Friday, February 4, 2022

Scott Meslow's "From Hollywood with Love"

Scott Meslow is a senior editor at The Week magazine and a writer and critic for publications including GQ, New York magazine, and The Atlantic.

Meslow applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy, and reported the following:
Readers who turn to page 99 of From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy will find one of the book’s many sidebars, which covers the debate over whether the 1996 film adaptation of Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale falls back on racist and sexist imagery as it tells a story centered on four Black women.

Page 99 doesn’t exactly crystallize everything I’m doing in From Hollywood with Love — for starters, the book is a history and cultural analysis of 16 different romantic comedies, of which Waiting to Exhale is only one — but I do think it’s an interesting slice to pull out. I like that this page showcases a rigorous, meaningful debate about a movie in the rom-com genre, which is full of movies that were wrongly and snobbishly dismissed by film critics when they were released.

In her 1996 essay collection Reel to Real: Race, Sex and Class at the Movies, bell hooks argued that Waiting to Exhale trafficked in tired racist and sexist stereotypes but was given a pass because the creative team behind it was largely Black. Terry McMillan, the novelist and co-screenwriter of Waiting to Exhale, said she was telling a specific story about specific characters, and that treating Waiting to Exhale as if it was a document making blanket statements about all Black men or all Black women was, in itself, problematic.

Which argument carries more water? I think they’re both worth considering. The important thing, I'd argue, is that the movie itself is both important and sturdy enough to warrant the conversation.
Visit Scott Meslow's website.

--Marshal Zeringue