GUESS WHO's coming to dinner?

Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m ashamed of having a blog. Two reasons. One, I can’t use the word “blog” without shuddering in embarrassment. Those four letters merged together don’t even get by my spell checker without a red underline, as if it doesn’t matter, as if its meaning is up in the air, therefore insignificant and a waste of time. I try to lower my head and speak quietly when I say it, but that only attracts more attention because people play the hard-of-hearing card. They know what you said; they just want to hear it loud and clear. Well, loudly and clearly, blogs are for 14-year-old high school girls who want butterfly tattoos and 33-year-old lonely S&M meth addicts and high society butterflies that have slept with five different politicians. I prefer to refer to The New Goo my “website,” even though it’s not mine, it’s Blogger’s, and therefore, Google’s, and therefore, ever since Google has been rocking out on the stock market, I’m now owned by Wall Street.

Second reason I’m ashamed of the New Goo. WAY too much information for the FBI, CIA, House Un-American Activities Committee, my best friend, my nemesis, the love of my life—anyone who wanders hither can access more of me than they could ever want to know. You don’t know me, but you’re more than welcome to sit there in the confines of your own skin and judge me to your heart’s content. Go ahead, knock yourself out. Wait, you know what? I changed my mind. I’m not ashamed of The New Goo. Here’s why:

If I see the same billboard movie advertisement ten times (I do realize “ten,” along with “million” and “infinity” is a common number to use for exaggeration purposes, but I maintain that I saw it exactly ten times) on a half-hour car ride from Burbank to Venice, it is my duty to inform you that Sony may be going a little overboard on the marketing campaign for Guess Who, a clever re-hack-jobbing of a groundbreaking, socially progressive, classic film titled Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Obviously, I haven’t even seen Guess Who because, why, it’s still coming to a theater near you. It may be brilliant. Who knows? It may even be a better film than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. But I can’t help but deem the mere inevitability of Guess Who to be fundamentally upsetting. Just by looking at the billboard (ten times) I can tell that the release date of this movie will be a sad, sad day for what remains of the original screenplay.

I may be jumping the gun, but Guess Who doesn’t deserve to borrow two letters of the name, let alone replace Spencer Tracy with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher for Sidney Poitier in a comedic racial role reversal. Actually, I’m too late; the gun has already jumped. Studios have started a bandwagon of greenlighting the recycling of classics like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; everybody’s getting on.

I don’t throw the classic term around lightly. By classic I am not only referring to cinematic excellence but also socio-historical context, or rather, a film’s statement about its own modern age. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, in case you haven’t seen it, was released in 1967, the year synonymous with the Summer of Love, Vietnam’s mounting casualties, and the counterculture protest explosion. More importantly, this was a time when the Civil Rights Movement was bursting with the opposing forces of assimilation and resistance, when the likes of King, Newton, Ali, and X were shaking social unrest until nobody was in denial**. To put it mildly, 1967 was a very hot year.

Add to the fire the theatrical release of a film with a simple story: a woman brings her fiancé and his parents home to meet her parents. He’s black. She’s white. They’re in love. The beauty of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was the forced interaction, of the characters with each other, as well as America with the changes of 1967. The conflict was color-coded onscreen, but it spilled out into the audience. Black, white, and 1967, all together in one house, all being watched by one fragmented America.

Now, I’m not saying 2005 America isn’t fragmented. But based solely on the casting of Mac and Kutcher, I venture to say that the Guess Who incarnation, which has reversed the race cards so that the visiting fiancé is white and the woman and her parents are black, will not carry as heavy of a social stigma as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sony has put a funny, feel-good Meet the Parents-esque slant on a controversial, racially charged classic, and for what? Just look up at those ten billboards. If you can’t find it anywhere else, the answer is always in the marketing.

If the studios must continue making movies based on previously successful formulas, can’t they just keep on greenlighting sequels to Sandra Bullock vehicles and giving Kindergarten Cop makeovers in order to save the dwindling careers of once fast and furious action stars? Can we please just leave films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner alone, in their respective historical contexts, safe from potential damage by soulless, creatively challenged studio executives? Can we please start making movies inspired by the example of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, movies that address American social ills of 2005? Here's a preliminary list: Social ill #1: a deficiency in originality. Wait, let me reprioritize. Social ill #1: Bush in White House. Social ill #2: a deficiency in originality. I could go on, but what does a girl with a B-L-O-G know, anyway? I only know what I saw. Ten billboards. Who would have guessed?

**Trivia: According to IMDB, the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was showing in theaters when MLK was assassinated, and they had to actually go back and cut a scene where the maid says to the fiancé,“Who do you think you are, Martin Luther King?” to avoid upsetting people.


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