Green Book: The Racist Manual

Whenever you sense a victory about a movie documenting racism in America’s South during the civil distress in the ‘60s, and the white film-makers are credited, just know that it’s a hoax. Green Book won the academy award for best picture at the Oscars and it reflects the topic of rewarding racism in the cinematic screen. Mahershala Ali is exquisite in his finessed and well-deserving win as the coveted composer and musician, but perhaps this movie leaves a short note in how race relations are in America’s South. It has yet again triumphed in favour of white audiences.


Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP


Green Book is a story about Dr Don Shirley, a black pianist hiring an Italian American bouncer Tony Vallelonga as his bouncer and driver as they journey across racist southern America as Shirley has to perform a series of concerts and tour. While racism is ripe in the American landscape, we have seen milestones by artists, like Childish Gambino, who have rightfully taken ownership of their art in expressing racial grief. Filmmakers, such as Jordan Peele who directed Get Out, have brought up the standards in nuancing the argument on racism in contemporary demographics. Green Book is not brilliantly written, neither is it truly representative of what racism actually is. Not to mention, this movie was directed by a white man, and it reduces the social ill of racism into a mere parody of an ‘unlikely’ inter-racial friendship dressed as an aesthetic.


There has always been a debate over what is acted out, who acts it out and why it is on screen in the first place. Green Book misinterprets the meaning of ‘racial integration’ because it is confusing to the audience of colour— are we seeing a white driver who is saving a reputed man from racism or is the black pianist being apologetic about his driver being racist? Either way, it is problematic. It is not nearly as refined as movies such as Blackklansman or Moonlight (Mahershala Ali’s prior triumph), whose protagonists painfully performed their intersectionalities to brilliance and poignancy.


Image: Variety 


It is not wrong to make a movie like Green Book, it is wrong to award it. A film about a black pianist in America’s Southern tips driving on white shoulders is as vain and vague as it gets. The black audiences are justly angry; this movie forces an inaccurate portrayal of the politics of race in a category for which it did not deserve to be cinematically glorified. Green Book is not only receiving backlash over its win at the Oscars but over its audacity to feed us a fake picture of white guilt and privilege. According to Don Shirley’s family, the protagonist has been inaccurately portrayed— another manipulation by the white cohort to misguide the black audiences. It would be a euphemistic effort to address racism, but fails to impress in that realm.


Moreover, the past Oscar wins for Sam Rockwell reiterates that the academy is hell-bent on painting a certain perception of racism: a mellow and rusted imaged of black people blurred into the background while the white protagonists put themselves on pedestals for all their ‘apologetic’ racism. Furthermore, seeing racial tension in a comedy-drama genre tenses my core; there is nothing comedic about racism so pretending that the essence of racism isn’t melancholic, reduces its gravity and induces normalcy to how it’s reacted to in real life.


Green Book dramatizes a peculiar side to viewing the archival problem of racism. It feeds more into the ‘colourblindness’ white audiences enjoy to watch and white filmmakers continue to distort. Not taking anything away from Ali’s extraordinary performance, this movie, however, is wrongly timed. Maybe a couple of decades ago it would win applause, but it’s just another film that hardly consents to the present reality of race.