Quick: Name the last black, female geek/misfit you saw in a film. Any film. Go ahead; I'll wait.
Yeah, that's what I thought. I'm not sure when this non-trend started to irk me, but I reached full-blown annoyance around the time "Juno" came out. Don't get me wrong; on paper, "Juno" looks like the kind of movie I'd love and certainly would have embraced in my teens. And I am not hating on Diablo Cody, who has at least seems to have given young women a movie that isn't about shopping and makeovers.
Yet, the trailers got me thinking: When will it occur to someone to whip up a female character in this tradition who isn't white? The closest thing I can think of is "Bend it Like Beckham," which came out of the U.K. (of course) — though don't get me started on how Kiera Knightley became the big movie star instead of gorgeous Parminder Nagra. Seriously. Don't.
I remember when I could go a whole year without seeing a black female in ANY film, so I guess I should be happy that we're occasionally allowed to be sidekicks, uberdivas, lawyers and pretty girlfriends. Thanks almost entirely to Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and the fabulous Regina King, I've even seen a few characters I actually recognize. But when is Hollywood going to give the young, black female misfit some love? You know, the one who plays the oboe, isn't cool/streetwise, isn't being courted by Nick Cannon and knows her Hal Jordans from her Kyle Rayners. And I'm not talking about the girl who is the default genius in a clique of unusually attractive 15-year-olds, either. That doesn't count.
One of the best films I saw last year was "Year of the Dog" with my girl Regina and Molly Shannon. Regina was good in her supporting role as Shannon's ditzy, wide-eyed co-worker, and it was nice to see her play against type. And Molly was pitch-perfect as a woman who cracks up after her beloved dog dies, but I couldn't help wondering how Regina would have interpreted that quirky, thisclose-to-crazy role.
Maybe I'd be more optimistic if Tyler Perry or any of the other black filmmakers making "positive" movies had demonstrated a grasp of subtlety, irony or characters not motivated by step competitions. I'm still figuring out who to blame for the box-office failure of "Something New," which got my hopes up for more offbeat, black romantic heroines. It was such a nice step in the right direction.
Look, if we're ready for our first black president, we're ready for Michael Cera to have a black stepsister or something.