Earlier this week, Rachel Kramer Brussel wrote an essay at The Root criticizing an “well-meaning” book by a woman who apparently has jungle fever. One of the tips for dating interracially in the book is watching films that are relevant to the race of the person you’re attempting to date. But Brussel writes:
I can’t imagine what I’d do if someone came on a date with me, “armed” with having watched Yentl and Schindler’s List (both on Davies’ list of recommended Jewish-themed movies). As for me, the black guys I’ve dated are more apt to talk about Tron or The Green Hornet than Mississippi Masala or Jungle Fever.
So this advice, when applied to people of color who want to date white people would mean (at least according to Aziz Ansari) watching almost every movie ever.
Obviously this is silly, and people are individuals who may or may not have interests in common with folks who look like them, but it got me thinking: What movies are required for people, irrespective of race, who are interested in getting to know Shani? Let’s see…
#1 The Flight of the Navigator.
This was my very first favorite movie, ever. Plot: a kid in Florida takes a shortcut to get home and falls in a ditch. He wakes up and it’s like, 12 years later, but he doesn’t realize that until he arrives at his house and it’s completely different. He gets reunited with his fam eventually, but they’re all 12 years older — his little brother is older than he is, whoa! — and it’s determined that he was abducted by an alien (voiced by Paul Reubens, natch) who accidentally dropped him off in the future. He spends the rest of the film trying to get home, and his right time. Sarah Jessica Parker and a robot get in the mix. It’s well-established that I enjoy space and science, fiction, so it’s not surprising that I found this film completely fascinating and funny whenever it came on the teevee when I was a kid. A few years ago, I bought it on DVD, and it holds up surprisingly well.
#2 Brown Sugar.
This is not a good film. It’s obvious and you know what’s going to happen — the two best friends will end up together. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs are BFFs who are dating/married to other people, but their friendship is clearly destined to be more. Whatever. The best scene is where Boris Kodjoe, maybe the worst model-turned-actor in the world and Mos Def, good-at-acting-but-mumbly talk about the future of Kodjoe’s career. Kodjoe, having just proposed to Lathan, wants to branch out from being a star NBA player and become a rapper (paging AI!). He asks Mos Def to be his “rap coach.” And yes, “rap coach” is a term that makes me giggle to this day.
#3 Imitation of Life. (Lana Turner version.)
This film is actually too dense to appreciate on first viewing. On its surface, it seems like a movie about a white woman and her black maid in the 1940s-1950s. Watch it again, and it’s a story about mothers and daughters. Watch it again, and it’s a story about race and tragic mulattoes. Watch it again, and it’s about women who choose their careers and selves over men. Watch it again, and it’s about Broadway. Watch it again, and it’s about amazing clothes and sex. Watch it again, and cry.
Well, there you have it.