance" at one point. What happened?

Who wants to see yet another movie that only 2% of the population can relate to?
Blacks are all over New York, even in the so-called nice areas. And some of New York is like a small Caribbean country. That's why I don't watch Seinfeld or Friends or Sex in the City.

There's no excuse for it.
It's really annoying. These writers/directors/green-lighters don't even TRY to bring things into the 21st century and as long as they're not held accountable they won't have to. I'd send a letter to the studio letting them know this is why the movie doesn't work and it's what the studio deserves!
Anonymous said…
Well, in crime movies, the relationships between characters tends to be more distant, superficial. You'll see whites and blacks as police partners. When the crime involves interracial players, it's still a distant event. You know why they won't feature interracial romance. As far as dramas go, writers have difficulty envisioning a world where there are close connections between people of different races. The racial divide exists in their minds. So that is what they will create in their stories.

When Survivor had that "Race Wars" season ~_~, there was an interracial team, but 2 members abandoned their tribe because they thought the others would ditch them to align with someone of the same race. That did not happen. So you could see how some people buy into the lie that everyone is out for their race. Those deserters were not aware of the possibility that there was something beyond race, like loyalty and personal connection.
Jameil said…
here here! i hope so too! flop away n&n. you foolishness. i'm gonna need a black coming of age film quite soon! the wood was fun but it was more a retrospective than what was actually happening to them at the time.
the last noel said…
LOL. I wondered the same thing! I noticed Asians, which was interesting. But where were the black people?
DJ Black Adam said…
I feel you, it is just pathetic that we still live in a country that has such a black out when it comes to entertainment. Part of the problem of getting my feature done (which is why I am doing the documentary first) is that producers didn't quite agree with the fact that i had a story about 4 kids, Black and latino and no one was on crack, in a gang or a prostitute.

It is sad, but Black film houses need to take the hit and make these films, they may not be as profitable as the negativity, but they would still find an audience and turn a profit.
Liz Dwyer said…
Well, Save the Last Dance got morphed into those Step Up movies. Heck, maybe I need to write the script I want to see!

Definitely no excuse. I miss that about NYC. That's not the same here in LA and I miss that about other parts of the country.

It would be nice if people would boycott this sort of crap. I wonder if writing a letter would make a difference. Watch this film end up getting two thumbs up and described as heartwarming.

There are not a whole lot of models of racial unity on TV and film, folks who are genuinely friends who are loyal and full of integrity and not just there because of some stereotype. I'm glad I haven't watched Survivor since the first season because the whole idea of that "Race Wars" season just made me totaly sick.

There definitley hasn't been a black coming-of-age film in a minute. Where's our black version of Ferris Bueller?

I guess we're all too busy being uppity and arrogant to appear on film. ;)
Liz Dwyer said…
I'm not surprised, sadly enough. You can't have four young black and Latino kids who are just obsessed about music without one of them doing something deviant. Glad you're still keeping on regardless of the negative vibe from producers.
Karen said…
Good grief. WHEN will the entertainment industry learn??
file under ironic. one of the co-producers is black.

The script was adapted from a novel. The screenwriter is from Jersey and lived in NYC, and the weitz brothers grew up in NYC (hella rich but still) so I don't get why nobody noticed this.

My manager is getting a "read" from a colleague on my script so we'll see feedback we get.
Liz Dwyer said…
They'll learn when these movies start seriously flopping. Money's the only thing that talks in this town.

That is very ironic and bizarre. A black co-producer and the screenwriter lived in NYC. Wow.

Crossing my fingers for your script!
Lola Gets said…
Ok, I loved that Ferris movie when I was a teen, and it never occurred to me that the parade/dancing scene was racist. Hmmn...Imma have to think about that one. I never thought that Little Shop of Horrors was racist either, but some of my friends did. Hmmn.....

Anonymous said…
there were some awkward moments in this movie that were hard to get past... such as every time that gum was re-used (yuck!)

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