Recently, Netflix released the sexy thriller Fatal Affair which reunited Nia Long (who plays Ellie Warren) and Omar Epps (who plays David Hammond). The two starred in In Too Deep in 1999 and had small roles in the 2004 remake of Alfie.
Epps and Long have both been known for their iconic roles within Black cinema over the last three decades, and eager fans were ecstatic to learn they were joining forces for a new movie. It's no surprise Fatal Affair became the most talked-about film on Twitter and the most-watched movie in its first week of release on Netflix, making it the most popular filmed stream of the week.
However, despite its numerical popularity, critics and fans were not impressed by the material. The weekend it was released, Twitter was inundated with people discussing the film from the crazy driver's licence photo of David to the plot being predictable. Your writer was one of them.
A common complaint was that many were embarrassed and couldn't even muster the energy to watch a mere one hour and 29 minutes of the ridiculous suspense. Others were frustrated by the lack of originality, as many Black films (Obsessed and The Intruder to name a couple) share the same premise.
But why are Black movie consumers embarrassed by mediocre movies? Fatal Affair never set itself up to be Oscar-worthy nor be on par with the OG obsessive-ex classic Fatal Attraction. It's simply a popcorn flick you watch to forget for 90 minutes that we're in quarantine.
In context, Black film watchers often feel there needs to be a higher standard when it comes to what we create for entertainment. We are a culture that is proud of our talents and successes. We've overcome so much adversity that we align with greatness because we deserve it.
The greatest athletes, actors, musicians, filmmakers are Black and exude Black excellence. However, do we put too much pressure on ourselves to always being the best at what we do? To always perform at the highest possibility? When we do not, why is shame the consequence, not mutual support?
White creators dominate Hollywood. The majority of the movies we have consumed – since the beginning of moving images – have been created, acted, produced, written, directed by and for white audiences. Their agency allows them to fail multiple times and for it not be a reflection of their entire community.
Ben Affleck can star in several films that don't make their budget back in box-office sales and perform poorly with critics, but it won't be a considered a reflection on his abilities. He still has a career. He will always have movie opportunities, no matter how high or low his career goes.
But that standard isn't always applied for Blacks, Latinx, Asians and others in Hollywood. When we are able to produce art and tell our stories, it must be spectacular, it must be shockingly good – because every small victory minorities achieve means a little more opportunity to create our stories and have a seat at the table.
We feel the pressure to succeed because we're always scared the opportunity will slip away from us.
In the last ten years in Hollywood, we have witnessed our stories being told and incorporated into major franchises. The most successful superhero movie that's not one of the Avengers team-ups is Black Panther – which also received a Best Picture nomination.
In the last ten years of the Academy Awards, two Black films won the highest honour of the evening: Moonlight (2016) and 12 Years a Slave (2013), directed by Black filmmakers Barry Jenkins and Steve McQueen respectively. It's an exciting time for Black creatives, especially in film and television.
This is partly why we get frustrated when movies like Fatal Affair are released with lazy storylines and subpar acting. It feels like a failure in the entire culture, which results in undue pressure on the rest of the community.
But the fact that many Black movies are successful gives us leeway to be just okay occasionally. We should have the agency, the authority, the right to enjoy and create mediocre movies, to watch terribly acted and poorly written flicks and not have it be a reflection on our community – and still have the same opportunities as white filmmakers and viewers.
We should allow ourselves to be fine instead of outstanding once in a while. No matter what, we create movements in sports, film, music, art and more that no-one can touch. We push the needle on the culture and society with everything we create.
We are the culture. So, take the time out of your evening and watch Fatal Affair as a campy thriller with two beautiful and talented people who have worked hard enough to be in one bad film and accept it for what it is.
Fatal Affair now available to stream on Netflix.
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