Unlike the posters in America, British adverts for the film Red Tails doesn’t show any of the characters – just an action scene of a fire-fight in the sky. Ads in the UK national papers and on the London underground appear to deliberately disguise the all-black cast and give no clue about the plot; a story of the Tuskegee Airman of Alabama who were a group of black pilots that fought in World War II at a time when the U.S. military was still segregated.
The same movie was promoted in the US with a poster that featured the seven African-American actors underneath an image of a fire-fight, with the strapline “courage has no color.” So why was this missing in Britain, a country where commentators have so often claimed that this nation is less racially-divided than the US?
Just as George Lucas talked about the racism of Hollywood that would not fund a big budget action blockbuster with an all-black cast, so to the wider film industry are guilty of prejudice in how they are promoting the film.
Some may say: well, as long as you get people in the cinemas to see it that’s all good. But that’s hardly the point. We shouldn’t be pandering to racist attitudes in the first place, on principle.
The second point is that in an era of online trailers, surely the vast majority of cinema-goers who would entertain the idea of watching this film already know what it is about and the fact that the cast are all black? So what is the point of hiding this fact in the posters?
It is slightly more common to find commercial adverts where black people have been photoshopped out, like this one for Microsoft, or this poster promoting the film Couples Retreat, where again the black person was erased for the benefit of a UK audience.
Making a minor actor disappear is bad enough, but making a whole cast invisible is something else altogether. Difficult to protest by boycotting a film that really needs watching though! I guess they gambled on that. But we can keep racism and the film industry in our sights.