soul_man

Review: SOUL MAN (1986)

by Meredith Grau – http://lalalandhistory.blogspot.com

.

Best Bad Quote:
“This is the ’80s. The Cosby decade. Americans LOVE black people!”

.

Well, there’s really no way to do this gently, so I’m just gonna enter with one big thrust of awkward. Soul Man is a racist movie about racism. So, there it is. I could end the review right there, but I don’t want to rob you of the “What Not to Do” educational portion of todays broadcast. The hero of our story is Pony Boy himself, C. Thomas Howell, a wealthy but “charming” (?) brat who sleeps in late, smokes pot, and is so cool that he has sex with girls and doesn’t even know their names. Despite the fact that this entitled prick, named Mark Watson, seems to be a huge waste of space, he has been accepted to Harvard Law. There’s just one hitch in his giddy-up: Daddy won’t pay his tuition. SUNUVA! Now what’s he gonna do? Well, “stay gold,” just like always. Black and gold.
.
The earth shattering moral of this gem is that prejudice goes both ways, ya’ know? “Black negroes” (the movie’s words, not mine) get all the attention, but no one weeps for the rich, white boy with super mean parents when hecan’t afford school. Mark is striking out. He has bad credit, he obviously can’t apply for financial aid, and he’s not a minority– and God knows those assholes get all the freebies with that affirmative action crap. Thus, jobless, penniless, and with no other recourse, Mark pilfers a full scholarship that is slated for an African American candidates in Los Angeles. Lucky for him, he knows a guy in the tanning business who has magical skin-tinting pills– which makes him Jacko Whacko I guess?– and he turns from sun-kissed tan to Jamaican brown.
.
But he’s not heartless guys. See, he checks to make sure there is no one on the list of contenders before he swoops in and snags the scholarship from a truly financially, deprived and hopeful black student. And he’s not racist either. He is super stoked to be black! He loves the blacks, and he gets right “funky” saying ebonical terms like “Right on!” and “What’s happenin’, brother?!” He’s a good person and a sharp one, which is why he chooses to study criminal law with Prof. Banks (James Earl Jones). He assumes, incorrectly, that he’ll get preferential treatment since the prof is a ‘brother’ too. He also has the super hots for co-black student and therefore ally (?) Sarah (Rae Dawn Chong), who is one bright spot in the movie that deserved better. (The only issue I had with her is that she wasn’t packin’ like in Commando). At first, things go great. Mark has sex with a rebellious wannabe– Jan from “The Office” (Melora Hardin)– he makes fun of a bundle of minorities by pretending to be deaf, blind, and black whenever yuppie frenemies like Lisa (Julia-Louis Dreyfus) and Brad (Mark Neely) come around, and he wheedles his way into Sarah’s heart, because you know he’s gotta check that fetish off his list. Too bad Sarah, who is a working mother and student, is the one he stole the scholarship from. Whoops! In the interim, he dresses up as a black panther and plays basketball very badly, which is of course hilarious, because all blacks are good at sports. Oh, Mark…
.

But then… Wait… Oh, never mind. Nothing happens. Mark suddenly decides to stop being a total jerk-off, but the instigator for his decision to suddenly become a good guy remain unclarified. Maybe he hears one too many racist jokes– because every white person in this film except for his BFF Gordon (Arye Gross) are total bigots who profile him for his skin color all over the place! One particular pair of pals can’t even enter a room without making a derogatory joke about black people. Mark’s people. Hey, these white guys are insensitive... Poor Mark is too, until he starts to disappear inside his ebony skin and really feel it; really understand the weight of being a young black man in ’80s America. It is HARD. He comes to a pivitol moment of deep, existential comprehension when he realizes that, after everything he’s been through, he is “gray” on the inside. (He says these words. You can’t make this up). It is funny, but at the same time, it’s not, because you have to take into account that someone wrote this dialogue thinking that it was winning. There has to be a new word for funny when it comes to this movie… “Flunky???” I mean, he is in college. Anyway, when Lt. Frank Drebin appeared on the screen, my hopes for true comedy rose, but unfortunately not even Leslie Nielsen could flush this celluloid dumper. It’s a real floater, all right. ‘Cause it’s brown. Get it?

.
The best/worst example of aforementioned ‘flunky’ is when Mark is invited to dinner at his rich neighbors’ house. He’s been vanilla swirling it with the daughter of course, who is enamored with his blackness, but we also get to see the rest of the family’s perspectives on black people. The mother, like her daughter, sees Afro Mark as a sexually vital, jungle man determined to have his way with her. The son envisions him as Prince, which is actually pretty cool, but then the dad (Nielsen) envisions him as a pimp who will knock up his pregnant daughter and refer to her as a “white bitch.” Sweet. Jesus.
.
Naturally, Mark comes around, admits the truth about his selfish folly, and starts paying his dues for his grievous error and serious lack of judgment. But he’s white, so he gets a little slap on the wrist, washes some dishes, and gets the girl. Terrific.
.
Listen, I’d like to think that this movie was made with good intentions, but I can’t imagine anyone I know being touched by the groundbreaking message it gives, which I guess is that “we are all the same underneath.” We aren’t. We aren’t, because there are morons like Mark polluting the integrity of the universe and ruining it for everyone. The first time Mark walks into class, James Earl Jones looks at him with complete disgust. He obviously doesn’t want to claim this sorry excuse for a “black” man as one of his own. Well, my peeps don’t want him either, Darth, so you’re gonna have to keep him.
.
Only watch this movie if you want to feel really, really embarrassed to be white. (Indeed, God may have invented this shame film to punish us for the whole slavery thing). It’s also a good choice for your queue if you want to listen to the song “Soul Man” about 400 times.
.
Rating:
2 out of 5 “Soul Glo” Jheri Wigs
soul-man-original soul-man-original
.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply