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I am an avid movie watcher. I love mystery movies, thrillers, comedies and I’ve even been getting into romance and dramas more than I’d openly admit to anyone. And now, during the unfortunate event of the coronavirus, we now have the time to fellowship and foster relationships through media and film consumption, thanks to Hulu and recently introduced Netflix parties.

But before COVID-19, when I regularly went to the movies by myself, on a date night with bae or a group of close friends, I got excited at the thought of the lights going dim, eating my cinnamon sugar pretzel bites and jumping into whatever world the directors and screenwriters created for me this time around. Nine times out of 10, movies I would see would have a Black cast — or at least a notable Black cast member or two. However, I can’t help but notice the recurring theme of Black stories being told with hurt, pain, tragedy and trauma.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been through some things and still have a long way to go, but that’s not our entire story. As the unbothered king Omarion once said, “I think they should change the narrative.”

The last two movies I went to see in theatres were The Photograph, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae; and Just Mercy, with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. Two different films of separate genres catered to the same audiences, but yet received opposing critiques.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, Just Mercy follows the true story of a Harvard Law graduate Bryan Stevenson as he travels down to 1980s Alabama to appeal the murder conviciton of Walter McMillian. This movie made me cry from beginning to end, not just because of the story line, but because this was based on a true story of our people. Without question, I will never negate the importance of shining a light on these stories, necessary to be told about historical events, including the wins and losses of our people. But does every movie told about a Black person have to involve some type of trauma? 

Follow me for a second. Movies like Fruitvale Station, Hidden Figures and Selma are essential in cinema to tell stories for those who couldn’t during their times. A textbook isn’t going to tell us or future generations to follow any of this information. So why not take back the stories ourselves and tell them in one of most accessible mediums available — film?

It’s not the oversaturation of movies with historical context, but rather the lack of movies that have some sort of happy ending for Black people without any additional stress or strife. A lot of critiques were given to Stella Meghie’s The Photograph, which I personally thought was an OK film. But the more I thought about why it was just an OK movie, the more my argument began to crumble within itself. It was a simple movie about two beautiful dark-skin leads in a movie about falling in love. The end.

I have become so used to the narrative that Hollywood has developed for us that when Will Packer Productions puts together a potential cinematic masterpiece about the simplicity and beauty of Black love, I can’t even recognize the good story when it’s right in front of me. I was expecting something climactic, problematic or tear-jerking, which not every movie has to be or even should be.

Movies like The Notebook, Love Actually, 10 Things I Hate About You, or even To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before all have happy endings where the characters end up winning over each other’s hearts, and the most disruptive thing happening in the movie is that the popular kids in school tease them or someone cheats on the other character, which is eventually all forgiven. As a mental health advocate, I can recognize firsthand that trauma is absolutely subjective, but I’m going to stir the pot a bit and sound the alarm on the fact that it doesn’t nearly compare to being raped by a family member, dealing with bottled up childhood trauma that isn’t addressed until the death of a parent or being in an abusive relationship. When I go to a movie, I don’t want to feel every time like I’ve walked out of my Introduction to African diaspora and the world course during my freshman year of college.

Our stories need to be told, and that’s a given fact, but why do they just have to be the negative, gut wrenching ones? We have movies that exist like Marvel’s Black Panther and Storm Reid’s breakout role in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time, but how can we continue to uplift these positive narratives when all we expect is trauma and drama?

While we can’t do anything about any of the movies that have already been put out into the world, we can utilize our own stories and creative expertise to construct a narrative that doesn’t involve us dying during the first 30 minutes of a horror film. To be honest, I don’t remember s**t from Trey Songz’s role in Texas Chainsaw 3D, but, that’s exactly my point. Let’s not strive anymore to be seen or heard because that’s no longer the issue. Let’s set an equilibrium to develop content that allows our stories to be multi-dimensional and not limit ourselves to fear, death and trauma.

The future of Black films will hold affirmative stories about combating quarantine and emerging from the ashes like a Phoenix as we develop a keen sense of understanding regarding the narratives that have been brought to us. During this time of self-quarantining, while we're watching shows like CW's Black Lightning on Netflix, try to remember the last time you had an all-Black leading cast as a superhero or an intelligent family with no ties to drugs or family trauma — if there ever was a last time. Don't worry, I'll wait.