Last weekend, as I watched Furious 7 confirm that it’s both the most ridiculous and the most dependable movie franchise ever — it’s basically the movie version of the cheddar bay biscuit — I couldn’t help but ponder a few metaphysical queries, namely…
1. Is there a person whose job is to spray The Rock with sweat between each take? (Perhaps his/her title is “sweat grip.“)
2. What takes more suspension of belief: Ludacris, Edward Snowden, or Ludacris, Jason Bourne?
3. Is Furious 7 a Black movie?
Now, the first two questions have obvious answers. Yes, there definitely must be a Rock sweat grip employed by the Furious franchise, and Ludacris, Jason Bourne is much, much, much, much less believable than Ludacris, Edward Snowden.
The last question, however, is a conundrum. Because if Furious 7 is a Black movie, its record-breaking box office would make it the most successful Black movie ever. But, despite the fact that its opening weekend audience was 75% non-White, if Furious 7 was branded and marketed as a Black movie, it would not have been as successful.
This leaves us with two more questions: What makes a Black movie a Black movie, and how does Furious 7 qualify (or not)?
There are three ways a movie can qualify as Black.
1. Be about a Black person or a Black-related subject
For instance, most of the recognizable actors in 12 Years a Slave (Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, etc) are White. But it’s a Black movie because it’s about a Black person and involves an unmistakably Black-related subject.
2. Star/feature a bunch of Black people
The Best Man Holiday didn’t necessarily involve any themes unique to Black people. But it starred a bunch of Black people and had a choreographed dance scene, so it’s a Black movie.
3. Include Clifton Powell
If still somewhat unsure if a movie is Black movie, ask “Is Clifton Powell in it?” If the answer is “Yes,” it’s a Black movie. It might even be the Blackest movie you’ll ever see. And, there’s a 93% chance you’re watching it while in the barbershop.
Clifton Powell is not in Furious 7. It also does not involve any themes specifically related to Blackness. So, it fails two of the “Is it a Black movie?” metrics. But Furious 7 has a cast so Black that I wouldn’t be surprised if Clifton Powell showed up in a deleted scene, as Tyrese’s aint shit Uncle Man-Man or something.
To wit, 11 people have prominent speaking parts in the movie. Here’s the racial breakdown for each.
Vin Diesel (I have no fucking clue. Which means he’s probably Black.)
The Rock (Black)
Paul Walker (White)
Jordana Brewster (Latina)
Michelle Rodriguez (Afro-Latina)
Jason Statham (White)
Kurt Russell (White, although I have a Black friend who looks exactly like him)
Djimon Hounsou (Black)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Black)
If you count Vin Diesel as Black and Michelle Rodriquez as kinda, sorta, Black, that’s 6.5 Black people. That means the principle roles in Furious 7 are 59% Black. And, as anyone who’s ever been anywhere where 59% of the people were Black can tell you, 59% Black is Black as hell.