Queen & Slim and The Importance of Black Stories On Screen

Before Queen & Slim was released in theaters it was getting attention for its timely subject matter, two leads and its writer, director duo Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas. The film is about Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) who are on their first date when the night takes an unexpected turn after a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation. Soon the couple is on the run and both of them become a symbol of trauma, terror, and grief. 

According to Oprah Magazine, both Matsoukas and Waithe have called Queen & Slim a “meditation on blackness” and, if the reactions to the film are anything to go by, moviegoers are ecstatic to see the black experience on-screen through Queen & Slim’s story.  

                                                                        Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

There’s been a long history of black people not being portrayed properly on-screen or not being portrayed on-screen at all. Lincoln Perry who went by the name Stepin Fetchit when he was in character is known as America’s first black movie star. He gained popularity in the 1920s after appearing in the film In Old Kentucky acting out a character who was supposed to be the “laziest man in the world”. While Perry reached high levels of fame some feel as though he was portraying a stereotype that allowed little room for black people to come off as intelligent or hard-working in films. Nonetheless, Perry helped to start paving the way for black people to be shown on-screen.

The argument that certain movies or characters enforce negative stereotypes about black people is an ongoing one. That’s why it is important to have black stories on-screen, specifically ones that are written and directed by black creatives. Representation in film continues to be a major clashing point in the industry, especially considering the lack of diversity when it comes to major motion pictures. When a black person is able to see themselves on screen not only does it allow them to connect to the film in a personal way, there is also the sense that they are being seen and heard.   

                                                                                 Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash

 

Current filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay and Jordan Peele focus on creating stories that not only heavily feature black actors but that show the complete spectrum of the black experience, regardless of genre. While there’s still a ways to go before there is true diversity in the film industry Queen & Slim proves that the black experience not only belongs on-screen but audiences are clamoring for it.

Queen & Slim is now in theaters nationwide. If you want to catch it in DC specifically, it is playing at AMC Georgetown, AMC Mazza Gallerie and Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema.