Krin Grabbard writes:
"I'm working on a paper about Hollywood's investment in white masculinity, often
at the expense of black masculinity.  This is especially clear in _Ransom_, a
film that has white villains even though the real struggle is between the
wealthy white hero and the hypermasculine black FBI agent.  Although Delroy
Lindo as the FBI man would seem to be holding all the cards as the most
masculine character, he is consistently outmanned by Mel Gibson.  Much the same
can be said of _An Officer and a Gentleman_, _Lethal Weapon_, _Get Shorty_,
_Seven_, _Die Hard With a Vengeance_, _Dusk to Dawn_, and _The Glimmer Man_.
There are surely others.  Any suggestions?  I would like to compile a thorough
list of American films in which highly masculine blacks are overshadowed in
some significant way by white men."
What you seem to be looking at is an intersection of certain stock sets of
character relationships in certain  kinds of narratives and the issue of
race.  In other words, what is the character as written in the screenplay and
what is the character as played by a particular actor (with of course
modification by camerawork, editing, sound, etc.)?  What I'm trying to say
might be clearer in the case of AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, where Louis
Gossett had to actively "prove" himself as able to play the part of the DI,
which was originally conceived of as a white character.  Is there a difference
when  the character is originally written as "white" and when it is assumed
that he/she will be black?
A second point is that the differences you seem to imply between these sets
of characters derive in part from old patterns of relationships between
an active male character and another sidekick or mentor who is continually
gotten over, outclassed, outsmarted, or upstaged by the other.  The pattern
extends back in literature to the origins of the picaresque tradition and
can be seen in many sets of white-white relationships, including the "buddy"
films that were recently a point of discussion here.  WHAT PRICE GLORY? might
stand as one example.
What if del Lindo in RAMSOM was played by someone like Tommy Lee Jones (in
THE FUGITIVE)?  Isn't there a reverse relationship at least sketched in the
ending of PASSENGER 57, where Snipes is the one in charge?
Finally, I don't see all of your examples as being equal.  One could argue,
for example, that although Brad Pitt is a far more active character in
SEVEN than Morgan Freeman, the ending of the film puts Pitt's character as
the real failure.  You might also compare VIRTUOSITY (if you can bear to
watch it).  You might also want to compare the role played by Will Smith in
INDEPENDENCE DAY to President Pullman, or on the other hand, Morgan Freeman's
role in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES compared to Costner's Robin.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
To signoff SCREEN-L, e-mail [log in to unmask] and put SIGNOFF SCREEN-L
in the message.  Problems?  Contact [log in to unmask]