First- this is not a review of Red Tails. All I will say is that it was a decent action flick with great battle scenes and a misplaced love story (IMHO).
Nor, is this a plea for you to go see it- Although I do believe that it’s a worthy cause. Damon Young, aka “The Champ”, a writer at Very Smart Brothas has his own opinion about the movie and its marketing that is an interesting read.
I would like to share my observation- The success of “Red Tails” at the box office is due to the Black community ‘s ability to use social media channels in a targeted and meaningful way. Whether or not you agree with the movie concept, or the way that our community got behind it, it is noteworthy that its high box office numbers on its opening weekend is due to social media engagement.
Before we left for the movie last weekend, my wife pointed out that she knew very little about the movie except that it was about the Tuskegee Airmen. Neither of us remembered seeing many, if any, advertisements for the film. Both of us saw the HBO movie “The Tuskegee Airmen” some years ago and assumed it would be along similar lines. Being unsure of the film’s storyline, we half joked if this would be one of the types of movies that would make us angry when we went back to work (i.e., Rosewood) the next week.
What we did know was that all our family, friends, acquaintances and folks that we know near and far had been making Facebook posts, sending Tweets and commenting on blogs and news stories about the movie. In particular, there was significant buzz after George Lucas, the Producer of ‘Red Tails’ and ‘Star Wars’, appeared on The Daily Show and discussed the difficulties in getting the movie made, specifically because it has an all Black cast. This admission set the world ablaze, as Blacks and other supporters throughout the nation appealed to their friends and followers to support the movie and show a strong box office presence during its opening weekend. Last weekend, ‘Red Tails’ was number 2 at the box office and brought in over $19 million. This week it still remains in the top 5.
This is an achievement that I believe was a direct result of using social media with a clear directive. There was a compelling message – support a film that promotes positive Black images or they will stop making them (if this is fully true is debatable) ; and a clear call to action- go to the movie on opening weekend to help it be successful. Social media, whether it was Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever, provides a familiar, scalable, and easily accessible medium to promote this messages and exchange other ideas. However, this is only a first step. We must continue to promote, exchange, debate and share ideas around the issues of Hollywood’s and the entertainment industry’s portrayal of Blacks if we are to be truly successful. While this discussion has been going on for years, all of us can embrace new tools that will heighten the exchange around this issue and others. Let the ‘Red Tails’ social media story be a case study in how to spread information in the 21st century.
We tend to share content that resonates with us and with those that we feel are like us- after all part of the draw to social media is that we are part of self selected networks. Typically, it has been a tendency to allow content that is either funny, political, entertainment (technically this falls in that category) or gossip based and/or those that supports racial and socio-economic stereotypes to “go viral.” As we move into Black History month, let’s challenge our communities – both local and online- to follow the ‘Red Tails’ example and use social media to promote businesses, local political happenings, and other constructive information rather than trying to keep up with the latest gossip and B.S.
Curtis Brown, Jr