Saturday, April 22, 2006

Soul Plane


Dir: Jessy Terrero (Some 50 cent videos)

Morbid curiosity led me to take a peak at Soul Plane. From the previews, I had chalked it up to "Homeboys in Outer Space" on a plane. Part of me hoped that I would test my political views against a funny satire. But the funny part never happened, so my self assured rejection of dangerous stereotypes is preserved.

The plot, for what its worth, involves a black man who wins a 100 million dollar suit againt an airline and uses the money to start his own outfit that caters to urban travelers. There's something about a crash, but the movie is all about a series of comedic reflections on race.

Blazing Saddles is subversive because the racists are ridiculed. Soul Plane is offensive because the targets of oppression are ridiculed. Even though both movies pivot on poking fun at race, it is not on that issue that Soul Plane is blameworthy. Much of the racial humor is self-reflexive and benefits from the "we get to make fun of ourselves, but you all don't" truth of comedy. The few laughs that the film offers up are on this subject. The seating is divided into high class and low class, with Krystal and lobster in the former and 40's and Popeye's chicken in the latter. A series of jokes revolve around a one white family one the plane, and sometimes those bring a brief smile. If this aspect of the film was funnier, then I would be more gentle with my comments to follow. Being funny is a get out of jail free card for being offensive. And there is potential in this subject matter to really offer up some intersting reflections.

But while it is trying to reclaim humor directed at race, Soul Plane is debilitatingly offensive to gender and sexual orientation. The "ho" culture surrounding so much contemporary music, oversexed women who serve the pleasure of men, is so incessant in this film that one wonders if the writers are capable of writing anything else. I am had pressed to name five scenes that did not involve the objectification of women. It's not sex comedy that I reject, but rather the lazy and completely one-sided approach that is taken here. I get it, already; all women can't enough of that powerful man action. There is only so many times that I can laugh at that. One side character, a flight attendant names "Flame" (that is indicative of the sophistication of the script) troublingly imposes that same hypersexuality onto gays as well. White women in particular are at the mercy of every handsome black man (with many references to their anatomical superiority to white men), powerless to resist the dominant man who will take his pleasure. Compare Lili von Shtupp with Heather Hunkee to see the very same subject matter handled with humor and the other with crass offensiveness.

It could be that I am a prude or oversensitive, but this rank sexism prevents me from interfacing this movie, or the entire culture that supports it. It makes money, enough people out there disagree with me to ensure the same product is put out for some time to come. But then, people loved Amos 'n Andy as well. History will judge.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 4/22/2006 04:13:00 PM that...

You realize time is irreversible.  

Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 4/22/2006 08:50:00 PM that...

I saw this movie a few months and back and didn't bother blogging it because, frankly, I figured I would run about 80 pages long and just flame the thing. But I think your post hits the nail on the head- its offensive and unfunny (a condition I call Carlos Mencia Syndrome). The template is: establish early on you are willing to offend whether it is funny or not, and then continue to offend. The entire time I could not help but feel that this movie consistently underscored why Airplane! is funny. Airplane picks a few moments for some racial humor that pokes fun at both sides and stereotyping (Yes, I speak jive.) Airplane! also is just plain funnier. (That pun, on the other hand: unfunny.)