The history of interracial relationships in America is skewed. Just over half a century ago, the Supreme Court of the United States made a landslide ruling in the case of Loving vs. Virginia that changed the face of relationships and marriage. The couple, a black woman and a white man, had appealed against the failure of the state to recognize their marriage. However, the court ruled in the couple’s favor, which ruling opened the door for interracial marriages. The question remains whether media platforms give such relationships sufficient recognition. Indeed, it has been difficult for society to accept that people of color could marry whites. Despite the socio-political progress made toward racial parity, the coverage of interracial relationships in television shows and films is quite scanty and one-sided.
One study by the University of Florida gave groundbreaking statistics of the portrayals of interracial relationships in Hollywood films. The study sampled films from 1967 to 2005 to conclude that the Hollywood portrayed interracial relationships specifically. To be precise, 42% of the female characters in such relationships were violence victims (West). In essence, the women were mistreated in the relationships simply because they come from a different race. The study also acknowledged that despite the high possibility of black men marrying outside their race, movies seemed not to embrace interracial marriages involving men of color (West). Indeed, it is easier to find movies whereby white men marry women of color compared to men of color marrying white women.
Many movies have been released portraying interracial relationships. Perhaps the most familiar are television series such as Modern Family, Scandal, The Walking Dead, New Girl and The Mindy Project. However, movie audiences have been treated to the most fascinating portrayals of such relationships for decades. “Something New” is a 2006 movie in which a Los Angeles career woman by the name Kenya takes on the challenge to date a landscaping architect by the name Brian blindly. She meets him but discovers that he is white to her utter shock. Nevertheless, Kenya is in dire need of some landscaping done to her compound whereupon she hires Brian to do it. The love between the two starts to brew, but it is evident that Kenya is quite reserved about it. She is particularly concerned about what her family would think about the peculiar relationship (Nittle). In short, the film portrays the kind of social tension existing in the event of an interracial marriage.
Incidents of white men in relationships with women of color are common but the contrary is very rare. In the 2016 Indian movie titled “Five Nights in Maine,” a black widower named Sherwin visits his white mother-in-law named Lucinda. The woman is apparently ailing from cancer and Sherwin is guilty because he was not on good terms with his late wife. Lucinda makes a very powerful statement to Sherwin, “She wanted to be special, so special. You made her special. You could have been anyone” (Horwitz). Clearly, the statement reveals that the old woman did not like her son-in-law because of his race. She could be implying that Sherman’s racial otherness was the reason for receiving him so coldly.
Despite the socio-political progress towards achieving racial parity, filmmakers have been extremely cautious to give interracial relationships a bold projection. Many a time, films concentrate on topics outside the underlying interracial affair. This is seen in the manner in which romance is limited between interracial partners (Maillard). Furthermore, filmmakers are always on the dilemma of achieving gender equity and racial parity. Men of color have to be educationally and economically powerful to find a loving heart from white women. Similarly, women of color accept to date white men when the latter are educationally and economically superior. Otherwise, races are comfortable remaining fixed to their borders (Lienemann et al. 407).
To conclude, movies and television shows have been not achieved racial parity in the portrayal of interracial relationships. The Supreme Court ruling of Loving was a landmark but the film industry is not yet where it should be. What is seen on the screens is a series of white men in relationships with women of color. On very rare occasions are men of color depicted with white women. The only common feature in interracial relationships is the educational and economic superiority of the man. Only a few women with high education and promising careers would agree to date men of lesser achievement. However, this occurrence falls squarely under the topic of gender. Filmmakers are shy about projecting interracial relationships. Whether the film industry will brace up the change is a question of time.
- Horwitz, Simi. “It’s Not Simply Black and White: Onscreen Mixed-Race Romances (Sort of) Grow up.” Film Journal. 10 Feb. 2017
- Lienemann, Brianna A. et al. “The Association between Media Exposure of Interracial Relationships and Attitudes toward Interracial Relationships.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 43, no. 52, 2013, pp. 398-415.
- Maillard, Kevin Noble. “Erased Onscreen: Where Are All the Interracial Couples?” The New York Times. 03 Mar. 2017
- Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “Interracial Romance Films: A List of Groundbreaking Movies.” ThoughtCo. 02 Mar. 2017
- West, Lindy. “Why the Hell Are On-Screen Interracial Relationships Still a Big Deal?” Jezebel. 09 Nov. 2013