In 1991, Spike Lee released a film that changed the way America looked at interracial dating. This past weekend, I decided to watch “Jungle Fever”, seeing as how I haven’t watched it in its entirety in some years (and it was part of the The Spike Lee Collection that I had just purchased). And as is expected, my take-aways from the movie have evolved over the years. I don’t exactly remember the source, but I do remember reading somewhere that Spike initially wanted to make a movie portraying how the crack epidemic was tearing up families in America. He thought that people would not be receptive to that concept, so instead he decided to focus on interracial dating and have drug abuse be a subplot.
Let’s be honest-interracial dating, in most cities across this country, is still considered taboo, so just imagine how it was tweny years ago. Unfortunately, Flipper and Angie couldn’t make it work, but there are multiple interracial couples in the United States, despite funny looks and harassment from families and strangers alike, that have made it work. Any relationship is hard, but let’s face it; interracial relationships can be extremely difficult. The couple has to overcome obstacles and opposition that may arise from outsiders in regards to their relationship. For some, race isn’t an issue. For others, it’s the first thing they think about in the morning.
Twenty years ago, interracial dating was mainly focused on black people and white people. Today, interracial dating has expanded to include blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos. I would like to think that as Americans, we have overcome the whole issue we have regarding dating outside of our race. But I’m not naive, so I know this isn’t the case. As a 21 year old, I dated a white guy for a few months. When we went to most places, I was very cognizant of the looks we received, mainly from blacks. He and I never discussed it, so I’m not sure if he was aware. I do remember when he and I went to see “Bad Boys 2” and some white teenagers sitting behind us where making derogatory comments about blacks and whites under their breaths, he quickly turned around and told them to “shut up!”. It was an ok relationship; we were ridiculously young, but he was totally infatuated with me. In the end, I don’t think he really had any ambition and I had just graduated from FAMU, so I felt that we weren’t equally yoked. I think I would date interracially again, but I’m not sure I would marry a non-black man.
The film brought to the silver screen conversations and issues that were occuring all over the U.S. There’s a scene in the movie where Drew, Flipper’s wife, and her girlfriends sit around and discuss interracial dating, how black men leave black women for white women, and so forth. I’ve had similar conversations with my friends, as I’m sure most black women in this country have. But let’s not forget that Paulie, Angie’s ex-boyfriend, decided to take out one of his shops black customers. He was ostracized and beat up for it by his fellow Italians. Angie even received violence against her at the hands of her father. In regards to drug abuse, Spike touched on how no matter what families do, if they have a loved one that’s on drugs, they may not be able to help them. And there’s nothing like a mother’s love; Lucinda loved her oldest son, Gator, until the very end. It took her awhile to see that Gator was no good, but by then he had already “borrowed” so much money and stole her television. The movie also brought Halle Berry in a small but powerful role-a role that helped her win the part of a former drug addicted mother wanting to gain back custody of her son in the film “Losing Isaiah”. We also saw Queen Latifah on the big screen for the first time. Personally, I love “Jungle Fever”. As a twenty-something year old, I’m much more appreciative of this movie than the first time I saw it as a teenager. It had a great story line, great acting, and made you relate to the characters.
What have we gained from “Jungle Fever”? Has the world evolved over the last twenty years when it comes to interracial dating? Are we still having problems with drug abuse in this country? What are your thoughts on the movie in general?
Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!