Today I had came across a blog my sister had, past tense as it hasn’t been updated since 2008. The last entry posted was entitled ‘Blaxploitation: A Black and White Issue?’, which immediately piqued my interest. Primarily as a film geek, and having been a clerk at an independent video store, films like “Foxy Brown”, “Shaft”, “Superfly”, and “Cleopatra Jones” were staples in my movie diet. So as I read down and see that my sister has been assigned to write a paper on “the media’s portrayal of individuals of a specific identity”, and has chosen “Friday” as her example I was needless to say very excited.
My sister is most often an intelligent and thoughtful writer, but oh dear Lord did she miss the mark on this one (just from my point of view, but when am I wrong, winning, duh). Badly enough that I felt compelled, nay, obligated to offer up a response. I will quote her liberally, but if you would like to read her piece now, you may find it HERE.
First off, I absolutely believe that "Friday" is a pinnacle of stoner films, the urban ghetto comedy that every film remotely like it after would have to measure itself by. Not only was "Friday" a funny fuckin movie that's endlessly quotable ("I'm gonna get you hiiiiiiiiigh today, cause it's Friday, you ain't got no job, and you ain't got shit to do!"), it was also an arguably intelligent movie. I know, that wasn't the first thing I got out of it either, but it's there. Friday was written by two people who literally grew up in the ghetto, and directed by a man who three years after "Friday" became the first black director to helm a film with a budget of $50 million dollars (so says wikipedia). The story and characters presented in "Friday" are both slapstick caricatures and true to life representations by people who have been there and lived it and now choose to laugh about it.
Now on to a back and forth from Erin's theories and my responses. She states that the producers (among them Ice Cube) "played into some of America's skewed misconceptions about the central and peripheral elements of black life." Ok, no, and what? You mean that by viewing this movie I'm going to, as a dumb average 'merican, think that all black people do is sit on their porches, smoke joints, and ride around on bikes in slippers stealing people's stuff? To open, aside from the crime, all that sounds AWESOME. But really, if you've ever had that thought then either you've seen "Friday", or you've seen ANY black comedian or comedy from the last 30 years. Racial stereotypes are everywhere, and that doesn't mean they should be ignored. They should be laughed at, turned on their head, made into something that is entertainment, not racism. If it is then Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Richord Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and ten billion other black comedians are racist and guilty of perpetuating stereotypes. Acknowledging a stereotype, making it into something funny if you can, that isn't same as perpetuation.
"If an understanding of black culture was derived from 'Friday', dysfunction would serve as its singular definition." I BEG TO DIFFER M'LADY. Friday treats it's main characters with a degree of respect and dignity even while making them the objects of jokes or humorous situations. There are two parents living in the house, both employed and seemingly happily married after an assumed 20+ years. There is stress placed on the main character to go out and find work by his father, seeming that the value of independence and self-sustaining are held high in the family. In Erin's article, the issue of unemployment being a prevalent issue seems erroneous to me, being as it's actually portrayed in an arguably realistic manner. The main character lost his job because someone was stealing from the company and on the security cameras it 'looked like him from behind', both a way to get the story of two slackers with nothing to do today going and possibly also a comment on 'all black people look alike'? Kudos Mr. Cube, well tread material but funny nonetheless ("How you get fired on your day OFF?!"). Nearly every adult in the film goes to or comes from work at some point, and the secondary main character does have a job, it's just that he's a pot dealer. Trust me though, that's a JOB, and it does involve work.
In this film, "poverty becomes a laughable condition, marijuana an instrument of relational bonding, and crime an effort to pass a lazy afternoon", according to Erin. Well, the poverty in such areas is portrayed accurately, and of course it becomes laughable you are watching a comedy, you want serious Ice Cube go watch "Boyz In The Hood". Marijuana an instrument of relational bonding? NO! That can't be! Wait no, I was thinking of something else that isn't awesome and doesn't make you want to eat sandwiches and kool-aid with your friends. Marijuana, just like alcohol or any other inhibition killer, is absolutely and nearly by definition a bonding instrument. As far as crime being an effort to pass time, that's not true. It's Deebo who is running around committing crimes, and its Deebo who forces Smokey to burglarize Stanley's house by threat of shiv. Everywhere you go there is going to be some kind of criminal element present, so including this in the film is obvious and unthreatening in any way. Deebo, this film's antagonist, is eventually knocked out cold by Craig, who decides to defend himself and his neighborhood with his fists despite having a gun in hand and facing a much larger opponent.
Erin finishes out by saying "Despite any redeeming qualities, 'Friday' undermines the efforts of thousands throughout history who have worked hard to build understanding and erase structural inequalities...Funny, yes. Inappropriate? Absolutely." First off, undermining thousands throughout history? Really? That statement is so overly dramatic and reaching I threw up in my mouth a little bit. "Friday" has enriched the millions who've seen it and enjoyed it, found it funny, still rewatch it and quote it to their friends on the regular. It's nothing deep, it's not trying to be, it isn't interested in addressing these social issues and stereotypes, just acknowledging their presence and hopefully get a few well earned laughs out of them. This isn't rocket science, but neither is it stupid, lazy, or race regressing comedy. So Erin. Funny, yes. Inappropriate? Yes. Everything it's supposed to be and even a little bit more? ABSOLUTELY.
Erin, you've been served. I also do take into account that it's been three years since you wrote that, and perhaps your feelings have changed. In any case, I've got two copies of "Friday" and you're welcome to borrow either if you want to reassess. Love ya kid.