‘Beyond the Lights’ director blasts Netflix on Twitter: This has got to stop

08.05.15 2 years ago

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“Beyond the Lights” director Gina Prince-Blythewood isn't a fan of Netflix at the moment.

Last night on Twitter, the filmmaker called out the streaming service for lumping her critically-acclaimed romantic drama, which just so happens to star two black actors in the lead roles, with other movies and TV shows featuring mainly black casts — despite the fact that they have little else in common.

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Indeed, a quick test of the “More Like This” feature bears this out. Here's a screenshot of the first page of recommendations from my own Netflix account:

“A Different World” is the “Cosby Show” spinoff sitcom that centered on the lives and loves of Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) and her college friends. As for the films, here are loglines for each:

“The Coalition” (Comedy/Romance): “These girls don't sit at home with a box of tissues when a pack of players break their hearts. They get even. Big time.”

“My Favorite Five” (Comedy/Romance): “She had five men. Now she wants just one and can't get him. Yep, that sounds like love all right.”

“Being Mary Jane: The Movie”: The 90-minute pilot for the BET drama series about a popular talk show host (Gabrielle Union) and her struggles to balance her work, family and love life.

Of those, “Being Mary Jane” is (at least on the surface) perhaps the most thematically similar to “Beyond the Lights” in its mixture of showbiz and romantic drama, and yet it still doesn't have the musical element that would make, say, “Walk the Line” (Prince-Bythewood's example) a more obvious pairing.

And it's not just the first batch of recommendations that presents a problem. Below I've embedded screenshots for the next several pages of results. Note that it takes five screens to finally get to a film featuring white leads — the 2010 Robert Pattinson vehicle “Remember Me.”

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The point Prince-Bythewood is making here is a salient one. African-Americans (or at least a sizable majority of them) don't just want to watch movies with primarily African-American cast members, just as most white people don't just want to watch movies with primarily white cast members. I would venture that there's also some resentment on Prince-Bythewood's part that her film, which boasts an impressive 81% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and whose star Gugu Mbatha-Raw was even talked about for a potential Oscar nomination this year, is being lumped in with movies and TV shows that — at least on the surface — appear to be relatively disposable lightweight fare.

Do you think Prince-Bythewood has a point?

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