The Trouble with Black Men (2004– )

TV Series  -   -  Documentary
6.9
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Having gotten a career in the mainstream media, journalist David Matthews found himself under attack from his friends, who accused him of selling out, "acting white" and playing "their" ... See full summary »

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1  
2004  
1 nomination. See more awards »
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David Matthews ...
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Storyline

Having gotten a career in the mainstream media, journalist David Matthews found himself under attack from his friends, who accused him of selling out, "acting white" and playing "their" game. Incensed by this, Matthews looks at black men, claiming they are generally lazy, promiscuous and obsessed with street culture. Looking at the job market, parenthood, schools and other areas, Matthews looks at the subject in depth to back up his claims. Written by bob the moo

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19 August 2004 (UK)  »

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He has a point, but Matthews' heavy, accusatory tone is a drag and he really labours his points to their detriment
13 September 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Having gotten a career in the mainstream media, journalist David Matthews found himself under attack from his friends, who accused him of selling out, 'acting white' and playing 'their' game. Incensed by this, Matthews looks at black men, claiming they are generally lazy, promiscuous and obsessed with street culture. Looking at the job market, parenthood, schools and other areas, Matthews looks at the subject in depth to back up his claims.

Before this series even aired it was already under attack from high places – senior figures within race authorities accused Matthews of internalised racism. While it is pretty easy to see why it has caused outrage in some sectors, to ignore his point is to be blind and naïve to a problem that, although not affecting the majority of all black males in the UK can certainly be seen in a lot of places. Matthews main point seems to be that, for boys and young men, being 'black' seems to have become defined as being tough, arrogant, street-smart, anti-establishment etc. Here he has a point and he shows that even young children think a white child is 'acting black' when he wears his trousers low, licks his lips, talks in a lazy slur and hangs around saying 'y'know' a lot – when did this become 'being black'? I don't know but Matthews look at the role models in music videos certainly is a good clue.

This is an imperfect argument of course, because we all know that many young males seem to struggle with this behaviour – for white males they are called 'chavs' but Matthews is unconcerned with them and focuses on the black population. His subjects certainly serve to back up his point as he interviews very well balanced black businessmen and contrasts them with a collection of black youths who feel they cannot get jobs because of 'the man'. A teenager refuses to work because he feels white society stops him dressed the way he wants – but most of us will wear suits to work or, in my case, overalls – are these our clothes? No – we do our bosses bidding, regardless of their or our colour. Worse still are some of the adults in the film who see racism behind every wall and refuse to integrate at all; if a white person told their children to avoid black children then it would be attacked as ultra-racism, the series highlights that nobody dare challenge this situation when it is in reverse.

Of course Matthews' argument is not perfect and, although he raises important issues, he also shoots himself in the foot by being overly angry and blunt. He could easily have presented his subject as a neutral presenter and let the audience make up their own minds then he would have had a stronger film: trust me, few would question his point on role models after seeing the rapper Megaman encouraging school kids to rebel against their teachers. However, for each interesting look at black males in secondary school, Matthews' goes on rants in a to-camera narration that allow him to hammer his point home as if we are too blind to see it without his help. It is a shame, because this heavy handed, one sided presentation (there is no room for debate here – he is right!) damages the series' impact and means that some sections of the audience will be turned off as opposed to made to think about the subject.

Despite this, the series is still interesting and worth seeing. It may be a little bit like a deliberately angry post on a message board – trying to get attention by being OTT, but it also throws up a lot of interesting things to think about. He overdoes his point and isn't fair in his presentation and this hurts the film – how much better it would have been to have a neutral film by a more balanced and distant presenter would have allowed the argument to speak for itself. But the subject is still engaging and serious enough to withstand such a heavy hand and I found it very interesting and watched all three episodes. If anything it is a shame that the black community seems to be so divided and those who should be addressing these issues (ie race advisor's etc) seem to be frightened of public opinion and have just dismissed Matthews' point as 'racism' – their simplicity is as depressing as some of the characters that Matthews interviews.


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