Dealing With Racial Stereotypes And Relationships, 50 Years After 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'
January 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm
The 50-year-old film, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, is a journey through relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and within yourself. This was far more than a film about an interracial couple looking for their parents’ approval. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is about unconditional love and support from those that matter most.
After an incredibly short courtship, John Prentice and Joanna Drayton prepare to live happily ever after. First, however, they have to meet each other’s parents. Both sets of parents are thrilled that their child has found love, but neither knows about the new relationship's difference in color.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Joanna, a 23-year-old white woman, has been raised in a wealthy but secular household. Her parents have taught her to believe in racial equality, despite employing a black maid. Her parents feel they are truly liberal until their daughter brings home John, a 37-year-old widowed black doctor, and announces that she plans to marry him in a few weeks.
By the end of the day, John's parents have decided they would like to meet the woman that their son has fallen in love with, so they join Joanna's family for dinner. They are incredibly shocked to find out that the beautiful young lady that their son has called to tell them all about is white, and that he plans to marry her in a few weeks.
During a trip to Hawaii, John and Joanna meet and become inseparable for the rest of their trip. They enjoy each other’s company so much that Joanna wants to rush home to share their newfound love with their families. Joanna has no idea that John will not marry her without the full support of their parents. The intense emotions between the two of them are not enough for him to ignore the criticisms they will face as an interracial couple. For while Joanna is floating on a cloud of love, John is especially worried that they may not live happily ever after if her father does not support them.
Parents & Their Children
In two very different ways, the Drayton and Prentice families did their best in raising their children to be positive and conscientious members of society. The Drayton family owns a large home in San Francisco and raise their only daughter to be an open-minded woman of the 1960s, while the Prentice family worked hard and sacrificed so that their son could become a world-renowned doctor. Two approaches to life and child-rearing come to a head with the film's central dilemma: should they accept the person their child has fallen in love with? In an effort to protect their children, both fathers are against the relationship. These men believe that things would be much easier if their children married within their race, and struggle to face their children’s choices.
As the day is full of so much emotion and turmoil, there is a lot of internal conflict going on within each character. Joanna is very confident about marrying John, however John is very concerned about the way his interracial relationship will be perceived. He is not even sure it is something that he wants to do and is willing to back out if there is no support from their families. His love is clear when he talks about Joanna to his mother, but he understands the challenges they will face out in the real world.
50 years after the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 as well as the riots in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and many other U.S. cities, we are still struggling with race relations and social justice. In 2017, a 37-year-old black doctor who falls in love with a 23-year-old white professional would face the same concerns about meeting each other's parents that John and Joanna had to endure. Too, the societal challenges that John and Joanna faced, modern interracial couples face in daily. Fortunately, as the Draytons and Prentices discovered during dinner, love is greater than any bigotry or societal pressure.
“Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you're two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happened to have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if — knowing what you two are and knowing what you two have and knowing what you two feel — you didn't get married.”
– Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner will be released on Blu-Ray on February 7, 2017.