In a recent issue of Jet Magazine—the issue with R&B legend Patti Labelle on the cover—the popular weekly news magazine devoted to all things Black listed the editor’s picks for favorite Holiday movies.
Five Jet staff writers chose one of these five movies as their holiday favorites: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” perhaps THE classic Christmas Movie of all time starring the late Jimmy Stewart; “The Preacher’s Wife,” starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston; “Home Alone,” starring Macaulay Culkin; “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” an animated feature directed by Tim Burton (who directed the first Batman movie); and “A Christmas Story,” which is set in the 1950’s about a nine-year-old boy who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.
Of these five Holiday films, only one stars African Americans, “The Preacher’s Wife.” We’re curious to know what influenced the Jet editorial staff to pick four movies that have few to no Black actors in them?
We’re almost positive the Jet staffers are familiar with these three Christmas movies we identified which star predominately African American casts: “The Perfect Holiday,” starring Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union; “The Last Holiday,” starring two rappers turned pretty good actors, Queen Latifah and LL Kool J; and “This Christmas,” starring Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Loretta Devine and Regina King.
There are obviously more holiday films by Black filmmakers and actors that reinforce the true meaning of Christmas. We just picked these films because they emphasize not only the positive aspects of the holiday season, but showcase Black people and families in a positive light, which is rare in movies and television shows.
Perhaps the choices the Jet staffers made is based on the fact the films they listed are seen over and over each year while the films we recommended are not–if you don’t count the showings on BET, its spin-off Centric, or TVOne.
Which points to why it is so important for us as a people to be fully at the controls of our own media vehicles in order to tell our stories, our experiences, our history and the truth—good and bad—that is the Black experience.
Until that day comes, we must worker harder—as a people—to find the movies, songs, and events that enrich our unique experience. We should also watch the three aforementioned Black oriented cable networks as well.
We must also demand the media outlets we do control and that represent us to show images and play music that is a positive reflection of us, of where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
We won’t be surprised if the folks at Jet receive mail or email criticizing their selections and questioning from exactly what cultural media prism did they make their decisions and view their community, let alone the world, while working at a Black publication.
Then again, maybe the editors, after looking at their picks—after the fact—realized only one film they picked had a Black cast and will release another list of holiday movies similar to ours. We can only hope that they do.
Jet and Ebony magazines are important media vehicles that represent our culture, history, and attitudes. They have weathered the economic storms many traditional media has faced and—unlike a few—has survived. We laud Ebony’s and Jet’s accomplishments and continue to look to their iconic model of the Black experience.