Last week, I was in Los Angeles and found myself with an unexpected chunk of time on my hands, so I decided to go to the movies. I went to see Don’t Worry Darling—not because of the gossip, or because of Harry Styles (as I told a friend, he could deliver my Grubhub and I wouldn’t recognize him), but because it (a) looked like it was beautiful enough to be meritorious of the big screen, and (b) I heard it had to do with incels, which I’m obsessed (freakishly fixated?) with. But, as the lights went down, a pang of guilt came over me because I remembered that I still had not yet gone to see The Woman King.
What did this matter, you might ask? Because, as challenging as it likely was for Olivia Wilde—a white female filmmaker—to get backing for her film, I know it was likely that much harder for Gina Prince-Bythewood, the Black woman director behind the Viola Davis historical-action vehicle. I also know that, in an industry reeling with uncertainty—and risk-averse to begin with—box-office performance is the No. 1 justification for (or rationale against) green-lighting future minority-led projects. I felt it was—is—my duty as a woman of color, and particularly as a woman-of-color creator, to use my dollars and time to support the work of another woman-of-color creator.
Supporting minority-led film projects like The Woman King doesn’t just affirm the need for more films like it. It lays the groundwork for future big-budget films centered on women and people of color. Against the intensely difficult backdrop of getting cultural output that’s focused on underrepresented groups to see the light of day is the shadow responsibility that weighs upon the underrepresented consumer: the need to support.
The pang of guilt hit me again yesterday morning when I saw a trade-publication email blast announcing that the Universal Studios rom-com Bros, which opened this past weekend, had been officially pronounced a “flop” after taking in only $4.8 million. Except this time, my sense of guilt wasn’t merely implied by my knowledge that I had not made time to see the Billy Eichner movie, but stated plainly by Billy Eichner himself on his Twitter feed. The film didn’t perform, he assessed, because “straight people didn’t show up for Bros.”