It is profoundly disappointing, discouraging and dispiriting that the blaxploitation classic film Superfly is being remade and released this summer. If the filmmakers and the distributors had the capacity for self-awareness they would be ashamed of themselves. I don’t give a damn how much money they can make by dumping this steaming pile of dog shit on America’s lawn. As the story they are zealously re-telling makes abundantly clear, there is always money to be made by selling people anything they are dumb enough or desperate enough to buy. That doesn’t make it a noble pursuit. And there damned sure isn’t anything noble in continuing to foment back folks’ juvenile fascination with drugs – or white folks’ reductionist perspective that the drug world is the home of the new noble savage. For those of you that don’t get that reference, Google it and get back to me later.
The production quality, the acting and the direction may be first rate but this is still just ANOTHER movie about black people selling drugs and so I’m standing by my characterization: it is as appealing as the aforementioned dog shit on my front lawn. And I don’t even have a dog. Setting the retelling of Superfly in my beloved city of Atlanta and stylizing the cast like a collision between a Bronner Brother’s Hair Show and Paris Fashion Week only throws salt in the wound. The better Director X and his handsome players make it look, the more irresistably influential it will be to obsequious viewers everywhere.
America didn’t need this movie to be remade – especially black America. On every level imaginable, this movie represents an inexcusable cultural regression. With so much of the nation struggling to resist the reprobate in the White House with his retrograde cultural sensibilities, the decision to bring back to the big screen the most famous movie depicting mythologized street life is inexcusable. From a cultural standpoint a movie that is absolutely positively guaranteed to glamorize and glorify the urban drug trade and the predatory sexual exploitation of women is an anachronism. When Superfly was released in ’72 I wasn’t even crawling yet and now my kids are grown up. The context in which the film was released made sense for the times but makes absolutely no sense now. I can’t argue that there wasn’t a time for a story like this to be told. But nobody with any goddamned sense can argue that there is anything but a vainglorious greed behind it now.
This is not the disillusioned 70’s anymore when Black people were struggling in America- culturally, politically and economically. They were still reeling from the upheaval of the civil rights movement and had started to experience the mixed bag impact of integration. They hadn’t completely escaped the vestiges of second class citizenship and had grown weary of waiting. They were disenchanted with community leaders and organizations that had promised deliverance from dependence on the white man. They were nowhere close to being in a place where they felt like they could trust that there was a place for them in society if they played by the rules. So Superfly resonated.
This is not the desperate 80’s anymore when black people were watching boom times of the “ME decade” in America seeming to pass them by. “Good” working class jobs that used to solidify finances and families were dwindling all over the country and the path to success seemed to be narrowing. Politics had openly turned against black folks for the first time in decades and communities that feel ostracized and isolated develop destructive cultures. So Superfly spoke to them – which is why Mario Van Peebles kinda-remade it in 1991 as New Jack City.
And this is definitely NOT the 1990’s when America escalated its ill-conceived and ill-fated War on Drugs that locked up black people for decades in draconian, for-profit prisons that destroyed lives, weakened families and compromised communities like nothing America has hatched since slavery. And that is why, above all other considerations, black men should know better than to put any bullshit like this on screen. We’ve done it too much as it is and enough is enough. Is this all we fucking think about? Is our frame of reference THIS fucking narrow? Black people have never had as much clout in Hollywood as they have right now and THIS is what y’all came up with?
Black men of good conscience may not like it but Ron O’Neal’s Youngblood Priest and his Superfly sensibilities fit the times. Black folks needed that kind of anti-hero. A dope dealer with social consciousness and an admirable heart. Youngblood represented a power and an independence that kept “the man” at bay no matter how hard he tried to hold him down.
But why in the fuck do black people need this anti-hero now when we’ve had Barack Obama serve as president for eight years? Rallying behind a drug dealer to “fight the power” is stupid as hell when we have been the power ourselves for better part of the last decade. We have had black people at the top of every field worth discussing. In ’72 there had been no Barack, Oprah, Tiger or Tyra yet. There had been no Colin Powell or Condeleeza Rice. No Spike Lee or Bob Johnson. No Michael Jordan OR Vernon Jordan. We were outsiders then but we are consummate insiders now.
Black people have greater economic opportunity today than at any other time in American history and these assholes want to retell a story revolving around some nigga who sells drugs supposedly out of necessity to create economic independence for his neighborhood? Get the fuck out of here. Since SuperFly came out, America has birthed entire INDUSTRIES that have created an entirely new generation of wealth and cultural influencers. We are as free to join the party as anybody else. Black people are not stuck in anybody’s ghetto anymore. People can move wherever they are willing to go. While making a lot of people rich, information technology and social media have also made the world a lot smaller for everybody. People can connect to places and experiences far beyond the lab-rat existence of living in some fucking projects somewhere.
So jumping into the drug world in 2018 is not a matter of survival. That is an overblown urban legend that helps sell rap records. Getting involved in that bullshit today is a matter of choice. And these fools who decided to remake SuperFly are celebrating and propagating that choice. Shame on them for doing that to another generation of black folks. Once again, black folks have a chance to move ahead but niggas get in the way. And by now we really should know better.