Dear Editor:

The movie “Red Tails” almost made me cry…

The major studios should be applauded for having the decency to pass on this movie.

To belittle and dishonor the heroic accomplishments of The Tuskegee Airmen by using them as an excuse to make a sloppy, comic-book aviation movie was unconscionable. The movie is a disgrace to filmmaking and to Black people.

I’m 74 years old. When I was a kid, the Tuskegee Airmen were one of the few (very few) heroes that we had. They still are and always should be.

How racially arrogant is it of George Lucas to assume that it’s okay for him to turn our precious Black history into a comic book film. “If you can’t shed any light on the subject, leave it in the dark.” Many young people don’t know about the Tuskegee Airman, and after seeing “Red Tails,” they still won’t. To say that Lucas squandered a great opportunity to shed some light, would imply that maybe it was unintentional. Believe me it wasn’t, because filmmaking is about choices.

In real life The Tuskegee Airmen were college educated. In Red Tails they are caricaturized as bumpkins, speaking (and mumbling) clichéd lines and making uneducated decisions.

The special effects were mostly second-class and never once did I get the feeling that the actors were actually flying those planes. That’s cheesy filmmaking, implying that Black filmgoers will accept anything. Ditto for the shoddy storytelling, or lack thereof.

The only love interest was an absurd, unbelievable hook-up between a pilot and an Italian woman. (And they killed the pilot off before the wedding). This poor choice was compounded by the fact none of the other pilots had any love interests in their lives.

Growing up in the 1940s, I saw many, many war movies, and always, the barracks were full of pictures and stories of loved ones back home. Apparently the Black airmen in this movie didn’t have wives or girlfriends or mothers or children. There is only one very brief scene where a pilot is looking at a picture of a loved one, but he quickly hides it when another airman enters his room, as if he’s ashamed.

George Lucas, aided and abetted by Blacks who were unable or unwilling to recognize that the king has no clothes on, intentionally sabotaged a part of our history.

In my lifetime, I have seen unbelievable progress made in race relation, and I work hard at not being an “angry old Black man”. But just when I think I’m over the hump, up pops a reminder like “Red Tails.”

Instead of suggesting that people ignore this movie, I’m going to encourage all Blacks to go see it, so as not to forget that it’s not over yet.

If we fail to speak out against this disrespectful trivializing of our history, we’re going to eventually need another civil rights movement. “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Stanley Gray

San Gabriel, Calif.

(I am a 74-year-old liver transplant recipient. I authored the 1972 ABC theatre Movie, “If You Give A Dance, You Gotta Pay The Band.”)

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