Although there are Black movies (“Black movies” = “movies featuring Black people and/or Black stories”) that are better (Malcolm X, Glory, Do The Right Thing, etc), more important (The Color Purple, Shaft, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, etc), and even funnier (Undercover Brother, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, The Original Kings of Comedy, etc), none are as universally beloved by us as Coming to America.
While it’s not definitely not loved by every single Black person, there’s no doubt it would appear on more of our favorite’s lists than any other Black film. There’s even less doubt that, if we took a vote, “Queen to Be” could replace “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as our national anthem.
Yet, after re-watching it last weekend for the 367234th time, something dawned on me: If this movie was released in 2014, it would not receive the same love. In fact, many of us would hate it. Not all of us, of course. Many would still enjoy it. But, considering today’s general mood about comedy — where certain types of humor seems to have to pass through a gauntlet of arbitrarily determined standards before considered socially acceptable — there would be so much negative pushback towards it that even the people who loved it would be loathe to publicly admit it.
The pushback would start on Facebook and #blacktwitter weeks before the movie was even released, as word about the plot and the people involved would begin to circulate.
“A White director making a comedy about Africa? #nocountryforoldappropriation”
“Apparently, Arsenio is in a wig during a scene. And a dress. I couldn’t make this sh*t up if I tried. Does everyone in Hollywood hate Black women?”
As the release date neared, and media people started to attend advance screenings, thinkpieces would start to formulate on Slate, The Root, Clutch, EBONY, Jezebel, and (admittedly) VSB.
Coming to America’s Big, Fat Africa Problem: What The Movie Gets Wrong About African Immigrants, And Why It’s So Upsetting
Queen To Be? Not If She’s Dark: Coming to America’s Disturbing Colorism
Lisa McDowell, Feminist or Fake?
Homies or Homie/Lover/Friends? Akeem and Semmi’s Very Peculiar Bond
From Mop to Fries in Three Years: On Slave Wages and Cleo McDowell
Was it Selfish For Eddie and Arsenio To Play Multiple Characters Instead of Hiring More Black Actors?
By the time the movie was set to be released, there would be so many petitions and protests against it that the studio would pull it from the theaters. WorldStarHipHop would buy the rights to it, replace Shari Headley and Allison Dean with Erica Mena and Dutchess from Black Ink, and release it in six 15 minute long installments on their site.
I don’t know if there would be a sequel. Perhaps there would be one 14 years after the original film was released. Who knows? I don’t.
I do know, though, that no one would ever sing “Queen to Be” at their wedding.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)