Bi-racial Bride=Culturally White Wedding?

In honor of the dvd release of Bridesmaids, I’m reposting a blog I wrote when I watched the movie. Enjoy!

So, check this out.  I went to see Bridesmaids Tuesday night and it was absolutely hilarious. I haven’t laughed that much at a movie in a long time. There is no doubt that the scatological humor was unlike anything I’ve seen on screen in a movie aimed at women, and for a minute there I thought I was watching an Early Modern morality play.  One question though, where were the Black people?  Our bride is bi-racial (Black father, white mother) but there weren’t any, (and I mean not one!), Black people in the wedding party.  I found it odd to say the least, and a downright refusal to acknowledge the existence of the racialized “other” relatives at worst.  And I won’t go into the homophobic tirade at the bridal shower now, but I’ll get to it later.  Since you know, I’m Black AND lesbian.

There is no doubt that there are bi-racial and Black folks who grow up culturally white. And by culturally white I mean a limited access to or knowledge of Black cultures.  I do NOT mean the stereotypical representations of blackness that we frequently see on television and the big screen, e.g. Tyler Perry, and his ilk.  What I do mean is a basic awareness of what it means to be Black in these here United States of America and at least a modicum of familiarity with Black music, art, history, social phenomena, etc.  And by Black cultures I necessarily am referring to the to the wide array of all that Blackness entails, with no one aspect of Black cultures dominating the other, although we do know that in these here United States of America, the negative narrative frames reign supreme: the urban gangsta with his attending gangsta boo; bougie broads digging for gold and a man to take care of their spoiled rich bitch daughters; uptight wanna be gangsta corporate brothas with all of the cash but none of the flash; and let’s not forget our cracked out brethren and sistren, whom the bougie broads and corporate brothas disparage every chance they get; and finally, our latest narrative, brought to us live and in color every chance he gets: Tyler Perry’s version of the ideal Black family: man on top, woman groveling at his feet. I know, I know, I didn’t have to go there. But my point is this: this is what we TYPICALLY get on the big screen.  So when I see this latest narrative of the bi-racial beauty makes good, (no doubt inspired by our president’s bi-racial heritage) I’m excited by the possibilities that this new American race story might entail.

I was sorely disappointed.  How was I disappointed? Let me count the ways.

  1. We find out that our bride is bi-racial at the engagement party when her father (and we really don’t get that he’s her father until after the fact), gets up to make his toast to the bride and groom and repeatedly mentions (jokingly of course, wink wink) that he wants us to pay for the wedding. Not sure why that was so funny. It was crass and rooted in old stereotypes, Black father = dead beat dad.
  2. There are several instances where our bride tries to “act” Black. Neckrolling, eye rolling, “urban” inflections in her voice, and ridiculous insertions of Black English that not only don’t make sense in terms of the movie’s dialogue, but just come off as what they are: stereotypes of Black women as sassy and brash, even though there are NO BLACK WOMEN IN THE MOVIE.
  3. There were no Black people in the bridal party. None. Now, we’ve got the fat soon to be sister-in-law, the fancy schmansy new rich bitch best friend, the married crank, the naïve newlywed, and even though our bride’s father is Black, and I mean locs and all Black, she doesn’t seem to have one Black cousin, friend, distant relative, or co-worker worthy enough to be in her bridal party.  I found that strange, since the rag-tag group of women that actually are her bridesmaids all seem to be tangentially connected to her somehow, so why not a Black cousin?

Unless, of course, our girl isn’t really supposed to be Black at all. No Black friends, no Black relatives, no Black cultural references, just a few asinine stereotypes thrown in to make the mostly white target audience believe that this woman has a touch of the “exotic.”  Yeah, that.  So I’ll give them one point: they are in the Midwest, notoriously devoid of Black folk, although we are around in small numbers. The film is set in Wisconsin; Milwaukee to be exact, so I get it. But what’s interesting is that there were random Black folks on the street, although not in any of the places were the white people hung out. You know, like at the bars, or the restaurants, or the bridal shop.  So my problem is this: this movie pretends to make light of the fact that our bride is bi-racial. It’s not a big deal. Except that it is.  It seems to me that this movie elides the issue of race by pretending that we live in a post-racial world, where a bi-racial woman can marry an up-and-coming white man and race doesn’t matter.

The issue is one of passing. And our bi-racial heroine passes for white, physically, culturally, and socially.  However, she doesn’t “pass” in the traditional sense, (everyone knows that her dad is Black), but she passes in that she is able to completely ignore the fact that there are actually Black people in her city, at her place of employment, in her family.  Make no mistake: I take no issue with her marriage to a white man, or the fact that she is culturally and socially diverse. But the absence of any named Black characters in this movie, where the bride’s racial make-up was surely an intentional act on the part of the director, makes me suspicious.  Why make her bi-racial at all if the topic if race never comes up? I find it hard to believe that race NEVER came up in her family, with her friends, with her fiancé and his country club card-carrying boss and wife.  Let’s get real people.   We do NOT live in a world where race doesn’t matter. To make the main character in this movie bi-racial and not bring up race, and to position this woman as “moving on up” to the upper echelon of society and not have even one snooty old lady mention family pedigree in regards to race or class, just doesn’t ring true.  But we don’t expect movies to mirror real life or anything…


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